Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sweeping Judgements?

If the minister of a church is the kind of people person a minister should be, then there is probably no one who has as good a perspective on the spiritual health of that church family as he has. Yes, there are always exceptions to any general statement like that, but no one, again assuming we're talking about an effective minister, mixes with more members, more age groups, and has more interaction across all segments of the congregation. The average member, including the shepherds, have a circle of church friends that they do most all their "church stuff" with and no one circle of church people has a complete or accurate perspective on the whole congregation. Unfortunately, many members, again including shepherds, don't realize how often they make sweeping judgements about the entire church family based on what their small circle seems to think and feel. If their circle has several disgruntled members who complain about things and seem to be constantly "bent out of shape" about something, many shepherds have concluded that "we have some serious problems" or "we've got to do something or a lot of people are going to leave." That leader's perspective is slanted, incomplete, and does not speak to the feelings of the vast majority of members.
Any of us can fall into the trap of assuming that if my few contacts are unhappy everyone is unhappy. Leaping from the specific to the general in a church family is very egocentric, paranoid driven, and unwise. It's probably one the single most important arguments for having multiple shepherds, who can compare notes, offer alternate view points, and slow down the rush to judgement. It's also a good time to ask the minister what he thinks.
I can't tell you how many times I've been in a leadership meeting and found myself wondering, "Are these guys going to the same church I'm going to?" Elders hear from complainers. They tend to get bombed with negativism, and sometimes that is overpowering. As the minister, I see those who are excited and those who are growing and doing things that encourage others - like me. I don't sit in one section and see the same group of people week after week.
The challenge is to slow down, observe, pray a lot, and truly try to objectively analyze the problem - if there really is one. I think every church and it's leaders needs to remember two simple things before making sweeping judgements about the spiritual condition of their church family. First, as mentioned, remember our circle of input is extremely small and often a grossly inaccurate way to measure the whole. And the second is, in most church families, we don't know how wonderful our church family really is because we have nothing to compare it to. Satan loves to take a loving family of God's people and sow just a few seeds of doubt, complacency, and pessimism. He loves to create problems where there are none.
God' wants us to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," and that's not the same as the world's standards for church growth. It's also not about fabricating some activity that creates a sense of excitement that we incorrectly label as "growth." Events and ministries are just tools. We live between the events, because the goal is not excitement, but as Paul said, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love." (Rom.12:10) That's what FAMILY does.

1 comment:

Deborah said...

I this is another arguement for why it is a blessing to have shepherds of varying ages.

Such a good word, Dad, sent from the Spirit to my soul today.