My wife and I find ourselves increasingly frustrated with people in our local church. We have a wonderful, evangelically-minded pastor, and we love him and his family like most of our congregation do. But there are other people who just seem to keep on doing their own thing, no matter who the pastor is or what anybody else seems to think.
We have the older gentleman who seems to think what we need more than anything is a state-of-the-art projector, screen, and sound system. A number of years back there was a certain member who donated lots of money to make sure our lighting in the sanctuary was “upgraded”. It was done to his liking. Then it was decided the carpet needed to be replaced, to fit a particular style. Others think carpeting needs to be installed in the education wing. There is a small number of our members who feel strongly that we need to have a “contemporary” service on Sunday if we are to have any hope of attracting the “unchurched” (even though it has been proven that it doesn’t work).
This past Sunday our lay leader got up and talked for a few minutes about how the Bishop says our church (and all UMCs) needs to have a “mission”. It needs to be articulated. If we have a mission, then it will bring in more unchurched people, and they will be able to see what it’s like to lead a Christ-centered life. Then they will apparently see how wonderful it is, and they will want to join our church and give money, and we will be able to “compete” with other Christian churches in our area.
It’s all about numbers, money, power, and competition. It’s a business. We need to beat our competition.
Why do they think that way?
Maybe it has to do with the fact that the UMC has forgotten what elders are for. Why, we don’t even have elders the same way other, more evangelical denominations have elders. We call our pastors elders. The group of men, or more accurately, “people”, who would normally be our board of elders if we were another church, are called the “Board of Trustees”. Or they might be called the “Church Council”.
It’s all business. These Trustees are not necessarily men of faith, or even people of faith. No, they’re generally businessmen, who are dedicated enough to the church that they are willing to manage the business affairs of the church, including taking care of the “physical plant”. The church is a business, and we need to turn a profit. That’s what makes a church successful…isn’t it? We’re a social club that is based on biblical principles, right? We need a staff who are well-paid, and fun programs for all ages. We need a pastor who is a fine, entertaining speaker, to draw in all those “unchurched” people out there who are just dying to belong to the “right” church. We can’t afford a John Piper or a John MacArthur or an Alistair Begg, but we’re a big enough church that we can get someone who’s pretty good; someone who might be on the upswing and may someday be a great preacher.
Isn’t that what it’s all about?
If we had a pastor who was involved in not only proclaiming the Gospel, but also in guarding the church against false teachers and their false teaching, would we still have people doing their own thing and forcing their own wills on the congregation? Possibly. But if we had a board of elders who were also Godly men, who were dedicated to keeping not only the pastor in line but also the church in line, would we still have such problems? Perhaps. But wouldn’t they be an extra line of defense against that?
Maybe the UMC needs to reform their thinking concerning elders, deacons, and the church itself. Maybe the church isn’t supposed to be just like other businesses.