Church Tour

Church Tour Conclusion, II

The Church Tour Epilogue

(Data’s evil brother Lore has been found having corrupted the Borg in this clip from Star Trek: The Next Generation) (Echevarria et al., 1993)

Being without a church has made me someone else. I don’t have someone telling me where to serve, what day to serve, what time to serve, where to give, how to give, where to park, where to sit, the list goes on and on. When you don’t have a church home, you become the steward of your gifts and talents – when you are on your own, serving is a gift you give not a duty you perform. It’s just you.

No one does your thinking for you, your giving for you, your serving for you. It’s just you. When you are part of a church for a long time you may cede some or all of that to leadership, disciplemakers, mission statements, vision statements, and small group leaders – sometimes unaware.

Beyond unaware, It may even become comfortable after long. Thinking for yourself is powerful – it’s like a skill and a muscle in that you need to do it often or it atrophies. When I started to do it again one thought is “What am I looking for?”

The number one question I get is “What is it you’re looking for?”.  I was told once that church is – at it’s core – a volunteer organization. Church membership can be distilled down to 2 things: giving (tithe) and serving (labor). The church cannot function without these two needs being met. Congregant’s pain points can be utilized to meet these needs as people are looking.

People look for a sense of belonging to make the pain of being alone go away. Churches offer that and can promise to make that pain go away. Isn’t that what we all want – to make the pain go away? For me after being at the same place for 15 years and same overall group for 21 years it’s easier for me to list what I’m not looking for.

I’m not looking for messages with a church-building call to action. What do I mean by that? I want messages given for message’s sake, to build the kingdom not build the church. We sit through a lot in church so what we sit through has to have kingdom meaning.

I don’t mind sitting through a message on reaching one’s community but at the end I don’t want a singular call to action to be an event the church is doing once a year to reach the community.

I want the message to be about reaching one’s community for the sake of reaching one’s community no matter where it is possible or when it’s possible. Giving of one’s time and talent should be encouraged anywhere outside the church – and one’s treasure as well.

I don’t mind sitting through a message on giving and generosity but at the end I don’t want a singular call to action to be a capital fund or building expansion they do every 5-10 years. I want financial freedom so people can experience freedom not so they will statistically give more to the church – which isn’t the only thing giving is about.

Giving however isn’t just about money, we have other things to give like our talents and gifts or what is commonly called ‘serving’. Serving and generosity are the two components I think we sit through the most in church.

To be 100% clear I don’t mind sitting through a message on serving but at the end I don’t want a singular call to action to a directive for everyone to become a children’s church worker. I’m interested in messages for the message behind it, not the church-building goal that needs to be reached. There is outreach to be done in the community but to me it’s more an attitude and innate desire than a singular church event.

To be 100% clear I believe in giving and generosity as a way of life and that there are opportunities every day to be generous and to give. I believe in serving others but there are so many great ways in the community to serve and not ways that may be marketed to bring you closer to your pastor either – sometimes people are encouraged to serve because the Senior Pastor will be serving alongside them that day / event.

I’m not looking for a church pastor who fawns over people but I would like to be able to engage periodically without a 6 month waiting list or special reception area.  I don’ t believe I’m high maintenance but at the same time during the tour there was little-to-no engagement at most churches when it came to the senior or lead pastor. It seemed pretty routine for them to be set aloof, distant, whisked off, or just inaccessible. I’m not sure I subscribe to that either despite demands.

I understand that with 2000 congregants the pastor it’s not conducive for every visitor or member to engage the lead pastor regularly given the demands but for me at least I’d like to be able to engage.  I’m not looking for disengaged leads or ones that set themselves at a distance in an aloof way. I don’t need them there every second and I don’t need them working for me or against me.

I’m not looking for a church that will work against me in the type of outreach I feel called to do. I don’t need the church’s support but I don’t need it making my life more difficult as I strive to serve the kingdom in the way I believe I’ve been called to which in this season is in the marketplace where others may not want to go. I believe outreach happens outside the four walls and that people have to go to places and people that the church generally overlooks or just won’t support – not everyone buys the clichés.

“Find your church / church family, find your purpose” is a common cliché but I believe you can find your purpose outside meeting the church’s needs – the church should not speak about finding purpose but only support a purpose that meets it’s needs like manning a poorly planned outreach. At some point it gets cliché.

I’m not looking for a cliché. “Small groups make a large church seem small” to me is an excuse for a lack of effort at engagement. “Serving is a way to get plugged in” to me is a way to meet the church’s needs by dangling a way to get your own needs met as a carrot. “We don’t need your money but God desires your obedience” is a flat out lie to me as most church buildings don’t pay for themselves. Be engaging organically and dispense with the clichés – be a good shepherd.

“Freedom is the right of all sentient beings” (Budiansky, 1983) is a phrase found on the Transformers leader Optimus Prime’s tech spec card on the back of the toy’s box. I value freedom. Free to worship. Free to share the love of God. Free to express that service in a way I feel led by God. He is the shepherd.

I’m not looking for someone who considers themselves the shepherd who has to given an account of my activities. That’s another word for control in my experience. I need to be able to serve how I am led by God and where I’m led by God without condition, restriction, or intimidation.  Intimidation makes it hard to experience new things and know what you’re looking for in life.

So what am I looking for? I believe it’s easier to given an example: the Amish, the Mennonites, and the indigenous Native Americans. I’m looking for a group of people who live serving, loving God, and sharing his Gospel, for the sake of serving, loving God and sharing his Gospel. I want to give to give, serve to serve, love to love, and share to share. I want to do so because it’s how I live. I want to live in freedom.

Freedom is the right of all sentient beings. There is power in freedom and with that freedom I want to help build the Kingdom of God, not soley build a church. I have tasted and experienced freedom.

Freedom was visiting 25 churches in 24 weeks with an open mind, open heart, and sense of exploration. I not only did it but I succeeded at it. One day I hope to find what I am looking for. But for now I know one thing. I know where I’m at.

The End of the Beginning

If a church changed the way it communicates, could the outcome change? What if the church were clear in its ask, in what and why it wants from you?

What if churches communicated like this:

“This church takes 150 people to run and we have 25 paid staff so we need 125 of you to keep things running,”

“The church mortgage is $3500 a month, salaries are $10,000 a month. We need people to help give to stay open each week,”

“We market ‘community‘ as what the church can offer. In order to do this we need life groups with actual people in them, would you join one?

Studies show people engaged with the church in life groups both serve and give, which are goals we need to meet to stay open,”.

If the church communicated that way, it might have different outcomes.

Ron Hall, post note on “The Church Tour”

Works Cited

Echevarria, R, (Writer) & Singer, A. (Director). (1993 September 20. Descent, II (Season 6 Episode 1) [TV series episode]. In Executive producer Berman, R, Star Trek: The Next Generation. Paramount.

Budiansky, B. (1983, The Transformers). Optimus Prime Tech Specs. Hasbro.