WHAT CHURCH LEADERS SHOULD KNOW
By Alvin Mason
There have been many articles written including recent articles about the declining emphasis people are putting toward their faith in GOD. The percentage, of atheist and agnostics has been consistently on the rise. The need for religion has become less significant to people, hence a decline in church affiliation and membership. Unfortunately, many churches delay taking action until financial problems surface. The problem is the church is more concerned with finances instead of the souls of neighbors in the community.
Yet many new churches are created every year. New churches and older churches which have suffered periods of implosion have a goal to grow. Churches have revivals, bring a friend to church Sunday and many other programs to enhance the churches identity and/or revitalize the members. What is the goal of an individual church? Does a Pastor start a church just to worship, without a vision of a building? Most churches have a goal to grow.
Every church I have ever been affiliated with had a core group of dedicated members always willing to serve when asked. Big churches, small churches, old churches, and new churches all have that core group. For a church to reach the goals of the Pastor and/or the leaders, the key ingredient is the leadership’s ability to manage that core group. The leaders must get effective and efficient service from that core group without burning them out.
The first thing every Pastor and church leader should do is to set the primary goal and/or primary mission of the church. The primary mission of course should be to glorify GOD. The leader then needs to plan a path on how best to achieve glorifying GOD. The goal should not be to have a mega church. A large strong effective church can happen when the purpose is to glorify GOD by service, sharing GOD’s goodness and teaching biblical principles. When hearts are right and the people are on one accord (to glorify GOD), then GOD will grant the increase.
Many churches have meetings to address how to greet visitors. It is generally accepted in all aspects of life to include church membership that you typically have one chance to impress someone. Let me ask a question. If the HOLY SPIRIT is working in the church service, how much emphasis should be put on human efforts to impress people? For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. ( Matthew 18:20)
Many church leaders encourage members to talk to visitors. Too often that leads to what I term as bum rushing visitors. Visitors want to feel welcome but when they are surrounded by several members after service the welcoming can seem to some to be a pressure tactic. Some may never return fearing that their individual goal of enjoying the service is hindered by the churches goal of increasing membership.
Church leaders should understand that every church is not for everybody. All church worshipers are not sophisticated Christians. All people will not be an asset to any or every congregation because most Christians have church laundry from their past. Understand that most people do not read or study the Bible. Unfortunately, what most people believe is not what The HOLY SPIRIT laid on their heart thru Bible study and meditation, but what they were taught by a Pastor in church or even worse what they heard from a friend.
Part of the problem is that when reading the Bible a person can:
- Discover Biblical facts
- Deduce inferences
- Form opinions
Too many times Pastors and others state their opinions as Biblical facts. Afterwards people relate such opinions as Biblical facts. Then they take those beliefs wherever they subsequently go to worship and at times there becomes a philosophical problem. The bottom line is everyone is not on one accord.
No two people can agree on the interpretation of everything in the Bible from the book of Genesis to the book of Revelation unless one person is following the other.
So the problem becomes how to reconcile differences in the individual meanings of Biblical scripture to be on one accord. Of course you start with common ground that being JESUS CHRIST as Lord and Savior.
Church Leaders also seem to rush professionals (with a good salary) into positions of service. Of course the classes to obtain such a position teach tithing as a rule. Is the goal to increase the intake of tithes and offerings?
One problem with integrating the professional business leader into the church leadership is that the professional is accustomed to well run meetings and organization. Too many times the relatively new member is put on a committee with someone who is part of the inner circle who does not know how to run a meeting and in many instances is not organized.
One other reason why people have become disillusioned with the church is because of what the church has collectively chosen to speak out about. The church has taken stands on:
- Gays and Gay Marriage
- The Death Penalty
The church has even made a splash into politics. Remember the Moral Majority. It was made to seem that those right wing views were that of the overwhelming majority of the American people. The Moral Majority’s literature made its way into many churches as people in church were encouraged to vote according to the Moral Majority’s selections.
The church has been silent on the following issues:
- School Prayer
- The Minimization of the Thanksgiving Holiday
- The Effects of Debt Policy
- The Environment
Let me next discuss the church’s stand on some issues:
Abortion- The majority of the universal church first took a strong stand against abortion. Then a minority of the church offered that abortion was between a person and GOD adding that GOD gave the breath of life. (Genesis 7:22) Subsequently women’s groups made a strong advocacy about a women’s right to choose. As the political climate changed abortion became more of a detriment to opponents of abortion especially in politics. The church subsequently became less vocal on the issue. Sadly it seems that the abortion engine was ignited by the right wing of the political spectrum and not the church.
Gays and Gay Marriage-The church also took a big stand against gays and gay marriage. Many prominent Pastors and preachers came out publicly against gays and lesbians. Some even suggested that America would experience GOD’s raft for tolerating gays. Once again the lobby of the other side (the gay and lesbian lobby) became effective enough to weaken the right wing influence on this issue. Another reason is that everyone has a relative and/or friend who is gay or lesbian. It is widespread and gay and lesbian people are now accepted. Many churches now are stating that their congregations are all inclusive. The real tragedy is that the church, all legislators, and the medical profession never addressed the issue, which is, “are some people born gay”. Let me state that I personally believe some people are born gay and lesbian. The failure to address this question is negligence in my thinking especially when one considers that female hormones are used to induce labor.
On the issue of Gay Marriage-The issue does not have to divide the church. Many denominations have fractured over this issue. Denomination leaders should do the following:
- Pray to GOD asking for wisdom on this issue.
- First explain that all people will not agree on this issue and discuss past issues (such as civil rights and interracial marriage and especially Jews accepting Jesus) that caused divisions in the church and how time healed the problem.
- Second ask that everyone respect other people’s beliefs and opinions.
- Let every Pastor decide if they will perform a gay or lesbian marriage.
- Let every individual congregation vote on gay and lesbian marriages within their church.
- After the results let every Pastor and congregation decide if they want to continue working together or separate, letting Pastors who believe in gay marriage work at churches that are willing to allow gay marriage and vice versus. This would also allow individuals to worship at churches within the denomination that share their beliefs.
- Publish within the denomination the churches that will allow and Pastors that will perform gay and lesbian marriages and those that will not. A denomination can remain intact using the aforementioned suggestions as a starting point or model for unification.
The Death Penalty-The church took an initial stance that the death penalty was mandated by GOD. I remember voter guides by the right wing which depicted a candidates’ stance on the death penalty while churches affiliated with the right wing politically preached sermons from the pulpit advocating the death penalty. It was made to seem that anyone against the death penalty was weak on crime. This movement made the Warren Court’s decision outlawing the death penalty seem to be spineless, in essence liberals moving against GOD. It was never considered by right wing conservatives that the conscience of the justices on the Warren Court was moved by the probability that wrongly accused citizens were executed for crimes they did not commit. Today as new scientific evidence exonerates people jailed many years for crimes they did not commit, the right wing and the church remain largely silent on those injustices and no one goes after the investigators or prosecutors who took part in imprisoning innocent people.
Now the churches silence on some issues.
School Prayer-Since the Supreme Court determined that School Prayer was government sanctioned religion and school prayer was no longer permitted in public schools, the one consistent thing that has happened is that public education has deteriorated. There have been all types of human efforts to improve education including the “Standards of Learning” and even some hailing saviors, (Waiting For Superman). Teachers and Principals are evaluated by testing children. Why aren’t we asking for GOD’s help? Churches should be collectively praying. The church should have collectively asked congress to pass a law mandating a moment of silence in public schools. That would allow children to do whatever their parents instruct them to do. Perhaps the children’s individual collective petitions would be heard by GOD. Remember almost all politicians say, “GOD bless America”.
Thanksgiving-Just think a day just to thank GOD. Do you think that such a day is pleasing to GOD? Just as Christ in Christmas has been minimized the Thanksgiving holiday is being made irrelevant. Once a day to be with family and give thanks to GOD for all GOD has done for us, now it is considered a day for retailers. As stores open on Thanksgiving morning and in too many cases, employees are required to work, the family event has eroded in favor of the retail event. Why is the church and many Pastors silent on this travesty? This is an issue that the greater church to include all denominations and independent churches should rally around and let their collective voices be heard. The silence of the church on this issue allows people lukewarm and indifferent to GOD to remain asleep with their faith! Also consider what message the erosion of the Thanksgiving holiday sends to people in other countries. Money and profit is all that matters in America.
Debt Policy-“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. That part of The Lord’s Prayer, today is recited in many churches the following way, “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors”. Legislators and debt collectors apparently have no regard for the financial tragedies that people endure. Even job seekers are subject to rejection based on their credit rating. As aggressive debt collection and subsequent punitive policies become the norm, the greater church has been silent. This silence is unfortunate when one considers that today’s debt policy has a bigger effect on the poor and working poor who have no advocate. Many churches have programs to help the less fortunate meet emergency needs which is admirable and real Christianity. However the churches silence on legislative debt policy leaves the poor without a real effective advocate. The church should advocate that a debt or credit rating should never be a reason for job rejection. A job could be offered with a condition that the new employee will repay all debts of record as a condition to keep the job.
War-America’s willingness to use combat troops is baffling. Jesus said, “bless are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of GOD”. It seems that when a person or organization takes a stand against war, then they are labeled unpatriotic or they are accused of not supporting our troops. The church has not been completely silent, but the effectiveness of the collective church’s voice has not minimized war.
The Church has not been vocal enough on issues relating to the environment. One reason might be that many churches discuss stewardship before taking an offering. Stewardship is the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving. GOD made all of us stewards of the earth, starting with Adam. (Gen:28)
People and organizations seem to be more effective in persuading lawmakers to ignore the will of GOD then doing the will of GOD. Evidence terrorist groups, hate groups and even The National Rifle Association.
The churches silence or ineffectiveness on current issues cannot even compare to the churches silence on past historical events such as the Holocaust and slavery.
The fact that the Holocaust happened is a blemish on the Christian Church and all Christians who were in leadership positions at that time. How could such an atrocity happen? Where was the church and church leaders? The silence of the church allowed secular government leaders to not act.
The church was also silent on the institution of slavery. In some cases the church condoned slavery and encouraged it. Isn’t it ironic that people were forced into bondage as a means of cheap labor and today jobs are taken to other places for cheap labor while at the same time people are trying to come to America sometimes illegally and are willing to work for minimum wage or even less. When advocates of the poor attempt to advance a living wage bill, those people insensitive to the plight of the economic lower class continue to offer reasons why a living wage is a bad idea. Unfortunately, the church has no effective voice on a living wage as in slavery of the past.
Today, the church should be more vocal on the issues of people influencing others to burn other faiths religious books and the encouragement of making cartoons of other religions profits. Even if the people advocating the burning of such books and the cartoon making of past religious leaders call themselves Christians, for other Christians to remain silent is nonfeasance. For anyone to encourage such an activity as burning the book of any religion is irresponsible and reprehensible. It is foreseeable that such encouragement could be the modus operandi of an unfortunate reaction.
As Christians, we know that the first book ever made from a printing press was the Bible. We also know that GOD is in control and we are to act as Christ would. We believe that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that JESUS CHRIST is LORD. GOD does not need our help. Our job is to live a life worthy for our day of judgment.
One thing everyone should experience when visiting any church is the prayer for governments and leaders as instructed in the Bible (1 Timothy 2:1-3). Too many times in too many churches the prayer does not include governments and leaders.
There are times when people who are generally indifferent to religion explore religion especially at times when they are experiencing personal trials. They may visit a church or talk to someone they know to be a believer or who attends church regularly. The church and all Christians must be willing to take time and listen. We cannot explain GOD’s will but we should encourage anyone and everyone to get closer to GOD and to pray. We should also pray for others who are experiencing hardship or misfortune.
Finally, people who were once nonbelievers should have a personal testimony ready to tell others who are exploring this faith thing as they go thru their personal trials.
One very important point is overlooked when Pastors encourage their members to hand out tracts or spread the gospel. Whenever a person discusses Jesus with another, the listener starts scrutinizing the person sharing the good news. Everyone should take an honest assessment of themselves before discussing God. The truth is most of us would not pass a scrutiny test. I remember before I was a believer that a co-worker who gave me a track was always late. Then there was the neighbor who always talked about Jesus and never cut his grass. In both instances those of us who needed to take heed to their messages only saw their faults. A person who once lost their cool would have difficulty witnessing to someone who saw that poor demonstration of behavior. Many times after we take a serious inventory of ourselves we will realize it is better to spread the gospel amongst complete strangers.
In the inner city many young men mistake meekness for weakness. The young people who the church should be trying to reach need to see something in the Christrian that they admire or respect. In other words the Christrian has to have something they want. Unfortunately people, especially people who lack wisdom admire wealth and popularity. The truth is we are competing with drug dealers and others who drive nice cars or have many followers. Many times a person who you want to reach because you can see the potential in them will not welcome your message, but you can still plant a seed. Planting a seed is important. God will send another to water the seed you planted.
The Church should also advocate all leaders saying, “GOD bless America and the rest of the world”.