Monday, February 28, 2011

Day 237: Friends Change

A friend from my online ministry asked me this…

"I have an issue I would like to hear you opinion on. Since you are talking about pastors on your blog and what they experience, and such. This is an issue I have experienced in the Christian college I attend, as well as others I have talked to.

The concept of what I call "I will be your friend, just do not be my friend". What I have noticed is many Christians will "befriend" a person, with the intent of bringing them into their world. The moment the other tries to be independent, share something that is not of their world, they start to build the wall between them.

As a pastor have you come across this in anyway? If so what do you recommend?"

To answer the first question “have you come across this in anyway?” my answer is yes…in a few different ways. Let me explain. The first time I noticed this was during my days of schooling to become a pastor. I had quite a few friends that were in school at one place or another with all of us having the same desire…to become a youth pastor. As time progressed I saw a few drop out of the program and even more become more and more unlike themselves. Some of them took a change for the better but some became corporate players. I mean they dressed the part, looked the part, even knew what to say when. I found it funny because when they were by themselves or with just me and a few friends…they were a different person. I actually refused to go that path and really just tried to stay true to who I am. This resulted in me getting passed up for a few different things but that is the cost of staying yourself. If it means I am not going to please everyone or the ones that needed pleasing in order to gain a few notches…well, I was not that person.

When I became the head pastor, lead pastor, senior pastor (whatever you want to call it) I found this to be all the more true, especially with missionaries. During the days of youth pastoring you begin to develop some great friends. These are people that you can talk video games with, music ministry strategies, etc. Youth pastors end up doing quite a bit together between youth rallies, conventions, etc. What I have found to be true is that as they get older and see their path in life going another direction, they begin to become corporate players. Who they are begins to change and those that were once not all that likable are now trying their best to be liked. Those who were not social now are becoming social. Those who never wanted to hang out are now wanting to take you out to lunch. Why? Because they need support on the mission field. I recall talking to someone once missions, this person asked me what I am doing for home missions. What they were referring to basically is who I am writing a check to to support their ministry. I began to talk to them about “Church at the Pub” and a few other things we have going on. This person that was once a good friend of mine but now in a different position of “power” told me…”That is great but that is not supporting home missions so please keep your thoughts to yourself.” They wanted me to go with the flow which I am not to willing to do. I understand there are ministries worthy of support but the fact is…the church I pastor is a mission in and of itself. Sure, we will still assess our giving and support a few missions but overall we have work to do right here in, Waupaca. Another friend basically bailed on me because once we were good friends. Now that they are missionaries, we as a church of 80 people cannot do a whole lot, we were not able to support them and so dropped us as friends all together. They forget very quickly all the things I did for them by introducing them to people they may want to know…even giving up a paycheck so they could attend a conference in another country. This is the sad reality of people changing in ministry and building walls if you don’t line up with them.

The second question is “If so what do you recommend?” My answer would be not to stop talking to them. Sometimes friendships get downgraded to acquaintance. This does not mean you have to cut them off or even dislike them. Priorities change for people in life and so do their ideals and thoughts. Who someone once was does not mean who they will be for their whole life. I can think of many things that I have changed my view on, I just hope I have made more friends along the way than fewer.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Day 236: Speak Up!

There is something I tend to find interesting with all of the social networking that I do. Whether it is my blog, tweets, Facebook status updates, or face to face conversation…I feel it is central to scripture to think on some things differently. To question and raise thoughts. If you don’t think it is central to scripture to ask questions…you ought to re-read the bible.

There are many things that I just don’t question. Many of those would be the standard beliefs that define who I am credentialed with and what other churches believe. However, there are many more things that we can question. Isn’t that really how we got our Matthew Henry Commentaries of today? Here is an educated man who did a commentary on scripture and we hold it to be the best commentary second to the Holy Spirit’s guiding. Wait…the Holy Spirit’s guiding? If something we read in scripture is put in a new light but is contrary to what our upbringing or denomination believes…is it the Holy Spirit’s guiding to put that “other thought” out of your head and go with what mother wants?

I find when I post some things on social network sights that may be contrary to some teachings or how a church “should do things” that comments can sometimes be staggeringly low. If I post a blog about something light hearted “the joy of fellowship” or “Jesus is Lord” then I will get comments like “great blog brother” or “that is some good stuff.” Why? Because sometimes we are afraid to show that we may think a little abstract. We don’t want anyone else to know about our “radical” thoughts so we keep them to ourselves and not comment on ones that share our exact sentiments. Early this morning at 1:20 a.m. I got a private message from a fellow A/G pastor on Facebook that said, “Was praying for you today. We need more Pastor's like you. You are making an impact.” This really cheered me up. I so appreciate these kinds of messages.

If you have a different take on scripture, a out of the box thought or even something that might challenge a “biblical foundation” the worse thing you can do is not talk about it. You need to research it, talk about it, if you don’t know what you think about it….put it out there on social network sites and see what others think. If you find that you are wrong…so be it…that is the joy of studying and conversation. However, if people are agreeing with you, study it more and see what happens. Matthew Henry and the people that put together the IVP commentary had to think out loud…it helps us grow. Be willing to go out on a limb, be willing to be corrected but also be willing to shed some light in a new way that some of your friends may have never seen before. It is a great thing….be a rebel and speak up!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Day 235: Myth of the "Interim Pastor"

Interim pastor…this is a title given to usually a staff pastor that is filling in while the senior pastor has stepped down or was fired. According to one website, an interim pastor is defined as “someone who helps fill the role of minister at your church while you are on a pastor search. It is a temporary position and the job description varies widely depending on what the church needs.”

I have had experience in this area twice and I served under two different pastors within a year and a half time that had moral failings. There came a time when the board would ask me to be the interim pastor. In my first youth pastor position, this idea only lasted a week or two. Where I am currently I stayed the interim pastor until I became the pastor. Through both of these situations however I learned that what the board deems as an “interim pastor” is really just an “interim speaker.” Let me explain.

When a pastor ends up leaving a church usually the board is so programmed that any interim pastor that comes in and tries to do a few things differently, it really ends up ruffling their feathers. I remember in my first position when the pastor left, they left his name on the church bulletin for a month or so. I questioned it (being the interim pastor) and you would have thought I was the enemy. Keep in mind this was not a good situation as to why the change took place. Whether a pastor or interim pastor…you are given that position to do what? PASTOR FOR GOODNESS SAKES! That means make decisions…am I thinking just way to simple about this? Here in, Waupaca I began to make some changes to the bulletin and when the former pastor came back for a visit and the lingering kid’s pastor saw it…ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE that Sunday. Over a bulletin change you might ask? Yes…stupid isn’t it? Now you know why I am a wee bit cynical of church politics.

This is what I have discovered…if you are a staff pastor filling the role of “Interim pastor” because the pastor left on good terms or bad terms and the board was just so close to that former pastor. You are expected to be nothing more than a puppet with the board being the puppet masters. The actual title given should be “interim speaker”. They do not want you to make decisions for the church as the pastor would. They want to keep you in control. Now of course this will not come out, they will stay very close to you and be supportive. Once you decide to do something different though…you will be smashed. When you end up being a pastor even for a few months, more than likely they will have someone come in to speak so you can remain silent in the pew on Sunday mornings. Logically you would think the people on staff would step in because they KNOW the church....just another fine example of how backwards things can be.

Day 234: Do What With What Church?

One of the struggles a pastor will run across is the issue of doing things with other churches. I remember when we had a speaker in a couple years ago that was there to talk about campus ministry. What happened however was a 40 minute talk on how our church was not worshipping correctly to “The Revelation Song” and why it is bad we don’t do more things with other churches. Clearly this person was ignorant to the fact of the church landscape in our city and how small cities work.

Would I like to do things with some churches? Absolutely. Are there other churches I have no desire to do anything with? Yes. Do we do some things with others? YES! However, every church in our little city has gone through a church split. Some took many years to get to that point but Radiant Fellowship only took a year and a half after it launched. What happens in a small town is that people church hop. It is no mystery to the pastors in a small town who these people are. I refer to them as “Boomerang Christians”. They will leave one church and after they have been burned enough, they will come back as if everything is forgotten. Then there are the legitimate ones who leave a church for a very valid reason. It is these people I have in mind while doing things with other churches. If we have a larger constituency of people from a certain church…we probably won’t do anything with them then. I know this sounds a little crazy but a pastor must pastor their church.

In a perfect world it would be great if churches could work together. I am quite confident the church does plenty together…it is the institutions that don’t do so well.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Day 233: Thoughts on Christian Music Today

I realize a couple of years as a music buyer in a Christian bookstore does not make me an authority on Christian music. Being a DJ for a Christian skate night does not either. In fact hosting over 20 different Christian artists I would say still does not make me an authority on Christian music. This blog is me sharing my na├»ve opinion on “Christian music” as a whole.

I am currently putting together a promotional campaign as the church I pastor (Radiant Fellowship) will host, Matthew Ward from the 2nd Chapter of Acts. In doing this I have forgotten the passion I hear from many of the artists of the Jesus movement era and the 80's/early 90's. One of the songs that I completely forgot about from 2nd Chapter of Acts is “Which Way the Wind Blows.” This is an amazing song that I hope he does in concert. As I was researching a few sites I recall reading how, Buck Herring and the rest of the family of this singing group really was heavily mourning the passing of Keith Green in 1982. There was a part that Buck thought if Keith Green had been alive today that perhaps the Christian music industry would be more ministry based. I have a few thoughts on this very topic.

First, I do believe many bands around today are still steeped in ministry. I love much of the Christian rock, goth, rap, etc. music out there today. I do think there are some that say they are, even talk about it during their show but afterward really just want to leave. Having played host to many different artists from old timers to modern groups, a person can easily discern right away if they are really into ministry or just needed to fill a spot on the tour calendar. I recall hosting one WELL KNOWN artist from the older days who ended up being a complete diva. From him wanting me to iron his clothes to not wanting to have dinner with us but rather get carry out and go back to his hotel. I know people say he is all about ministry but I am quite confident he was more about the paycheck.

Please understand that you will never see me be so naive as to think if a band is “Christian” that they should play for free. That would completely ignorant of me to say. I do think it has gotten out of control when some of these groups and worship artists charge upwards of $60-80K per show. I golfed two summers ago with the head of a ministry that does Wisconsin's largest Christian music festival. He told me, "we had to say no this ___________ _______ because they wanted $110K and our make is $90k". I am failing to see the ministry side of that. What even amazes me are the ones who show up to do a concert be it at a festival or large church and then won’t go and sit at their booth for even an hour after the show. I think a couple realizations need to be made here. First, it is the fans that made them who they are and make it possible to be out on the road all the time. Secondly, even the most successful Christian bands record sales nught be an embarrassment in the mainstream world so once your time is over in the spotlight you will once again be relying heavily on your fans to support you. Then there are those bands who charge a love offering that in my mind really tell me “this is all about ministry.”

There was a conversation I had with a pioneer in the Christian music industry. This person introduced many artists to the Christian scene back in the 70’s-90’s. I asked him, “So what do you think about today’s Christian music scene”? He told me there are certainly some great bands out there that are doing ministry but I think as a whole we are just manufacturing rock stars.” Anytime you get near a tour bus of a Christian band and you can see the artist and they see you and the “security” for them tells you “got a problem? Keep it moving” then yes I do believe the industry is just turning out rock stars and not true ministry teams.

So there you have it, my rant. I won’t go as far as the infamous Steve Camp manifesto of 1997. I won’t even say you cannot have entertaining Christian music. What I do think however is perhaps some bands have lost what the main point of Christian music is…to minister. It is crazy times when the industry is copyrighting worship music. Think about that one for a moment. Would I name artists who I have had a negative experience with? No. I will sure name artists that I have had great concert experiences with that I believe to be true ministry bands/individuals so here it goes to the best of my recollection. Again, these are strictly people I have hosted in concert.

Luke Geraty

Men as Trees Walking

Glenn Kaiser

Leper

Grave Robber

Jonathan Martin

The Crossing

Mars iLL

B. Reith

Disciple

The Violet Burning

Sackcloth Fashion

There are more….but these are the ones that stand out