Suppose an entrepreneur starts a business. The objective of starting the business is satisfaction of target consumer needs or wants. Naturally this entrepreneur wants his or her business to experience good growth, more especially phenomenal growth. It is a known fact, however, that businesses can grow so fast they ultimately crash because growth achieved was not attained to in a sustainable manner. Regardless, growth and satisfaction of customer needs or wants in of themselves are good things.
A business can grow so fast, growth becomes enemy of sustainability.
Assume the entrepreneur alluded to above is a well meaning pastor who has founded his or her own ministry or organized church. This pastor wants to reach as many people as possible in as little time as possible. As is the case with the entrepreneur operating in the secular world, a ministry or church body can grow so fast, while it appears the pastor remains in control because he still is holding the mic on the pulpit, new employees and members are arriving so fast there is not enough time in the day to inculcate all of the ministry’s good values in the church body.
A church organization or body or ministry can grow so fast it becomes virtually impossible to maintain ethos of the organization within either of populations of employees or populations of church members.
The problem with many of today’s Christian ministries is they compound the growth problem with sermons that mostly are about encouragement in regard of life’s challenges. While sermons about encouragement are necessary and godly, if such sermons are not interspersed with teachings on how exactly to be a Christian, the growth problem is compounded by a “Let’s be a Christian Center for Weekly Encouragement (CCWE) mentality”. The compounding mentality among church goers, CCWE sells like hot cake.
So what happens? Those seeking real nurture within context of church organizations are left hungry and searching from one local church to the next (Believe me I know. This was me between 2009 and 2014. In all of this time I never stopped attending church services except for spells in between searches for a new church organization. I even lay pastored between 2009 & 2011 and between 2013 & 2014 with hope that participation in leadership would help. I got voted out for trying too hard with some false accusations to help the cause; before you judge remember even Jesus’ disciples thought He was going too far — see Matthew 16:21–23).
If those hungry for nurture are lucky they perhaps find something that works. If not they like me and others who have stopped searching are left wondering what next to do about opportunities for fellowship with other Christians.
CCWE sells so much, people hungry for real nurture are left hungry in local church. Their only respite? Nurture from Jesus Christ Himself. Thankfully Jesus never fails.
People, both disenchanted Christians and non-Christians (those who do not profess faith in Jesus Christ) judge Christian pastors a lot. But being a pastor is not easy. Staying the course as a pastor never is easy because success typically is measured in numbers that generate wrong motives for right actions. These numbers are growth in membership and growth in church income. Whether a pastor works within context of a denomination or operates as a stand alone, secular (bills to pay) and denominational pressures ensure growth in membership and church income typically are the two most important metrics for success. A pastor with genuine intentions at commencement of a ministry can very easily lose his or her way as the organization focuses more and more not only on what it takes to grow, but what it takes to maintain growth already achieved.
Pressures of growth and capacity to maintain growth already achieved very easily corrupt pastors who start off with genuine intentions.
By corruption I do not mean sin or evil. I mean sacrifice of authenticity for growth. Most pastors of CCWEs have to be actors and psychologists on the stage. Psychologists never say what they actually mean because you cannot attempt to help someone and get them down on themselves at the same time. Actors try to fit in a role so long as it can make money or keep people watching, same thing. The role itself is immaterial. After all, even when they die on stage or in a movie they get to go to the bank and withdraw cash the very next day.
Pastors have bills to pay. Between paying the bills and acting, pastors likely choose a little acting and psychologist role play to keep people coming and watching. Pastors easily sacrifice authenticity for growth.
Again, what pastors do is not easy. So whether we are Christians or not let us be gentle in our criticisms of pastors.
I am not saying pastors do not need to be judged because if they are not they will be condemned along with those who do evil in this world (1Corinthians 11:31–32). There is no partiality with Jehovah Father of Jesus Christ. No one is saved by religious work they do for God. We all are saved by our character — our capacity to walk in love towards people in our circles — Christians or non-Christians (Galatians 5:19–21).
But it is time pastors realize that just because the right path is narrow and not easy to stay on does not mean switching to the wide and easy path should be overlooked by people — Christians or non-Christians. Criticism that comes across as speaking the truth in love is chastisement from God much as Paul at some point in time had to chastise Peter for hypocritical behavior (Galatians 2:11–13). Even Peter was susceptible to a momentary loss of authenticity in attempts at pleasing people who considered him not only a Christian leader, but a Jewish Christian leader.
A Potential Solution That Cannot Work
The solution to the growth conundrum? Pastors focusing on developing quality of character of church members and employees. The problem is we cannot necessarily blame a pastor for church members or employees struggling to be Christians. Here the old adage applies:
You can drag a horse to a stream. You cannot force the horse to drink the water. Even when the horse drinks, you cannot dictate rate of assimilation of water. Pastors always have need of patience and gentleness in interactions with their members or employees.
Good Solution — Can’t Work in Today’s World
Another solution that could work? A return to church fellowship taking place in believers’ homes.
Try selling that in today’s world, a world in which people have become more individualized and wary of strangers. As spiritual as I know myself to be, it would take getting comfortable with people within context of organized church before I allow them into my home. This is the reality of the world in which we live today. Never mind that I have tried this in the past and it blew up in my face. Even when you think you know people within context of organized church, you just never know for sure. A little offer of money just like Judas Iscariot received and they betray Jesus via betrayal of a brother or sister in the Lord Jesus Christ.
So do we just throw our hands up in the air and give up?
The Solution that Absolutely Works
There is a solution that works. If Jesus Christ tells you (we are not talking voices here; we are talking spirit communicating with Spirit of God) to step out of organized church like I believe it is Jehovah’s will for me at the present time, you step out of organized church and receive your nurture from Jesus Christ Himself. If Jesus tells you to continue within context of organized church you likewise obey Him.
The real question is:
Can you say with confidence what it is exactly Jesus is asking of you in respect of participation or non-participation in organized church?