Who We Say We Are and Who We Really Are

I hear from pastors fairly regularly that the church they’ve been called to serve is not who they said they were when that pastor was interviewing to lead them.  Examples:

  • Church A says they want to reach out beyond the walls of their sanctuary when what they really mean is that they want to attract people who look like them who want to participate in the mission they’re already doing.
  • Church B says that they want to be more “diverse” when what they really mean is that they are happy to welcome 1-2 families who don’t look like them as long as they act like them.
  • Church C says that they are excited about moving forward into the future but what they really mean is that they want their former pastor to participate in future weddings and funerals and they can’t bear to let the church administrator go even though she doesn’t want to learn new computer skills.

I was reading about an upcoming course at Columbia Theological Seminary yesterday which is being offered because the pastor’s vision conflicts with the congregations (authentic) vision.

Despite rhetoric and confessed beliefs about Gospel mission and mandate, it remains true that congregations are a type of religious community. As such, they operate more like family or tribe despite also being a body organized around a mission. Simply put, congregations, as communities have a tendency to be bounded, focused inward, generative, and focused on self-preservation. None of those are “bad” in and of themselves, but their reality can hint at why it is so difficult for clergy to move a congregation toward an outward-looking, missional ministry orientation. Israel Galindo

Amen and amen.

Every day I talk with congregations who minimize the differences between who they say they are and who they are.  And this is what’s placed us where we are today as the institutional Church.

We say we want to be disciples of Jesus Christ and follow the way of Jesus.  But actually we want to survive as an institution.  We only want to change when we have no choice but we continue to believe we have lots of choices.

Here’s the Good News:  Jesus’ Church is thriving at this very moment as we can’t worship in sanctuaries.  God is working in the thick of this to remind us that our basic purpose in life is to glorify God and enjoy God forever.

We are still doing this without church buildings and face to face board meetings.  Once God came to show us up close and personal what it looks like to be the living Word.  And now God is showing us how to be the living Word through an uncontrollable virus.

Many will die and I don’t want to think about that.  I want to focus on the resurrection that will happen after both the physical and the institutional deaths.  God will always have a Church.  Our role – if we are serious about our faith – is to be the Church God created us to be.

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