I have the best job in the world because every day in God’s creation, I get to address the good, the bad and the ugly. I tend to learn more from the bad and the ugly (i.e. what not to do) so that’s a blessing too.
Here you go for a quick list on a beautiful Monday morning.
Excellent and Healthy Times to Say No in Your Church:
- You are the former pastor and someone asks you to officiate at their wedding, funeral or child’s baptism. The answer is no. Saying yes sabotages the current pastor’s authority and ability to form close relationships with the congregation.
- You are a church leader who really wants the former pastor to officiate at your wedding, funeral or child’s baptism. The answer is no. Yes, you love that former pastor, but you are stealing the new pastor’s ability to be your spiritual leader and – in the long run – your congregation will suffer, especially if this becomes a habit with the former pastor.
- You learn about misconduct involving abuse of power of any kind: sexual, financial, physical, emotional and you are asked to keep it a secret. The answer is no. Depending on the situation, contact the pastor, the board of elders, the denominational leader or the police. Note: It must be reported but confidentiality must be kept in terms of the name of the victim, if that’s the wish of the victim.
- There is a leader (or several of them) who have been in power for years and they want to solidify their power by tapping their own spouses, siblings, or children to serve next. Nope. The church belongs to no particular family or clique, no matter how many generations are in the cemetery. Yes, those leaders love their church to the point of feeling like it belongs to them. And they could be inadvertently killing the church they love by not letting go.
- A generous person offers to pay for the new HVAC system, the new roof, the youth trip to Mexico, or the gap in the budget, assuming this will result in more institutional power. (“We owe that family so much!“) The answer is no (unless the gift is absolutely unconditional with no expectations in return.) Jesus talks about this kind of thing in terms of making it about us and our power. Financial generosity doesn’t equal more power or more faithfulness than the ones who give “the widow’s mite.“
Excellent and Healthy Times to Say Yes in Your Church:
- There are new neighbors who don’t look like most of the people in your pews. They might even offend you in some way, but there are people who want to reach out to them and make them feel included. The answer is yes. We need to get over ourselves and our biases, read the New Testament, and note how many offensive people Jesus invited into God’s flock.
- Someone volunteers who has never volunteered before, possibly because “Mrs. D always does it.” The answer is yes – I hope because Mrs. D. herself invites that person to lead. (And Mrs. D. offers to help if needed. And Mrs. D. doesn’t complain if the new volunteers does it differently. And #3 in Yes List.)
- The church tries something new even if it might fail. The answer is yes. Try it for 3 months. Try it for this season. Try it for a year. Try it, assuming it just might work. Try it while praying that it transforms something for good.
- A group of members have a vision for a Big Scary Dream that will show God’s love in a new way. The answer is yes. Let them present it to the other leaders. Give them permission to explore it further. Back them up. You could be looking at the next computer training facility, neighborhood food program, or community homeless shelter. (These Big Scary Dreams came true and have transformed thousands of lives.)
- During the pandemic and social distancing, members have completely new ideas for ministry (for now and maybe for many years to come.) The answer is yes. Here are some I’ve seen recently: A blessing of students’ technology instead of a blessing of the backpacks. (The Grove Church in Charlotte did this during worship August 16) Supporting a Tent City of neighbors who’ve been evicted from their apartments. (Henderson Grove Church in Mint Hill, NC is partnering with other congregations to provide provisions for those who’ve lost their homes.)
A healthy church knows when to say yes and when to say no. It’s about faithfulness, good boundaries and shared power. COVID-19 has given us the perfect opportunity to be the church in fresh ways.
Heads up: I’m already pondering faithful ways we can be the Church during a socially distanced Advent and Christmas. It could be glorious.