“Church is archaic, domineering, impersonal, hypocritical, irrelevant, contentious, petty, boring and stale. It’s institutional instead of authentic and religious but not relational.” That’s what many believe according to Barnabas Piper, son of prominent Christian Pastor John Piper. He has written an article encouraging us to hang on. Lots of us have given up on Church. Plenty more think about doing so regularly.
Traditional church is being abandoned by many. Pastors are quitting or getting into trouble trying to measure up to what’s expected of them. I think that’s the core of the problem: expectations. Pastors are expected to be preachers, teachers, administrators, counselors, janitors, yard men, and, of course, good family men. It’s a bit much. In fact, it’s totally unreasonable.
The Church Mirage. Churches are expected to be sanctuaries where every one is saved, blessed, prosperous, always filled with joy and perpetually perfect examples of what it means to be a devoted follower of Christ. Look around friend. It’s just not so. No wonder many are disillusioned.
Church is very much in need of a remake. We need to start at the top. The top, by the way, isn’t the Pastor, it’s Jesus. We need to reconsider who Jesus is; what He came to do; what He expects of us. We need to stop lingering on our vision of Jesus as babe in the manger, suffering sacrifice on a cross, or even risen savior. He was and is all these things. Nonetheless we need to think of Him principally as soon to return LORD. Jesus doesn’t need admirers, fans, or even saved sinners. He needs, calls for and expects followers.
Let’s look at pastors. We need to stop thinking of them as supermen capable of leaping tall buildings with a bible in one hand and all the kids in kids church in the other. We need to see them as sinners with a gift. We need to look around the church for folks to fill all the jobs that our Pastors aren’t equipped or gifted to do.
Let’s look in the mirror. That’s where our view of the “congregation” needs to change. We need to stop thinking of them (us) as the audience. We need to think of them much as we need to think of pastors as sinners with gifts, that need to be identified, nourished and used. We expect nothing from the pews and it’s no surprise that’s what we get.
Expect imperfection. We should lose our “blessed” masks. We shouldn’t expect anyone at church to be perfect. We should expect mistakes, needs, struggles and hurts. We shouldn’t demand perfection. We should refuse to accept false fronts. We should demand vulnerability, honesty, availability and effort. Pastors aren’t there to be worshiped (that’s Jesus’ job) and the rest of us aren’t there to be pampered. We are in church to be led.
Imperfect Church Would be Perfect. We should expect our pastors to lead and we should expect to follow, not the pastors but the One they are following, Jesus. We should expect each other to stumble and we should expect to be lifted up when they (we) do. That’s a church we can hang with, work with and love with. That’s the church we need. That’s a church that folks won’t give up on.