a rant by a runt about the american church, part 9

important preliminary comments here (part 1)
our american identity here (part 2)
my framing theological assumption here (part 3)
the unfortunate results of being reactors here (part 4)
the unfortunate results of being simplifiers here (part 5)
the unfortunate results of being systemitizers here (part 6)
the unfortunate results of being highly individualistic here (part 7)
the unfortunate results of being overstaters here (part 8)

anyone getting bored with this rant? i’m almost am. but i only have this post, one more, and a little bonus one. i can hold on… finish strong…

since we’ve ALWAYS been enamored of BIG, and we believe that big = success…

we’ve come to accept copying big churches as a norm. i am not anti-saddleback or anti-willow. quite the opposite, actually. i have great friends on staff at both, and have a great respect for much of what these churches have accomplished. what i do chaffe at is copying saddleback and willow. and, really, saddleback and willow are just metaphors or icons here: we americans assume that things that grow big are better, intrinsically, than things that aren’t as big. this is no new news to anyone reading this — our pecking order or success in churches. what i’m really trying to call out here is the extent to which the copying of large churches has become normative.

the logic is: ‘if the large church did it this way, and we want to grow, we should do the same.’ of course, that’s lousy logic. so many pieces missing.

i’m not anti-swapping of resources and ideas — especially in youth ministry. but i support modifying and contextualizing and tweaking. so find some neato idea from saddleback if you want — but make sure to modify them for your context.

church leadership is obsessed with business leadership. i love reading good business books. collins’ good to great has had such a profound impact on my leadership (especially his research on level 5 leadership). godin’s purple cow will always be one of my favorite books, and plays a role in the reshaping of ys. and i think pastors should read business and leadership books — i’m all good with that.

it just seems that most pastors (and leaders) in the pop-culture church (this may be an overstatement, but it’s not intended to be) likely read an exclusive diet of business and leadership books. i think it would be absolutely fascinating for someone to do a study of the impacts of this. i do know this: in my position, i hear story after story after story of passionate support-staff (youth ministers and such) being beaten up by senior pastors who’ve read one too many books on developing vision, but have no clue how to think theologically about their approaches.

next up: what we can learn from churches in other countries (part 10)

5 thoughts on “a rant by a runt about the american church, part 9”

  1. I just read “Revolution” by George Barna today, and it is right on par with what you are saying here. I have had a feeling for a while that church as we know it will cease to exist in 20 years. and if that’s the case, I think it would be wise of us to begin to move in “other” directions. I’m on paid staff at my church…this prospect excites me yet scares me because I’ll have to go get a secular job!:)

  2. I went through a business leadership phase, but am now more into stuff like Eugene Peterson–which is leadership thinking, but not in a traditional sense.

    And, yes, SPs roll with the wave of the newest book.

    Perhaps you should write about ministry as an art instead of a science.

  3. I really enjoy sharing with other churches. Sometimes I have a good idea, sometimes I’m sharing a good idea. The problem is I can’t share with most of the bigger churches. They are too busy selling their stuff instead. And as the small church, I can’t afford it. So we are left trying to copy what they are doing so we can become big enough we can afford to buy some of that stuff. Then maybe we’ll sell our ideas. I’m not trying to be negative, but that is the rant from this runt that stems from the fact that we are so divided as individual churches and not acting as THE CHURCH that God called us to be.

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