Shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you, not for shameful gain, but eagerly, not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. -- 1Peter 5: 3-4 (ESV)
The Seeker-Friendly Industrial Complex is a million dollar business enterprise. Its network includes millionaire pastors, hit record labels, worldwide tours, national conferences, and even satellite television networks. As all multi-national conglomerates they employ a business model and have marketing and growth strategies. Everyone has their greedy little fingers in the pie; all in the name of Jesus of course -- wink wink nod nod. Their primary vehicle for drawing new customers is the mega church. Usually a hugely fabulous structure with all of the carnal amenities of a shopping mall. Most have coffee shops and souvenir stores disguised as book stores. The really opulent ones will have gyms, bowling alleys and even waterfalls in the lobby because nothing says humility like diamond chandeliers and churches built to look like a woman's shoe to draw women in (yes it really exists). The enemy of this model then is not the world or the devil but rather it is the small church mentality. It is the correct belief that the New Testament clearly lays out the vision God has for the church as being on a small level; not a mega church level. Just this year purpose-driven heretic Andy Stanley chastised people who attended small churches; berating them and accusing them of being "so darn selfish." He later tried to walk it back but it revealed his heart. Every person in a small church is money not coming into the Complex.
Part of the Complex is the "expert" gurus who cover the Internet with fleshly wisdom to grow the network. Whether it is leadership conferences with secular experts or consultants designed to prop up the paradigm it becomes plainly obvious that their role is to protect the racket at all costs. So it is no wonder when they come out attacking small churches, which remains one of the greatest threats to the mega church way of life. One such guru we have written about is Carey Nieuwhof. This past week he penned an article where he asked the seemingly pious question; "You know why most churches still don't push past the 200 mark in attendance? I just love the arrogant assumptions baked into the question. As if it is already decided that pushing past 200 should be something to strive for. What if God did not want that particular church to grow to mega stardom? What if He foreknew that it would result in the pastor becoming full of himself? What if he foresaw that it would result in the pastor compromising the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that no one would end up getting saved as a result of it? Carey Nieuwhof acts like Meryl Streep's character in the Devil Wears Prada -- "Don't be silly Andrea, EVERYONE wants to be us." No Carey, not everyone aspires to have their own time slot on TBN. Not only that but the model of the New Testament Church found in Acts Chapter Two clearly teaches the growth of the church is decided by God. So a lot of churches do not push past 200 because that is what God desires. Wait a minute preacher! What about evangelism? What about it? That is one of the gifts. It is one facet of the church, not the mission. People like Carey Nieuwhof pretend it is the mission because it excuses their carnal tricks for growing the church. They can always fall back on the "win as many for Jesus" excuse. Oh and the answer he provides to his question beloved is that these small churches organize, behave, lead and manage like a small organization. Here was his spectacularly carnal explanation:
There's a world of difference between how you organize a corner store and how you organize a larger supermarket. In a corner store, Mom and Pop run everything, Want to talk to the CEO? She's stocking shelves. Want to see the Director of Marketing? He's at the cash register. Mom and Pop do everything, and they organize their business to stay small. Which is fine if you're Mom and Pop and don't want to grow. But you can't run a supermarket that way. You organize differently. You govern differently. There's a produce manager, and people who only stock shelves. There's a floor manager, shift manager, general manager and so much more. So what's the translation to church world? -- Carey Nieuwhof
There is no translation of this absurdity into the church world! Salvation is not the same is deciding which apples to stock. Deciding to repent, pick up your cross, and follow Jesus is not the same as that difficult life decision of paper versus plastic! Growth is always presented by the Complex as not only desirable but always positive. Ask the folks who used to attend Mars Hill Church in Seattle how growth worked out for them. Ask the millions of "blessedly subtracted" church hurt folks who will never return to church again. Look at the groundwork he has laid out here though. You need a shift manager, a floor manager and a general manager. You know, like you need an Operations Pastor, an Executive Pastor, and every other nuanced area in the church. It is like comparing apples and salvation. Nonetheless, Carey proceeds with 8 reasons churches stay small and within them we can continue to gain a glimpse into the carnal mind of the purpose driven guru employed within the Seeker Friendly Industrial Complex:
1. The pastor is the primary caregiver. Honestly, if you just push past this one issue, you will have made a ton of progress. When the pastor has to visit every sick person, do every wedding, funeral and make regular house calls, he or she becomes incapable of doing other things. That model just doesn't scale. If you're good at it, you'll grow the church to 200 people and then disappoint people when you can't get to every event any more. Or you'll just burn out. It creates false expectations and so many people get hurt in the process. The answer, by the way, is to teach people to care for each other in groups. -- Carey Nieuwhof
I agree that when you pastor a church of 2000 people you could not possibly actually tend to the sheep. That is a problem however within the mega church model. Instead, they try and flip it back to a reason why small churches do not grow. You know, because a pastor insists on behaving like a pastor. Heaven forbid the pastor actually does the funerals for departed congregants or visits the sick. Strange though, since that is the job he says he is called to. The key verses today plainly spell this out. Shepherd the flock that is among you. The NLT says to take care of the sheep the Lord has entrusted to you! Can you be plainer than that? Shepherd them as God would have you! Not for gain! Not because you feel compelled to! Not domineering over them! Be an example! This is the complete opposite of the purpose driven mindset. Andy Stanley once famously stated that he felt we should not even use the word "shepherd" anymore because it is not culturally relevant. Uhm, yeah Andy but God said it. This is the design of Almighty God. That pastors be under shepherds for the Great Shepherd. To be a shepherd you must tend to the sheep. You must care for them, feed them, and nurture them. Not pass them off to people who do not have that calling nor were entrusted to them by God. Your job as a pastor is not to delegate the sheep. The answer by the way for Carey is small groups and this is right out of the Purpose Driven Church. Because the pastor becomes this vision casting speaker dude, he no longer has time to care about people. So we "teach" the sheep to care for each other. God uses certain imagery for a reason beloved. Can you imagine if a shepherd walked away from the flock and told them to care for each other? What would be the result? Probably the same amount of chaos and death you see in the modern church today. Sheep cannot care for themselves. If they could, they would not need a shepherd. Small groups are just a tool used by the complex to move the responsibilities of the pastor onto his flock.
2. The leaders lacks a strategy. Many churches today are clear on mission and vision. What most lack is a widely shared and agreed-upon strategy. You vision and mission answers the why and what of your organization. Your strategy answers how. And how is critical. Spend time working through you strategy. Be clear on how you will accomplish your mission and don't rest until the mission, vision and strategy reside in every single volunteer and leader. -- Carey Nieuwhof
Wow, that sounds like a lot of carnal wisdom. It sounds like a great way to turn a grocery store into a supermarket. Here is the problem about translating it into a church growth technique. Salvation in Jesus Christ is not for sale. It is not a product that has to be marketed. It does not need our strategies, schemes, or vision. It just needs to be preached. Period. The code-speak that is missing from Nieuwhof's point here is that everything is couched in terms of carnal metrics. Success becomes how many people show each week and how many tithe. Yet the Bible tells us that narrow is the way to eternal life and few are those who find it. Joel Osteen packing in 50,000 per service is not a sign of spiritual success but rather the judgment of God upon those who in His name will pursue only that which their itching ears want to hear. It is a curse, not a blessing. Wait a minute preacher! Are you saying that a mega church cannot be faithful to the Gospel? Kinda. What I am saying is that mega church amounts of people would probably not react favorably to the Gospel. That in order to keep 50,000 people coming back each week you are forced to compromise the true Gospel. One of the cardinal sins in the Complex is preaching about sin and repentance; or as God likes to call it -- the Gospel.
3. True leaders aren't leading. In every church, there are people who hold the position of leadership and then there are people who are truly leaders (who may not hold any position in your church). Release people who hold titles but aren't advancing the mission and hand the job over to real leaders. Look for people who have a track record of handling responsibility in other areas of life and give them the job of leading the church into the future with you. If you actually have leaders leading, it will make a huge difference. -- Carey Nieuwhof
Ahh, every now and again the truly carnal slip up and show that this has nothing to do with God. Note what Carey advocates for here. Look for people who have a track record for handling responsibility in other areas of life and give them a job of leading the church into the future with you? Seriously? No need to check if they read the Bible, beat their wife, or sleeps with their secretary. Nah, just see if they are a secular leader that you can leverage. How disgusting and naÃ¯ve. I watched this first hand at my old church as the more the church grew the more we needed people to lead. We started settling on people who were shift managers in the supermarket they worked at but were spiritual infants. This is exactly why you cannot use carnality to try and grow the church.
4. Volunteers are unempowered. Sure, small churches may not have the budget to hire other staff, but you have people. Once you have identified true leaders, and once you're clear on your mission vision and strategy, you need to release people to accomplish it. Try to do it all yourself and you will burn out, leave or simply be ineffective. Empower volunteers around an aligned strategy and you will likely begin to see progress. -- Carey Nieuwhof
This is more of what has already been discussed. The passing off of pastoral duties to people you will not even pay. For the sake of time we will proceed.
5. The governance team micromanages. If you need permission every time you need to buy paper towels or repaint an office, you have a governance issue. Most boards who micromanage do so because that's where most people simply default. You need a board who guards the mission and vision and empowers the team to accomplish it and then gets out of the way. -- Carey Nieuwhof
Ugh. Talk about unbiblical absurdities. But this truly reveals the mindset of the purpose driven pastor. It is all about the consolidation of power. Most pastors create boards that offer zero accountability and are essentially yes men. I know one local church that uses their board as a launching pad for ministerial career opportunities. Conflict of interest anyone? If you serve on a board that rules on things such as pastor salary increases your next stop should not be a paid position on staff as a pastor. Yet it happens all the time because of this worldly mindset. Nieuwhof tries to make it sound trivial but we know what is really going on here. We are not speaking about paper towels. Perhaps the most frightening thing is that Nieuwhof is teaching pastors that the board's primary focus should be on guarding the mission and vision and then getting out of the way? Where the heck is that in the Bible? The primary role is to assist the pastor in leading the church. The primary thing they should protect according to Titus is doctrine; to make sure the church stays true to the Gospel. They are there to serve God and the congregation, not the pastor.
6. Too many meetings. I led a church with a grand total of 50 people in attendance. We had 16 elders. Overall, the church was in evening meetings 2-3 times a week. Why on earth would a church that small need to meet that often? I eventually repurposed most of those meetings to become meetings about vision and reorganization. We also cut the number of elders down. Now, although we have a much bigger church, I'm only out one or two nights a week (and then mostly for small group). If you're going to meet, meet on purpose for the future. Free up your time so you and your team can accomplish something significant.