“That’s nice, preacher”

I’m a knowledge and information junkie. I read piles of books. If I had the time and money I’d go to a ministry conference every month. I used to go to more conferences and read more ministry books, but I’ve mostly given up on them.

It used to be that I’d read a book or come back from a conference fired up with enthusiasm and new ideas. I’d tell my leaders about what I learned and what we could do and the usual response was, “That’s nice, preacher. Occasionally they’d humor me and play a loing for a little while. They really had no reason to listen, however, except to be nice. They’d been in the church longer than I’d been alive and knew how to do things. Stuff happened before I arrived (or came back from the conference, or read the book) with my my new ideas and ways of doing things. Stuff would continue to happen.  Why both learning new things when you alreay know everything you need to know?

But from my perspective they didn’t know all they needed to know. The church continued to decline as they did the same thing over and over again. “If it was good enough in the 1950s, it’s good enough for today.” They refuse to see two things. First, doing what they did in the 1950s isn’t filling the church like it did (if it did) in the 1950s). Second, what they did in the 1950s didn’t produce as much lasting fruit as they thought.

I think of the old William Booth story. He’s gone to a meeting somewhere and a society lady comes up to him. “Mr. Booth, I don’t care for your method of doing evangelism.” He replies, “Madam, I don’t care for your method of not doing evangelism.” If all we need to do is “keep the doors open,” or maintain institutions and buildings, or keep old time members happy, we might be able to get by with doing what we’ve always done. But if we’re out to keep people from running headlong into hell, then we’ll have to do something different. We’ll have to learn some new things.

<Sarcastic comments> I’d better stop there.

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5 Responses to “That’s nice, preacher”

  1. Kim says:

    Just yesterday I was thinking about the church i served as children’s director right out of college. There were major problems — infighting and squabbling and power struggles. I was thinking that those people were way too enmeshed with each other. That experience put me off too much church involvement ever since. I feel a definite need to befriend pastors and the people that make up a church staff. You guys need friends if anybody does. I think enmeshment in churches is negatively related to evangelism. People get way too invested in a certain group of people, and either consciously or unconsciously they really don’t want anybody else to bust up the party.

    On the other hand, I think it’s really important that we don’t embrace change just for change’s sake. There should be a point to it. I get tired of contemporary music … there’s usually little substance (and often bad theology … don’t get me started).

    Cowboy Churches seem to be cropping up all around here. What distinguishes them seems to be more of a cultural subgroup they appeal to rather than anything else. I admit I don’t know anything about them, other than they have playdays where they ride their horses and sometimes they meet in bars. But one of the commercials for a local Cowboy Church said “Come on in and cowboy up to God’s Word.” Doug and I asked each other, “What the heck is cowboying up to God’s Word?” I wonder … is this an honest appeal to a marginalized group of people, or is this a marketing gimmick?

  2. rheyduck says:

    From what I’ve seen of the cowboy churches around here, most of the people attracted to them are country/farm people who are enculturated into that kind of world. I don’t think I could do it – too far from my upbringing. It’d be cross cultural mission work for sure if I were to try.

  3. Pingback: The Garden We Plant « Thoughts From The Heart On The Left

  4. Mark Byron says:

    I thought that story you attribute to Booth came from D.L. Moody. However, it’s a great line and if you want to give a fellow Wesleyan (Booth was the Salvation Army founder who didn’t like how the Methodists of his day weren’t reaching the poor, if memory serves) credit, I’ll cut you some slack.

  5. Pingback: The Garden We Plant | Thoughts From The Heart On The Left

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