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Sledgehammer to Steeple

For most people, church steeples represent church tradition and structure. They are symbols of the way things have always been done.

For most people, church steeples represent church tradition and structure. They are symbols of the way things have always been done. In most cities they seem to represent an unchanging approach to spirituality. My dad (who has been a senior pastor for almost thirty years) is famous for having cut an actual steeple down about twenty-five years ago.

What I’m processing quite a bit in this season of my life right now are the structures that exist in the Church that are teaching a form of theology and ecclessiology to our people that is unbiblical. As a pastor I’m seeking to identify what I’m contributing to in all of this that must be purged, sledgehammered and torn down. I’m not just another angry, young pastor. I’m filled with hope about the future. I just know that we have to erase some things before we start drawing on top of the images that are already on paper.

Most of us are quick to build. We are fast to move and to add new flavors before addressing what needs to be removed and changed. We typically respond this way because it makes “good business sense.” It’s generally understood in business that you make sure consumers embrace your new product before you faze out the old one that has been dearly loved. But what makes good business doesn’t always make good churches (more on this idea in the future).

Seth Godin has just written a book called, Meatball Sundae, in which he describes how companies have tried to make their products and services more progressive. He builds a strong case about how companies that need to make radical changes to the core of what they offer are trying to hold on to the past by keeping things the same but adding a little twist to make the consumer think they are changing the menu.

He says its like adding whipped cream to a meatball.

Translation? in church world we add coffee and candles to things that exist hoping that people feel as though the menu has changed. When a church service attendance starts to drop–someone might suggest offering donuts before or after the service to get people to start showing up. Just because you add whipped cream to a meatball doesn’t make it a meal. Sometimes you have to take the meatball off the menu altogether because you believe there is a better way to feed people.

Here are a few things on the church menu that I think need to change:

20’s ministry. Some of you may have read my previous blog posts about the rebellion of 20’s ministry. Just because a group of people are saying that they want something doesn’t mean it is the best thing for them or the future of the church.  As a result our churches have become segregated demographics that aren’t learning and listening to one another.

Church Marketing. Most churches consistently tell their people to invite their friends but, when was the last time you went to a movie that was great and had to be told at the end of the credits to tell your five closest friends about how great it was? If people experience community and life-change as a result of the work of the Trinity you won’t have to tell them to bring one single person. They’ll pull up to your church in a minivan and drop seventeen people at your front door. As a result our churches have come across like used car salesmen, desperate and inauthentic.

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Greeters. I once was greeted eleven times from the parking lot to my chair in the church auditorium. Some would call this perfect execution. It bothered me for quite some time because every person that had greeted me was wearing a name tag. At some point in church history there was a church that decided to create a ministry (greeters) that was in charge of hospitality and friendliness instead of challenging all of the people a part of the church body to be responsible for it. As a result, our churches are full of lazy people who don’t share their stories with those sitting around them on a Sunday morning because that is not their job.

I have a longer list of structural and expected church practices that I think need to be thrown out about how we’re approaching church but this will have to do for now. Because of these accepted methods of church practice we are teaching our people things about life with God that (in my opinion) do not reflect the heart of God. It may be time to cleanse the temple again.

The irony of it all is that I actually want to pastor in a place with a steeple one day, knowing full well that some punk pastor will probably follow my tenure and cut it down.  And to confuse you even further … I hope he or she does.

What church practices/programs do you think need to be removed because they’re no longer authentic or helpful?

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