Thanks everyone for the positive feedback that I have received from the first Organic Faith post. I had not intended to have a Part Two but something popped up that made me think about another topic related, so here we go…
In the first Organic Faith post I was talking about how our relationship with God should be, in my opinion, a living organism that moves and stretches as we do in life. Sometimes that is going to be in an upward trajectory and other times we are headed to the pits. The ups and downs in life should show up in our faith as well or maybe we have set our faith on a shelf to collect dust and stay static in one state of suspension.
Like our relationship with God, our relationship with our community of faith (aka Church) will go through different stages of closeness and connectedness. I am very concerned about a growing trend I see, at least here in the bible belt, where people are unable to authentically share disapproval, disappointment or disillusionment about church leaders without being hit with a very strong backlash.
We have set up our church leaders to be beyond the reach of people not approving of everything they say or do. Whether it’s the Executive Teaching Pastor, the Pastor of Children’s Ministry or the Pastor of Parking, many have elevated these leaders to demigod status and I find it frightening. Heaven forbid we openly say that we think our pastors make mistakes and say annoying things sometimes. Watch out! A committee will be formed to discuss the wayward church member’s distasteful remarks against the saintly pastors of Perfect Church U.S.A. (ok, so I hope the sarcasm is showing through here. But you get my point). It is unfair to these leaders to expect more than what is humanly possible and making them mini-gods is grossly irresponsible.
Many times we have placed church leaders in a position that is beyond the reach of feedback and/or questioning from the average congregant sitting in the seats each week. That is concerning to me because when anyone reaches a status of being unquestioned, then the breeding ground is set for all sorts of potential evils to be perpetrated unchecked and unstopped. I don’t think many of us need reminders that church leaders sin just like the rest of us and should not be given a pass to have no one question them or their intentions.
Church leaders are human and are not perfect and when they say or do something that strikes us as odd, concerning or outright outlandish, we should have the freedom to acknowledge it without being branded in a negative light. We should be thinking people and listening intently when our church leaders are speaking and teaching. We should always be using our critical thinking skills and if something is said that we disagree with, so be it. We may even chose to share that we disagree. So be it again. Scary is the church culture that wants us checking our critical thinking at the door and figuratively putting duct tape over our mouths to keep any opposition silenced; even if that silencing is happening just from the disapproving remarks of fellow congregants.
Now I have to say that there is no reason to become Doug or Debbie Downer about everything that comes out of our church leader’s mouths. There will be some things that we agree with, disagree and really disagree with and that’s healthy.
One concern that some people have regarding sharing our unhappiness about some of our church leader’s actions is that it will turn off new believers or those seeking to find a church. The truth is that people outside of the church see our church family dysfunction way clearer then we do. By us acknowledging our church leaders strengths and their weaknesses, we are presenting a much more balanced view of the Christian life and involvement in a community of faith. Non-Christians see right through our glazed over, robotic voices and plastered smiles as we say “our church is perfect, you should come with me this week.” An authentic, “yeah, our pastor preaches about money a lot, we know, but there are good reasons and I’d be happy to share them with you sometime” is much more convincing to non-Christians than feeling like we are trying to sell them something that isn’t real: perfection.
So, if your church leaders frustrate you, say things you disagree with or seem to be taking the church in a direction you don’t like, it’s alright. Those are your thoughts and are entitled to them. If you feel the need to share them, do so. But above all, don’t feel guilty or allow others to be condemning because a thinking Christian is much more appealing to the world around us than a churchy robot.
Our times of frustration with our church leaders also does not mean we need to high-tail it out of one church for another. We would never advocate doing that in a relationship with another person, so the same goes with our church community.