Some things are very timely. I just read an interesting bit of advice from Kevin DeYoung, author of Why We’re Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be. DeYoung gives nine steps to follow when you are concerned about issues in your local church (DeYoung’s thoughts are here). DeYoung is commenting specifically in regards to responding to a church expressing Emergent characteristics, but I think his advice would be helpful in other situations. I really wish I’d had read this ten years ago (or five years ago) when I had some concerns at a church I was at. Since I’ve been thinking about this a little bit, I’m thinking this would have helped produce fruit in my own life and possibly in the life of my leaders and church!
Here’s a summary of DeYoung’s list:
1. Search your own heart…
2. Talk to another trusted, mature brother or sister in your congregation to see if your on track… Don’t talk to ten people; talk to one. Don’t bash the pastor or the church…
3. If it seems that your concerns are justified, go with another brother or sister and ask the pastor if you could talk to a few of the leaders about some questions you have…
4. In this meeting, be calm and humble. Don’t go on the warpath. Come ready to share specific examples…
5. At this point several things may happen. 1) You’ve misunderstood things… 2) The leaders may welcome your feedback and have their eyes opened… 3) The leaders may tell you… We think you are wrong… Clarity is better than obfuscation…
6. You could stay in the church…
7. You could leave the church…
8. If you leave, you may be asked by others why you left. Give an honest answer, but refuse taking… shots at the church or leadership. Explain your reasons frankly and matter-of-factly…
9. Pray for your leaders, the church, and your own heart. Then move on…
There are certainly some interesting things to consider with DeYoung’s thoughts. I’m inclined to suggest that graciousness should become our primary characteristic. I’m really trying to pray that I’d be more gracious in my speech so that my speech matches my intentions!
Check out the comments on DeYoung’s site… some neat little tidbits too. What are your thoughts or questions or concerns? I have many!
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.
Brothers and sisters,
It seems that #3 would build upon St. Paul’s command that “against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses” in 1 Thessalonians 5:19.
I’m almost forty years the elder of my pastor and I enjoy his ministry immensely. I haven’t always agreed with how he’s handled situations but I appreciate his heart for God. If we have more pastors with his heart than it’d be much easier for people when they do confront issues, whether they are right or wrong.
I’d be interested to read your comments, Luke. I didn’t notice any italics, but my eyes are not the best these days and I’m constantly in need of my glasses that I continually misplace!
Doc, I’ll post soon. I’m buried today. I need to seriously spend some time in the midst of “exegesis” because Luke 11:1-13 is kicking my face in!
I just read this and although its nearly two years late I feel that I should weigh in here.
A problem that I see with this model of communication is the way we (congregants) are conditioning most church leaderships in their communication with us. Take this story as an example:
A friend of mine has a child who gets up every night crying and asks to sleep with mom and dad. Every night they send him back to his own bed only to return five to ten minutes later. This cycle goes on a couple more times until the child’s parents, realizing their need for sleep, give in to the child. My friend and his wife have conditioned their child to know that if he continues to bug he gets what he wants.
The case is very different for congregants who have comments, frustrations, or knowledge about things that are not going well in their home church. By following this model, which many have done and are still doing, we have taught Church leaders that if they appease the people by having a meeting and do not follow up on those things or with those people the problem goes away (members leave). This is not edifying to the body.
My suggestion is to:
1) pray and search scripture and verify what you are called to do.
2) run it past your brain trust (people who give it to you straight)
3) bring it up however the church structure demands
4) when there is no response or a negative one: rinse and repeat.
Be confidently persistent in love and in the knowledge that you are being guided by the Holy Spirit.
What if church structure is broken?
First, thanks for weighing in! Appreciate your thoughts.
One question though: could you explain more of what you mean when you say that “the problem goes away (members leave)”? Is that based on your experience? As in, people meet with church leaders and then the leaders think the meeting was all that was needed and since nothing changes, the members eventually leave? or do you mean another way?
Look forward to your thoughts!
Disappointingly I have seen this happen in my church. But this also seems to be grounds for the emergent church as well. I believe my church leaders perceive that initial meetings (when nothing changes) go well because in the past a single meeting has been the full extent of the push for change. I have no problem with the emergent church nor with people who have complaints and decide to leave. However, I do see that when people aren’t consistent after confronting leadership, it renders that person AND their point impotent and not important in the eyes of the leadership. This sets the standard for that person if they ever feel the need to speak up again and at the same time it makes the leaders feel like they’ve already addressed the point so their is no need to consider it again.
Refer to Joseph and the technicolor dream coat 🙂 He felt that he needed to share those dreams with his brothers and had he stopped at 1 he probably wouldn’t have have been thrown into the pit, sold, imprisoned, then promoted to the fulfillment of said dreams. But he did and he was.
Admonishment is biblical and called for in the new testament. So, if you feel led to do so, be persistent and confident. My reason for chiming-in is selfish. I am currently trying to influence major structural changes at my place of worship. These things have been presented in the past by members and by a consultant the church hired. But, many of the people who brought these points into the light gave up and left or failed to followup within a reasonable time-frame. The consultant was pretty much fired. I am currently realizing how this leadership has been conditioned to respond to admonition and it is frustrating.
One last example: Say you want to run a marathon to support your child who has cancer. Like most people, you hate running but this is a feat you feel the need to conquer. In order to change your body, every morning you have to wake up and confront your desire to sleep and convince yourself that you want to run. This is the only way to set the foundation for the rest of your training. If you slack in the beginning, the excuse you use to do so will plague the rest of your training to your demise on race day.
Consistency and persistence are everything.
Okay, say you persistently re raise your point and Leadership persistently shoots it down, Every point, not just one, then what?
Well, if you don’t mind, what kind of points are you talking about? Are these personality differences? Theological differences? Methodological differences?
I think a lot of the response can be related to what kind of issues are being discussed, you know?
My problem is: I want to leave because I tried speaking this way to each person that I had issues with, and a sister in Christ and she was not understanding, and they refused to respond, or got ugly about things.
I cannot seem to find a rational unbiased member and my spouse and family members don’t choose to leave. I of course don’t wish to go somewhere else without my family so I’ve continued going with resentment. Any answers?