I have watched with embarrassment, and yes, even been guilty of coming to the aid of several well anchored houses of worship in transition, as they subtly morphed from periodic red ink, to sustained losses that eventually result in the necessary sell off of assets. Then for survival comes the telltale dumping of such beneficial ministries as Community Development initiatives, senior care, child care and day schools. Ultimately, it seems they are left with no option but downsizing to new sites or bankruptcy. I do applaud those who saw far enough ahead to consider the concept of satellites and novel technologies beyond amped music, smoke and lights!
Serving now 45 years in the belly of the beast, my lot has ranged from senior associate to board member, consultant and coach. I have participated in desperate attempts to improve program delivery, even launch outpost ministries, while strategic thinking was often supplanted by mystical approaches to fasting and prayer. In reality, it wasn’t the need for more prayer but a struggle with change and the fear factor of investment risks; and worse yet, further loss of income. The latter then demands pastoral pay cuts, or may incite constituencies that favor a gifted associate over the senior pastor.
Having now worked with congregations from well under 100 to mega-like congregations of several thousands, across racial and ethic lines, much time has been given to reducing congregant dissatisfaction, while attracting promising associates and yes, senior pastors of vision; all well meaning. Then there are the less fortunate junior staff who rotate through this melee, trying as they may, only to find their families broken, often leaving with a limp, though celebrated for damage control purposes, as “moving to greener pastures” or “feeling” a call to the marketplace. Under less sophisticated boards, guarded by senior pastors, the occasional use of a scapegoat personality is likely!
On the front side of this post, I went to my first blog written the Sunday after publishing my less than best seller, “Repo: The Church in Foreclosure” in 2009. My first paragraph in November, 2009:
“I was awakened early Sunday morning with a sense of relief that my long days of painful ridicule of the church were in fact over. There also seemed to be a changing of my heart, to a place now focused on describing the true church vs. the one America has produced. Obviously some of that old me is still in me but I want to be free! I hope in the days ahead you will see the true writer behind this blog!”
Having now reached almost a decade since that day, I have only to see what was a very awkward write, scathingly antagonistic toward the institution I so loved, now seem prophetic. Perhaps its time to open the book once more.