Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Meaning of Important Words

The meaning of a word can change over time from the original meaning. Some words can even end up meaning the opposite of the original meaning of the word. “Bad” means “Good”, “Hot” means “Cool”, or does “Cool” mean “Hot”, I’m not sure, but I do know communication is confusing when people use words differently than the dictionary meaning of the word.

The words “Leader” and “Leadership” are no longer used correctly in communication. Leaders in corporate America are the executives and managers who are able to run an organization according to standards, accepted methodologies, and best practices. Leaders in government are the politicians who are able to appeal to the most voters. When my wife says she wants me to be more of a spiritual leader in our household, what she is really saying is she wants me to be more like other men who are like other men. She would really like for me to be more of a follower.

The scarcity of true leaders is not new to modern America or the rest of the world. True leadership is rare because true leadership comes at a cost and rarely results in a reward. Following the crowd and fitting in with a group is more socially and financially rewarding than stepping out from the crowd and risking rejection and criticism. Most of the people, most of the time, will not follow a leader because most of the people, most of the time, are following the crowd.

Throughout history, Christianity has had some remarkable leaders; men and women who stepped away from the crowd taking unpopular positions and performing socially unacceptable actions. Believers in Christ honor these leaders with our words, but most of us would no sooner step out from the crowd than swim the English Channel.

Many Churches in modern America have become a place for crowds, not leaders, and certainly not spiritual leaders. These Churches have Pastors who perform for the crowd, who delight in the crowd, and who want to increase their crowd. They use Church growth methods that have proven to increase the crowd in other Churches. They are changing the meaning of the word “Christian”.


Buz said...

Ah, yes, the problem with leadership is that someone, somewhere, has to take one step forward, blindfolded, when you are standing near the edge of the cliff.

That person must have courage, and they must be right. The world does not really like leaders because true leaders cannot be influenced by those who want to be the power-behind-the-power. So, they are examined and re-examined and re-re-examined in everything they do. If they step off the narrow path, they are torn apart by the wolves. If they don't step off, those who would eat them alive sometimes try to force them off.

And, it has always been that way. Jesus was unpopular 2000 years ago because he was not afraid to speak the truth without sticking his finger in the air to see which way the wind was blowing.

After all, he didn't say, "there is a way, there is truth, there is life", he said "I AM the way, the truth, and the life."

And they killed him for it.

So what do you expect?


David M. Smith said...

Hi Buz,

Jesus was the ultimate leader. He encouraged those who needed encouragement, he criticized those who needed criticism, he was concerned with truth, not perceptions, he placed others before himself, and he made an ultimate sacrifice for his followers.

Eleven of the twelve Apostles, as well as some of the early Disciples, were also leaders because they chose to step away from the crowd, take a big risk that could have and probably did cost them family and friends, in order to follow Christ.

I don’t know if I expect those who go to Church to be different from the crowd, but I think we should be different from the crowd, and not perpetuate the crowd.

Buz said...

OK, so what are YOU going to do about it. (I remember a book from my days in college, "Here am I Lord, Send Aaron".)

It seems like our Master is making you not only uncomfortable with the situation, but he is also giving you plenty of insight into what needs to be changed.

Maybe you need to seek His guidence into starting your own chuch ... just an idea.


David M. Smith said...

Hi Buz,

Perhaps if I preached to myself, I wouldn’t be so disappointed in the sermon I was hearing. But if I was still disappointed after preaching a sermon to myself, my cognitive dissonance would be enough of a psychological problem that I would almost surely have to resign as pastor and then what would I do?

Seriously, I don’t see starting a Church as an option, but I do need to make a change somewhere, even if it is a small change.

Blogging was a way for me to make sure I could logically defend some of the contrarian views I held. Perhaps I do need to be more proactive in expressing my views. [I hope my wife doesn’t read this. : - ) ]

Buz said...

Perhaps you need to dress in sackcloth and ashes, make a whip of cords and run around the church screaming "my Father's house should be a house of prayer, you have turned it into a den of nothingness!"

I have a feeling that you would get pretty close to God after they got you into the Happy Hotel.

Of course, that being CA, you might get a free trip to the Happy Hotel just for being that concerned about the church ... I mean like, dood, nobody cares that much about a church, ya' know ...

Or just maybe, the next time the pastor is passing out bubble gum if you go to the front of the church, tear your shirt in two, and weep and beg God's forgiveness for ignoring Him in His own house (assuming that the churches in CA are still referred to a the "House of God"). Perhaps one or two others will get the point ... maybe even a deacon or an elder.

If they ask you to leave, make sure you wipe your feet at the door as you go.


Dave Smith said...

The truth is, David, I'm conflicted; you know me well enough to know that I've never come across a bandwagon I didn't have some strong inclinations about RPG-ing! Yeah, I'm in the military and often have to hold my nose and put up with some "group-think" that's simply stupid.

That said, I sense a great deal of what you're saying is correct. Here's some of my admittedly broad-brush thinking that relates to what you've written:

1) I tend to be anti mega-church. Yes, there are things they can do that we simply can't do in smaller churches, but I believe this has been the paradigm pastoral staffs have shot for to the exclusion of far more important things. I believe the smaller and - hopefully - leaner and meaner community church is the wave of the future. Led effectively, the community church is just that, part of the community in which it finds itself. If they can shy away from parochialism, they stand to have a much greater impact on the local area than the amorphous mega-church.

2) I wonder if the full-time clergy will be reduced in number, thus making bi-vocational pastors more the norm. I tend to think this would be a healthy thing. First, the pastor who has to earn a living at some trade is immersed in the real world. He's more likely to remain anchored in reality.

Second, it would hopefully go a long way toward eliminating the thinking that the real ministry is for the "full-time professionals". That's a paradigm that has long need to be taken out and summarily executed. You know as well as I do that if you're a Christian, you're in the ministry. If you're being a lousy steward of your gifts, it's on you!

3) The worship "hour" is not for the non-believer, un-churched, whatever; it's primarily for the believer to come before his/her Lord and offer up praise and glory, as well as to get his/her spiritual batteries re-charged in order to deploy back out into a dying world. Yeah, I want the pastors, worship team, etc. to do a quality job, mainly because it's our God who's the audience, not because we're being "seeker-sensitive"! Do it right and the non-believer will come, but get your priorities straight!

There's doubtless more I could rant on about, but I think that'll do for now. I thank God that Paige, Brendan and I are part of a church here in NC - it ain't perfect! - that understands a good deal of what I've just said.

Rant ended! ;)

David M. Smith said...

Hi Dave,

Great comment. Thanks for contributing it.

I pretty much agree with all of your comment.

When I first attended Willow Creek in the late 80’s, I was completely impressed. Everything there was done as well as it could be done. The sanctuary was a theatre with the best sound system I had ever heard. Every seat had a perfect view and perfect sound. Every performance was scripted, practiced, and perfected. The facilities were immaculate and the employees and volunteers were incredibly professional. I was so used to Churches being under funded that I thought I had finally found a real Church.

I felt the same way when we started driving to Saddleback for services. Rick Warren was just as affable as Bill Hybels and the facilities and services were almost as perfect.

However, over the last ten years, I’ve started to notice that a lot of Churches spend a lot of time trying to copy the seeker sensitive model of these two super Churches. The leaders of these other Churches seem to be more concerned with filling seats than serving God and serving the members of the Church.

I’ve also observed the people attending seeker sensitive churches are stuck in a culture no different from the culture of the surrounding community. Seeker sensitive churches are more like community centers than houses of worship. People attending seeker sensitive churches are attending for reasons other than the worship of God and service to God. Serving the Church has become the priority in the seeker sensitive model.

I’m not sure a bi-vocational pastor is the full answer to all of the problems, but I am certain most pastors need real world experience in order to Sheppard appropriately. I’m have no doubt you are a better Chaplain due to your prior military and real world experiences.

Hammer is going to make a great Chaplain as well for the very same reason.

Buz said...

Re: megasuperhyperultrachurches. I have yet to see one (with the possible exception of Charles Stanly's church in Atlanta) that wasn't growing due to their toleration/adoption of some errant philosophy (i.e. "God is the genie, and prayer is rubbing the magic lamp ... and you can have whatever you want", or "God talks to me, and you MUST do exactly what I say or God will get you for disobeying me.")