Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Leadership Conundrum: Rescuing the Trampled On

One of my favorite Gospel stories is that of Jesus' encounter with the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda. This guy had been hanging out there for nearly 40 years, and every day when the water stirred, he couldn't get in to get healed because he couldn't move and the crowds stepped over him, around him, on him to push their own way in. Jesus healed him on the spot.

My fear is that our churches are set up like this. With entertainment-driven self-help seminars passing for worship, we stir the waters dramatically and provide "help" for those capable and strong enough to "get theirs." File in, get what you need, file out till next time. And I believe our churches are full of people who need to be met where they are, who need a touch from Jesus, but who are coming away lacking because they need an intervention of grace, not an invitation to get bigger, stronger, faster.

How do we identify these people? How do we minister strategically to the hurting and marginalized in our churches, the ones not cool or hip enough, the ones not savvy enough, the ones not "ideal" to our demographic or what-have-you?
As we run our churches like businesses, as streamlined and professional as possible, with pastors more akin to CEOs than to shepherds, how do we keep them from slipping through the cracks?
In general, how do we gauge the spiritual health of the people in our local church? Strictly through attendance? I hope not.

I realize not every pastor can personally minister to every congregant. But who does? And how do we ensure it is happening?

Honest questions . . .

(Btw, if you are a pastor/preacher/leader, I'd like to respectfully request you check out my previous Leadership Conundrum entry and submit any feedback you feel appropriate.)


David said...

I am blessed and honored to work as a worship leader in a church that ministers to the marginalized. It comes from people who have a heart to obey the Lord Jesus Christ out of love by serving.

I learn a lot from the people who have taken the time to get to know our homeless community, invite them to fellowship with us, and treat them as God's creation and image.

I learn a lot from our recovery ministry, where people with many different addictions and abuses are received with love, compassion, and discipleship in the gospel of the kingdom of Heaven.

I learn a lot from reading the scriptures where Paul talks about "membership" and what it means. A pastor is a member above anything else that he does.

Most of all, we equip the members of our church to minister to one another, by demonstrating in humility the way it's done. Discipleship is "caught", not taught.

Bird said...

My church's answer -- for better or worse -- has been cell groups. While the efficacy of cell groups is, I think, dubious, I do think it's better than most models out there today.

Full disclosure: While I'm loosely on board with the cell idea, my family hasn't participated in cell groups in more than two years.

Jared said...

Bird, what other models do you mean? Are you contrasting one mode of "cell groups" with another sort of "small group" structure? Or do you just mean "small groups" vs. Sunday School or some other non-group connection/fellowship approach?

Why are you dubious of cell groups?

Email me if you'd rather.

Bird said...

I'm mainly referring to the McChurch models of bringing 'em in, "giving them a boost" (as Osteen has said), and throwing them out for another week.

I like the concept of cell groups, but, in my experience, the application has not quite gotten there. For a cell to be real, the people have got to feel that they can open up and share about anything.

In the last cell we were apart of, it was tough because we were going through some TOUGH stuff personally and we shared that with everyone in the group. They were all very supportive but we started to feel like people sort of felt sorry for us and saw us as needy people. Couple that with the frustration that comes when the others in the group did not want to open up their lives.

I guess we thought that there'd be more vulnerability in general. Brandi remembers one gal talking about going through a tough time because she didn't have the money to remodel the kitchen.

I'm thinking, "Who gives a crap about the kitchen! What's really going on with your life!"

This gal, while a nice person, was a "mature" member. So it's not like she was a shy, new believer.

It all reminded me of that episode of Lost where John Locke is going to that support group and that one chick is talking about how her mom stole $30 from her and how it tore her apart. She was like, "I want my $30 back." Locke said, "I want my kidney back!" I love John Locke. ;-)

I've got more thoughts, but I've got to run for now ...

Joy said...

I agree that small groups need to have some real connections to work. I was fortunate to be part of a group that was getting there. Unfortunatly, our groups run in a series of set weeks... the session was "over" and the group probably didn't get to the place it was heading that would have made an even bigger impact on everyone. While I like a short commitment for specific topics, friendships and connections take longer than 8 or 12 weeks. Not sure how to resolve this. I think people have a hard time signing up for groups that last a year. Has this been tried?