Thursday, April 28, 2011

Striking a Nerve in Church Leaders

If you know me, you know I'm built nothing like a wrestler. I'm tall and very thin. People used to say I had legs Colonel Sanders wouldn't want. Okay, I'm still smarting a bit from that one...

But I spend a lot of time wrestling, none the less.

I wrestle with how we "Do church" in America today. I think about it first from my perspective as pastor of Grace Christian Fellowship. But I think beyond that to the American Evangelical church and then the church in general. My heart is burdened for Jesus' bride, the Church, to shine brightly.

I keep coming back to the discovery that Willow Creek CC made several years ago. They concluded (loose paraphrase) that they were doing a diservice to their people and the Great Commission by emphasizing church programs over personal responsibility for one's spiritual growth. In other words, they were helping people grow-to a point. But ultimately, they realized that we are each responsible for our spiritual growth and that the job of church leadership is equip the people to grow and mature.

They took a lot of undeserved heat for this courageous admission. I think they were spot-on. And I think they hit a nerve heard across the evangelical world. Because most churches (if they were honest and informed) would admit that we were under-emphasizing this biblical priority and over-emphasizing programs that were reliant more on paid leadership.

Combining this with my personal experience where I was part of a church headed in the same direction and it was like God was trying to get my attention and say, "Darien, wake up! This is my best."

So, ever since, I've been wrestling with what that looks like and how to make that happen.

There are several churches doing a good job in this area. I'm still learning how they are doing it but it seems that they have gotten this message and are acting on it. They include National Community Church, Cornerstone Church Simi Valley, and Seacoast Church. These certainly aren't the only ones and you might be surprised that they are all mega-churches. But this is why they are getting my attention: 1. They are more visible as mega-churches (especially through their pastor-authors) and 2. They are normally criticized for being too shallow when it comes to making disciples.

While I don't know Community Christian Church as well, their church planting network (New Thing) and their making much of leaders like Neil Cole tell me that they are more interested in making disciples than just building big churches. (they are a multi-campus mega-church) And Neil Cole seems to be striking a nerve in church leaders. He sure is in this one.

So I've included a post from Dave Ferguson's blog (Pastor of CCC) from something Neil shared at CCC recently. These strike a chord in my spirit as I read them. So I plan to blog about these over the next several weeks (or longer). I guess I want to wrestle with them "out loud" and maybe even get some comments and feedback along the way. I have a lot to learn and you can help me, I believe.