I've been in located church ministry for 13+ years now, mostly as a worship pastor. Over the last month or so I have become the Lead Pastor of a small church in Bluffton, South Carolina. The people have been fantastic, the staff is amazing, and the leadership is totally supportive. So far, so good! One of the biggest and most important pieces I have been working on for the last month or so is how we, the church, help people take their next step in their relationship with Jesus Christ. Maybe it's a baby step from knowing Christ to living for Him. Maybe it's a huge step from exploring Christ to accepting Him. It has been quite a journey hearing from the people who are here, asking for input from others around the country, and taking into account my own thoughts and experiences. Here's one of the biggest lessons I've learned so far:
You Can't Please Everyone ... Especially Christians
I can stand on the corner and share Christ with someone who has never heard of Him ... I can give money to a family in need ... I can host a free carnival for the community ... I can take food to the homeless ... I can pray with a waitress ... I can hand out water at a stoplight to total strangers ...
... and the recepients are generally touched and grateful to be cared about and loved on. They have taken a small step towards Christ and I (we) got to be a part of it!
But try to move a church's "small group," redefine a Bible study, establish what's important by questioning why a certain ministry exists ... you know, try to move the "church stuff" forward, and who gets bent out of shape? It's not the non-Christian!
Amazingly, in trying to advance the Kindgom of God, the ones who are generally the least pleased with movement are the Christians. Move them in a new direction ... move them in a different direction ... even trying to move them to their next step in Christ ... panic, pushback, and hurt feelings. Sometimes I think if Jesus showed up in person the last group He would want to hang out with is the Christians. Wait a minute ... isn't that what He did when He was here in person? Hung out with the "non-followers" while challenging the "followers" to move?
I don't think the role of the church is to please; I think it's to provoke. God ... provoke us ...