I have been praying about “Issues” this week after a class with my cohort on Monday morning. The discussion was that the church has lost its focus (which should be Jesus) and instead focuses and spends so much time on “issues.”
So this week, I began to truly notice the issues that have taken so much of my time. Nominations met last week and worked for 2 hours to try to nominate spiritually mature people for leadership rolls in the church. Well, let’s just say we ruffled some feathers. Some don’t want anything to change. Others don’t want to be a leader because of all the negativity associated with it. And still others just don’t have the time. I’ve spent about 10 hours dealing with things regarding this one issue.
Next, we have some groups that have asked to use the fellowship hall – Girl Scouts and a piano teacher wanting to help the community we are in by teaching inexpensive lessons. The issue is that the church can’t pay its bills and this will increase the electric and gas bills! So, do we charge them? Another 4 hours so far on this issue.
Third, financial concerns – discussions have taken so many roads! What to cut, why to cut, how can we “make” more money, in-kind giving, tithing, etc. About 6 hours so far….
That’s half my week. And that isn’t all the “issues.” Those are just the big ones.
In studying the early movement of Methodism, I discovered an interesting thing: In the beginning of the movement, John Wesley appointed “stewards” to administer the affairs of the church; the pastor (usually a lay assistant) was the spiritual leader of the church. The steward not only handled the finances and kept things running smoothly, they also were responsible for keeping tracts on the behaviors of the membership. In other words, the stewards made sure that Methodists were acting like Methodists were supposed to act in combining their spiritual and physical lives. The steward reported to the pastor anyone who was having trouble with holiness of heart and life. And so the pastor visited with these people, and others, exhorting them in their faith formation. The pastor also went around the communities finding those who were the outcasts of society that he and the church could help. Not only physically but spiritually as well.
I wonder what would happen if today, pastors could focus on Jesus – being Jesus, teaching Jesus, and loving Jesus? What would happen if someone else administered the church and dealt with the “issues?”
Of course I don’t know these answers but I also wonder if the Holy Spirit would move in such a way that not only growth in numbers would occur in the churches but people would grow closer to God through Jesus Christ. Why do I think this would happen? Because our focus would be narrow and yet far reaching. Because the Spirit would be unleashed to use the life transforming power that often gets squashed when we deal with “issues.”
With all the focus on numbers, money, church growth, programs, and other STUFF, we have shifted our eyes off of Jesus for way too long.