I was in a committee meeting for a social cause I’m starting, and oen of the members started talking about her church.  She’s part of one of the ministries that’s trying to do more than the church is comfortable doing.  I think she’s honoring the Gospel with the activity, but it’s at cross purposes with the overall strategy of the pastoral staff.  It’s fine to do so long as it doesn’t interfere or take attention away from what the they have planned to do.

So why doesn’t she get on their agenda and show the value?  Seems that church is run by paid staff and self-elected deacon board.  The only whole-church meetings are tightly scripted without option for questions in the open forum.  Votes are taking in the middle of the sermon, where peer pressure gains the assent from the majority comfortable to “sit and soak”.

The frustration for that one activity is poisoning her response to the rest of the church’s activities.  She’s not coming to church as often.  She’s more likely to miss the Sunday small group Bible study.  I don’t know for sure, but I’d bet she’s diverting at least some of her tithe to the outside ministry directly.

What can you do to first prevent this and second restore the one drifting away?

Start by having a culture of listening.  In my church, one of the largest in the area, the pastor makes an effort to circulate in the lobby after serices, and is one of the last to leave on Sunday.   He acts like the pastor of a church of 150 (rather than 3000).It doesn’t make the church less large, but makes it more personable.

Second, I feel that the job of a deacon includes listening to the congregation and hearing the grumblings, to deal with them before they get out of hand.  In one church, we had two strains of discontent circulating just under the surface.  Few knew of both, but they fed off the negative attitudes of the other.  When I discovered the first, adn then the second, I took action to hear the frustrations, and was able to diffuse the one, and then the second, and although the root problem (lack of a pastor) didn’t immediately go away, the congregational attitude shifted.

In most cases, it’s a misunderstanding, or someone didn’t get the word in time.  If you have active listening systems in place, those will be taken care of early before they discontent takes root and poisons the congregational atmosphere.

In yesterday’s post, I wondered how small a church could be and still function.  Today, I went to class with guest lecturer David Garrison, teaching about Church Planting Movements.

According to Dr Garrison (actually, he goes by David), it’s not the size that matters, but the intentionality of being a functioning church.  You can do all five purposes of the church (Worship, Fellowship, Ministry, Discipleship, and Evangelism/Missions) as a group that gathers occasionally in a holy huddle, but not really be a fully functioning church.  

Garrison says the church becomes church when key leaders are chosen.  He says there should be a pastor/overseer, deacons and a treasurer.

The deacons should be the minsitry leaders of the five purposes.  Remember that the original seven were chosen to minister with food distribution, and Steven was an evangelist.  One person may do multiple jobs in this arrangement, but there must be an acknowledgement that they are doing the jobs of a church and that they should hand off the extra duties as soon as practically possible.

Garrison says the actions of the deacons are coordinated by an overseer or a spiritually mature elder.  This is the job normally held by the senior pastor. 

The third key position is the treasurer.  Having a  treasurer who is unrelated to the senior pastor / overseer will help keep scandal away.  Note that while Jesus was accused of many things, misappropriation of money was not one of them.  He had a treasurer (Judas).  And when the early church failed to use a treasurer and instead gifts were given to the Apostles, it caused jealousy and the death of Annias and Sophira.

When a church has these seven positions functioning, led by people gifted and trained for those positions, they will be functioning as a church should.  And if the doing is properly done, it should cause a growth in both maturity and numbers.