Friday Forum – Who shall lead them?

Posted: October 12, 2012 in Friday Forum
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This week’s Friday Forum is quite personal, and some what longer than usual, but it’s really on my heart to share this. Thanks for your indulgence.

I have written some about the struggles my home church is going through, but I would like to expand on a personal  aspect of that fight, share some thoughts, and get some feedback from people outside the bubble.

We are a small (<100 members) Southern Baptist church, in a neighborhood that has changed dramatically in the 50+ years the church has existed – so much so that (in my opinion) we no longer relate very well to the community. Specifically, we have operated in a cash-intensive manner, with high overhead  and facility costs, that our current membership frankly cannot sustain. So a new approach is obviously required. Concurrent to this, our pastor resigned at the beginning of the year, and moved to another church in another city. Baptist ministers move around a lot; this is natural and expected in our tradition. He had been there over ten years, a relatively long stretch, and in all honesty he knew he was moving on long before he left, he was only unsure of the direction. Unfortunately, his ambiguity left a leadership void, and we as a church ended up with an internal division – about half (generally the seniors) were wanting someone to keep things going the way they always had; about half grouped around the new worship leader, whom they felt had a clear calling from God to restructure. (Full disclosure: I fall into the latter group. Tradition is not evil, and legacies do deserve respect, but “because we’ve always done it that way” is not sufficient justification for anything.)

Lately the issue has come to a head: we are voting in two weeks whether or not to call the worship leader as Pastor; he passed an earlier vote for Interim Pastor a few months ago, but that only stoked the flames of contention. This is a defining moment – if he is not called, he will leave and start a home church, and nearly the entire core leadership of the church will leave with him; most of the teachers, most of the deacons, most of the elders…and most of the money, as well. Let’s not put too fine a point on it – the church is broke. We have made all the cuts and revised the budget as far as we can with the current mission plan, down to about half of previous years, and tithes and offerings cover roughly 2/3 of that new requirement. Without that core group, the bank account will run dry in a matter of months, and that will be the end. (Even with them, something has to give, or we merely extend the inevitable a year or so at best.) A dramatic upheaval will give us a fighting chance, but of course there are no guarantees. I personally believe the new idea is a good idea, and I am voting in that direction, but the issue is going to be close. So what happens if the church votes no? In particular, what happens to those who are left behind, who are anxious to maintain “the church” at any cost? It absolutely breaks my heart to see people who have lost the vision of Christ, and would rather trust in the status quo than in the Spirit of God. OK, so they don’t want to be led in the right direction…does that make it right to leave them to themselves, with no spiritual direction at all? And if not, what am I going to do about it?

This is the hardest part for me. I am absolutely torn, and at a true loss for which way to go. Over the last year, God has opened up inside of me the need to serve Him harder: I began teaching adult Sunday school, and leading seminars; I was called as a deacon by this congregation; I preached the opening message for our students’ summer evangelism retreat, and the Sunday morning main service once, with another scheduled for next month. I was allowed to lead a team for the prison ministry I serve with, and that led to a decision to enter vocational ministry. The seminary application is completed, it only requires a few hundred dollars to enroll the first two prerequisite classes to register my degree plan, and I will be off. (This part is on hold…our finances have cancer, too.) I have stepped out into leadership areas I never imagined I could do, and God has been glorified. So I want to believe that I could step up and serve this need. But is my belief enough? Do I actually have the servant’s heart it will take to help lead a flock away from a cliff they are resolutely determined to jump over? Would they accept me, unqualified as I am, because they will not be able to afford to pay anyone a salary but I have a good job and don’t need to ask for one? Can they or I, afford to risk the effort to find out?

All these thoughts swirl through my mind, making me search for God’s face, for the motives of my heart, for the best way to go. I find myself almost dreading a “Yes” vote, because I won’t find a resolution to my own little crisis…how selfish is that? Lord, forgive me.

So I put it out there for you, Dear Readers. I’m not looking for solutions, I just want to hear some other voices, with a little distance and perspective…I think one of the blessings of fellowship and community is how God can comfort us by His agency in others, speaking into their hearts on our behalf, and I am asking: What is He telling you about my situation? Reply in the comments, I have moderation off so speak freely (don’t be uncivil, I will delete rude and hateful speech right quickly.) I look forward to the discussion.

Following hard after Him,

Nick

Comments
  1. If you are delaying the inevitable anyway, the question is why? I reviewed a book that talked about how older churches were spending their money trying to maintain facilities that are going downhill. The best solution would be to sell off everything and start over in a smaller venue.

    It probably won’t happen – now. But eventually it will.

    The other solution would be to find a way to meet the needs of the community as it is now. When the church gets out of the building, real solutions to the inside can be found, too.

    Wishing you well.

    • nicky301 says:

      Thanks for the kind wishes; as an update, the shoe has dropped – I am now the Acting Pastor. I have no clear idea of the direction, but I know we must go. My friend’s last message was about what faith means, what it takes to follow Jesus in faith. The Spirit is always right on time to bring the Word we need; I can have courage to follow in faith, not knowing the outcome, but trusting in Him. This is not what I wanted, but it is what I have. I ask for prayer that I remain faithful to my calling, like I said I wanted to do – “good and faithful servant” is my true heart’s desire for heaven.

  2. […] then. But there is one other thing, something it says to me now, something that ties into another post here […]