The Fake Church – And Why It Needs To Die!

churchI’m H.A.P.P.Y.  I feel like I can fly, I’m going to heaven, I’ll get there by and by…
or so an old Sunday School chorus goes, but is that really true ALL the time?

Are we supposed to be happy all the time?  And if we’re not happy all the time – is there something wrong with us?  If happiness is the measure of our Christian faith, then I’m afraid to say that we have all failed.   I am willing to venture a guess that we are NOT usually happy every moment of every day…that’s just not going to happen.

pretendI think we do ourselves a great disservice in the Church when we pretend everything is A-Okay all of the time.
We sometimes have this temptation to “play” church because we want to keep up appearances to the false-fact that we have it all together.  Leaders and Pastors of churches are especially good at this.  We’re supposed to be the shepherds of the flock that we’ve been entrusted with – how could we possibly reveal that we struggle…too?

We sometimes run scenarios in our heads that sort of go like this:  “I must show them that the joy of the Lord is my strength, but I can’t reveal to them I have issues at home too.”  Or;  “Let’s just get through this hour of worship and then I can go home and wallow in my pain – no one understands me in this church.”  Let’s face it, we all know that pastoring and leadership can be a lonely place sometimes.  pastorsWe have to make crucial decisions, not everyone in our churches will like those decisions or even like us.  We struggle sometimes making real friends because it is hard to be vulnerable to members of your own flock, especially when sometimes some members have hurt you or stabbed you in the back with gossip, back-biting and malicious silly struggles for power.

I’m not condemning anyone today, I just wonder if this is all we can become as the body of Christ (right now, in our seemingly stagnant ways and phony pretenses) – or if there is more in store for us?

One of the hindrances of real, tangible church growth is also a two-edged sword:  Trust.
Pastors, Leaders and Congregants struggle with truly trusting one another.
It’s hard on all sides.  Guards are often left up.  Church-goers are afraid to be open and honest with their pastors; pastors are afraid to show any weaknesses or doubts in front of their congregants.  The two-edged sword slices both ways, and in this regard, it keeps us from truly experiencing authentic koinonia fellowship.

The Opposite of Trust is?  
Yes, you guessed it – mistrust.
If we continue to worship in the Fake Church, we will continue to wear plastic smiles, but deep down we will be a hollowed out building made up of cold individuals trying to warm a pew on Sunday mornings – it’s just not going to work.  Some have been playing this game for years.  Some blame their trust issues on their upbringing or their personality type, or timing, or….but the reality is we weren’t called by God to be a church of fakers.  NO!  We are called to be united as one body; but what happens when the body doesn’t work together or trust one another?  We get a bunch of people doing a lot of hard things but never together!

knife“But I’ve Been Hurt Before”
I get that!  I have too.  I’ve experienced the sharpening of knives in a place where God calls us to holiness.  I’ve felt the scorn of supposed “loving” church members (it kind of felt more like hate at the time).  I have witnessed leaders, with whom I had trusted, break my trust, burn the bridges and they stood there to watch it burn. I’m not pretending that these painful things don’t happen in Church – they do.  Should they?  Absolutely not!  But does that mean we stop attempting to trust one another?  Does that mean we put on our “church clothes” each Sunday and continue to hold up the facade while inside we’re struggling?  Absolutely not!

We’ve both been hurt a time or two.  Most likely (and I hope not) we’ll be hurt again.  This shouldn’t hold us hostage as Christ-followers.

I Believe believe
-I believe God WILL work all things for good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28).
-I believe despite ourselves, He is still prompting us to be holy!
-I believe in the transforming power of The Holy Spirit – do you?
-I believe that forgiveness is a game changer!
-I believe that the only way to transform our churches is to be authentic in our struggles and real with one another.
-I believe that God still has work to do in His Church!
-I believe that the time for fakery and phoniness (if there ever was a “time” for it) is over – unless we want to die a slow painful Church-death.

stopJUST STOP!
Pastors, Leaders, Church Members – Stop attending the fake church!
Put down the distractions.
-Stop playing on your phones, stop keeping to yourselves, stop sitting idle in the pews!
Stop pretending to care when you don’t.

This may sound harsh – but it’s true.
I’ve been there.
I too have played the game…and it goes nowhere!
This is why the Fake Church needs to die, and die fast!
In its place, I hope we find an authentic group of people who care for one another despite their faults, issues and struggles.  I might be naive, but I believe such a Church still exists, do you?

Something more to ponder today!
To God be the glory!

Dear Pastors, Authentic Joy Can Inspire Your Congregation!

sleepThe Pastor looked tired.
He gets up to preach the message and delivers an impassioned four point sermon with colorful illustrations and “all the fixin’s”…still no one comes forward to altar.  He starts to doubt his abilities to lead people to Christ.  He starts to grow frustrated and restless in his calling.  He looks out at his church congregation and believes most are just without “ears to hear” and have settled into Christian mediocrity.

What’s wrong with this picture?
It seems like some sort of fictional story and yet this is not so uncommon among pastors today.
Many pastors get out of seminary and believe that they will make a difference…and most will.  Most Pastors are prepared for the fray, and for “ministry life”.  Yet, as reality sets in, the risk many might face is disillusionment, ministry fatigue, and a loss of mission.

The problem that I have with the above illustration is two-fold: 
1) It’s all about the Pastor.  me
We pastors and ministers of this amazing grace can often get it wrong or backwards.
It’s not about us, it never was.
It’s not about how awesome we are, or how contemporary or traditional we are…it isn’t about how much media we utilize on a Sunday morning either.  Oh, and it’s also not about how amazing our worship band is or isn’t.  These are all surface things.

Dare I say that we as Pastors can begin to have an ego problem.
We call the shots, we make the executive orders, we plan the service and we preach that sermon that our congregation needs to hear each Sunday morning.  Is it easy to miss the point of “Church”?  You bet it is.  Especially when it becomes all about the Pastor.

This is a real danger, so be aware of its beckoning ego-centric call! 

2) The authentic joy is vacant in the Pastor’s life & ministry.  bored
The second problem I see in the uninspired ministry goes hand in hand with the last issue.
If it’s all about us and our ministry team, we run the risk of displaying that misaligned vision to our congregations.  And when we “put up a front” and paint this perfect picture for them, they see right through it. It’s like that elementary teacher who is terrified of elementary students…those kids just know when the teacher is scared to death.

Authentic joy cannot be faked.
People, especially our congregation, will know and see through inauthentic fakery.
It doesn’t matter how flowery your sermon is…
It doesn’t matter how “on point” the worship band was this Sunday…
It doesn’t matter if you have everything right on the bulletin this Sunday…
IF you aren’t authentic and you’re just going through the motions, it will be more evident than you think.

What I’m not saying today:
I’m not saying that we have to be Happy all the time – I know that it’s just not possible to put on a happy face when things are far from happy in your church.
I’m not saying that we have to perpetually seek joy and happiness for our church members either.

What I am saying is this: 
Authenticity, in every season is a hard commodity to come by all the time.
I have preached those sermons.
I have lived that illustration.
I have been there.

So how do we recapture that Authentic joy once more?
Not by some feel good seminar or self-help section (but sometimes that helps).
Not by continuing to fake it and gut it out for a little while longer.
No, we have to find fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to confide in and to share each other’s burdens.
We need (and crave) fellow Pastors to tell us that they’ve been to those desert places as well.
We have to feast on uplifting, yet challenging spiritual readings by theologians and thinkers who will push up out of our funk from time to time.  If the iron isn’t in the fire being sharpened by other iron, then it is growing rusty and dull.

Don’t hole up in your office.
Don’t internalize your struggles and think no one else will relate.
Don’t pretend that you have it all worked out.
Talk, share, connect with other Pastors…

We need to go back to the source of living water…and sometimes (many times) we need each other more than we think.

Capturing authentic joy and passion for your ministry once again requires other pastors, mentors and leaders to help you.  Don’t become rusty and dull…let’s help recapture that spark in your life once more!

Something more to ponder today!
To God be the glory!

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