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Participatory Anemia April 13, 2014

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This morning, as I heard of a church passing out volunteer surveys due to lack of participation, I began thinking about why so many churches suffer this, disease, if we can call it that. Participatory Anemia sounds fitting. Why is it that churches can’t get the help they need to run?

One key possibility is that the church model has changed from the relational organizations of days past, to a consumer driven model. Focused on the statistics, modern churches take their cues from the entertainment industry, playing chart-toppers in popular styles, using concert style lights, casting peers of the target demographic into high profile staff and volunteer positions like pastors, worship team members, etc. This brings in the people they want, and in numbers that make things look to be going well. But then those people get up, leave, and may or may not contribute a monetary donation for consumed services. Participatory Anemia sets in. Children and youth ministries, parking directors, tech teams, hospitality and other ministries find themselves overstretched and underequipped to fill the needs of the amassing number of consumers entering their care.

Another factor may be the frequency of which help is sought. If the church is only seeking help when they are desperate, the people who feel called to serve may not feel wanted until it’s too late. Waiting too long to post opportunities can result in a “we didn’t really want you, but now we need you,” feeling among those waiting for the chance to dig in and serve. Thus Participatory Anemia can occur due to leaders withholding opportunity.

Relational ministries can’t be closed or close-minded to volunteers. How many musicians are in your church band’s roster? How many are up front most every week? How many get rotated? What does it take to get in the band at your church? Open auditions? Invitation only? Maybe they don’t accept new musicians? In an attempt to provide the most entertaining and distraction-free atmosphere, many churches have a closed band or invitation-only policy. While this lends itself to the band becoming very close musically and relationally, it also fences out new blood and denies relationship opportunities. Those who are called to serve in worship ministries may find themselves called away from your church if you won’t use them, God will send them to one who will. God may cause Participatory Anemia if He sees his gifts being squandered due to fear of a fleeting mistake or the leadership’s lack of willingness to train and qualify the called.

When a local assembly of the Body of Christ is on level ground with one another, and new disciples, who have shunned the belief that they are righteous and know they are sinners, are brought forth from outreach endeavors, Participatory Anemia should go the way of ye olde reformist hymns that refer to “the bowels of God.” The Body will thrive with servants, and consumers will listen to their favorite songs on the radio or internet and consume the writings and videos of the likes of Joel Osteen and Adam Hamilton until they emotionally join the ranks of disciples who worship with their lives and not just attendance and cash.

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A Sci-fi Parable March 5, 2014

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In the year 2300, society has been divided into two factions: the Yungins and the Oalfokes. Their governing body, the Delegation Of Orderly Fellowship, has been assembled to do what is in the best interest of both factions. In the early years of this societal structure, the leader of society as a whole, known as Luminary, overwhelmingly favored the Oalfokes in the decision making. A number of citizens assembled, hoping to achieve balanced favor from the Luminary. After a time, a new Luminary was selected, a Luminary who showed equal favor to both factions. For eight years there was balance, as the Yungins achieved more prosperous roles and the Oalfokes saw the same support they’d seen before this Luminary was installed. But after this eight year period, a third Luminary had to be selected, and the Kingdom wasn’t as fortunate. This Luminary revealed itself to be of the same mentality as the first, only favoring the Yungins while disrespecting, and at times, disowning the Oalfokes.

“In another Kingdom,” said the Luminary, “it was only Yungins. We treated the vocabulary of the Oalfokes as if it were swear words.” Within a year, one of the yearly Oalfoke events was turned over to the Yungins, and though that in itself wasn’t a big deal to most as there was a second event that same week, the Luminary made it known that they would only oversee the festivities of the Yungin-led event, and assigned an Emissary to oversee the Oalfoke-led event during the same week.

Some of those who were part of society long enough to remember the first Luminary tended to find themselves supporting this third Luminary despite the common discriminatory leadership, favoring one faction over the other. They’re quick to tell tale of the Luminary who wanted the Yungins’ lights out and wouldn’t attend events put on by the Yungins, but voice their support for the Luminary who wants the lights of the Oalfokes extinguished. Many of these supporters have risen to prominence as a D.O.O.F. While the D.O.O.F.’s state that they exist to do what’s in the best interest of the entirety of society, they continue to support a Luminary who doesn’t. It’s only a matter of time before society sees the discrimination and a new group assembles, hoping for balance to be restored…

The Greatest Gift We Have January 13, 2014

Posted by worshipconvergence in Christianity, Church, devotional, Leadership, ministry.
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This is not the result of some divine vision, where I was lifted to Heaven or shifted to another realm. This is not the result of a voice, plain as day, calling out of a bush or thin air. No, this comes from a tug at the heart of a worshiper, a heart that thought worship services were a collective display of approval, commendation, love, and adoration to God from His believers, not just His children, His believers; and that heart’s  experiences as a church staff member.

What’s odd, and by odd I mean disturbing, is how many Christians don’t see the problem, don’t see it as a problem, or deny it exists because it supposedly “works.” What is the problem? For one thing, “true and proper worship” is discipleship (Romans 12:1.) Worship and discipleship are supposed to happen within the believer regardless of circumstance or setting. Worship, as a gathered community, has certain Biblically inherent principles, such as returning the Word to God, singing praise to Him with gladness and bowing down in worship (2 Chronicles 29:30.) I’m sure people who make it through this reading and disagree will argue that I must also wish to include sacrifices and burnt offerings too, because that was also part of that 2 Chronicles passage. So I’ll state right now that no, those were made obsolete by Christ’s death on the cross. The new offering and sacrifice is your time and skill, heart, mind, soul, and strength: your love. Returning to the Romans 12 passage, self is the offering which is Holy and pleasing to God.

Problem- part 2: When did “go forth,” or as modern church calls it, “outreach,” become about how effectively you can get people to come to you? Many Church leaders claim a heart for seeking the lost, yet preach it from the pulpit (stage, to the modern church folk) on Sunday mornings and talk of it in meeting after meeting, leaving themselves little if any time to set the example. They spend their lives in havens of the found, where they know those they seek are not flocking. So, rather than meet them where they are, the example they set is to turn the church property and worship services in to magnets to attract the lost to them. This makes the non-believer and those new to the faith leaders in the church, whose opinions shape what is or is not worship (not that veteran Christians never make it about themselves.) It is written in 1 Timothy 3:6,

“They (church leaders) must not be new followers of the Lord. If they are, they might become proud and be doomed along with the devil.“

The leadership resource churchleaders.com has this to say of pride in the church,

“Unfortunately, many Christians and churches view their “brand” of Christianity as the only true or most true type of Christianity. They may not think they are the only Christians, but they do think they are the best or most right ones. This is a prideful and sinful attitude that grieves Jesus and dismembers His body.”

To segregate the Body, even just within the local assembly, because veteran Christians and/or new converts demand it be about them before they’ll attend the collective display to God from His believers, drips with pride like a tomato freshly cut with a butter knife. There are a whole lot of individuals in the assembly, but few members of His body.

If there’s one thing I believe the Church needs to be told, its found in Galatians 5:7-9,

“You were doing so well until someone made you turn from the truth. And that person was certainly not sent by the one who chose you. A little yeast can change a whole batch of dough.”

These days, the Church is so pridefully leavened, so fluffy and puffed up from the yeast of personal satisfaction and business-defined successes, that one can look through one side of the loaf to the other without obstruction – there’s so little Bread anymore, so many air holes like the space between a spider’s webbing. Its time for outreach ministers to GO forth, let go of the worship services, and seek those who know they are sick (Mark 2:17.) Instruct these people in the meaning of true worship, so when they come, they do so not as consumers, but as those who brought gifts to Emmanuel.

All it takes is the generations proclaiming through words or action, “Its about me, my pleasure, my satisfaction, my professional resume, and my sub-culture,” for the whole loaf to need started from scratch. Sadly, church leaders around the world who aren’t causing it are letting it happen.

Our selves: lovingly, unconditionally, and collectively offered, may well be the greatest gift His believers can commission. Who is willing to go in on that gift?