Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Words from My Favorite Author/Prophet

"The pastors of America have metamorphosed into a company of shopkeepers, and the shops they keep are churches.  They are preoccupied with shopkeeper's concerns - how to keep the customers happy, how to lure customers away from competitors down the street, how to package the goods so that the customers will lay out more money."  ~  Eugene Peterson, Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity

Personally I wonder what it would look like if the church in America woke up and realized that everyone on the inside of our stained glass windows was there simply to be equipped to minister to those outside (the real customer).   I wonder what would happen if we realized that the shop exists for the sinner not the saint; that it exists for the poor, the brokenhearted, those in mourning, those held captive and imprisoned by the enemy.

There's nothing inherently wrong with calling people lay their resources, but what if they church suddenly decided to invest in efforts to reach outside outside the walls instead of funding more building of walls?  The only building programed Jesus ever was involved in was the church being built on Him... and I guess the place he is preparing for us.  

What if we stopped worrying about stealing sheep, luring other sheep, or keeping the sheep happy?  What if we were willing to leave the 99 to find the 1?  Naw... then we wouldn't be able to compare ourselves.


Mike Batley said...

I'm trying to understand (really) what Peterson, (and you) are trying to get at but, I'm sorry, a red flag goes up anytime someone (Peterson) places (in this case Pastors in America) everyone in one bucket and then makes a sweeping indictment. Sorry, it's just not fair.

That being said I know what he's trying to say and--yes--that is going on. But I just won't be that cynical.

But your comment also troubles me. Yes, I work at a church ( but it just isn't that simple. You can't just bifurcate the issue and say the church merely exists to equip and send. That you can't build (or at least expend resources toward buildings--unless to equip?).

I totally struggle with the complexity of our mission! Are we to PRIMARILY exist for "the found," helping them see Christ and His way ever clearer? Hoping the jet fuel of service is Jesus himself and gratitude for what he's purchased for us?

Or are we to exist PRIMARILY for "the lost," helping them see Christ and their lost ways ever clearer?

How can we even separate the two? Don't you see how they are connected and furthermore Church is many ways we have to do the fully orbed mission. We can't pick and choose with such ease as CCC.

We clearly live in a post-christian, post-biblical world that is utterly wrecked by the ramifications of our sin. "Equipping" is too small a word for much of the work we have to do with people's lives. Divorce, addictions, abuse, sex-soaked, utterly demanding their own rights, consumer and materialistic, wrong set of values on time and money...blah, blah, blah.

There is significant deep "soul" work to do.

Read Oswald Chambers my utmost...June 19th. This is what we need more of and what we are trying to do here...if I offer a mission I may only get a mission. If I offer Christ, people get Christ and His mission to boot.

I'll leave you with these thoughts and sorry for my rant...

I was reading an article about a Sr. Pastor who lead his church in what we would consider great directions. They saw real growth in great numbers and outreach. Don’t get me wrong great things were happening and yet this Pastor and his team got totally burned out to the point that many wanted to quit, some did, and the Pastor took a sabbatical he was so exhausted.

During the sabbatical everything went wrong…his wife found “a lump”, his house caught on fire, and their church had to renege on some property they committed to expand on.

Here is what he ultimately learned through his suffering…
“The way I see it, the whole point of the gospel is that we are supposed to die. That doesn't mean I like it. I don't like to die, but Jesus says, "Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains by itself alone, but if it dies it comes to life." The message of the gospel is that the only way you come to life is that you've got to die. You die first, and then you come to life. Jesus says, "Take up your cross and follow me into this kind of life. Our response to the cross and the resurrection isn’t to sit on the sideline and cheer that Jesus died and rose to life. No, no, no. He died to show us how. It’s not just that he died so that you wouldn’t have to. He died to show you the pattern. The message of the cross is, ‘Don’t cheer for me join me. Come into this kind of life where you let go of control and let go our your demands. Every time you do it, you’ll think you’re going to die. But you don’t die; you come to life’”

Andy McCullough said...

Matt, wow that's the longest comment I have ever had. :)

Personally, I like Peterson a lot. He is a pastor at heart and has written a lot of books that challenge me: "The Jesus Way", "Contemplative Pastor". "Christ Plays in 10,000 Places" etc. When he speaks of the church in America, I don't think he is lumping everyone in the whole.

My blog entry wasn't meant to slam your local church or the local church in general because I am part of the local church. Because I am not even sure who reads my blog, I write mostly to myself - to provoke myself rather than judge someone else. But, I see where I got a little beyond that here. I certainly apologize if I was unfair. That wasn't my intent to be critical of you or others who labor in the church in America. You deserve to double honor (1 Tim 5:17)

I don't think we are far off from each other in our thoughts. I was writing to say much what your final story says, "its not about things that build up yourself but about Jesus and about dying to self."

Mike Batley said...


No apology is accepted because I really didn't take it personally. And, believe me, we aren't doing it perfect in any stretch of the imagination.

I just get this sense that the "Church" in the west is so confused right now and chasing lots of strategies and voices that would tell it what to do, or what it should do, or what its doing wrong.

And Pastors, in their well intentioned desire to do well, to be faithful, to prove that seek "easy" measurements like growth. But measuring butts in seats and dollars in plates is the easiest thing to measure.(They aren't necessarily wrong measurements though...only wrong when its the only thing you measure...).

In my experience the things that don't get measured are the much deeper, much harder things. And in some contexts what doesn't get measured, doesn't exist. But not in God's economy.

Maybe my big point is that nothing much is going to change by "voices" continually bashing the Church. How can we instead die, then live, then encourage, then walk alongside, then equip, then give glory, then...

you get my point.


Anonymous said...

Andy, I agree with your original blog and wished you hadn't backed down. Come on when Jesus returns do you think he will praise the Western church for the money we have wasted on buildings in his name? Will He say when I was hungry, you were too busy having a church fellowship dinner. When I was thirsty, you build me a building? All the problems this guy lists where there when the early church was formed too. Go to the website he listed for his church and compare the number of programs for those in the church vs those outside.