Monday, May 23, 2011

Church Politics

This is a personal soapbox - this issue troubles me more than anything else in church life because I feel it completely and utterly distracts the church from accomplishing it's God-given mission of sharing the Good News. This post will not be easy to write nor to read.

Jesus attacked only one group of people during his ministry on earth: Pharisees and Sadducees. Those men were the paid staff and lay leaders of the temple in Jerusalem. It was to them that all Jews looked to for guidance and wisdom. I have long wondered if I, as a paid church staff professional, will feel the same verbal assault on me that Jesus laid on those church staff of 2000 years ago.

Jesus' withering criticism of them is that they were caught up in the minutae of life. The Pharisees and Sadducees debated for endless hours about trivial matters while they completely ignored the important religious and physical needs of the people. They made up 613 laws which became an unbearable burden to commons Jews so that they hated to go to Temple but they did so out of obligation. Jesus went to Temple only to worship - he didn't debat the Pharisees and Sadducees in the Temple. They found him out among the people and they took their pettiness to him. How many times do the Gospels refer to Jesus as speaking with authority or speaking in a way at which the people marveled? Jesus focused not on the Temple politics of his day but on the big issues. Jesus instructed his disciples to keep their eyes on the God-things: disciple, baptize and teach (Matthew 28:19-20).

I've heard that many (if not most) young pastors prefer to start their own churches instead of stepping into an established church. Why? One answer may be the quantity of church politics. Established churches are hotbeds of politics, procedures, entrenched committee members, "but we've never done it that way before" mentality, and tradition. (So much of that is fear-based - fear of losing control, fear of not having enough, plain old fear. This is ironic since as Christians we are supposed to believe that God is in control and that God is generous beyond measure.)

I believe that church politics make people avoid church. They see the petty squabbles and decide that this is not for them - they want a God that is interested in big things such as people. Arguments and struggles over money, position, power, and decisions are so petty as to make God cry, especially when Christians do it.

I've been in too many meetings when an absurdly petty topic was raised: should we allow line dancing in the gym, what type of lettering should be on a sign, etc. I ask myself if this topic rises to the level of honoring Jesus and his sacrifice. Almost every time the answer is no, it doesn't. It is a small matter which should be dealt with by one or two people so that the big group can focus on the big issue: sharing the Good News.

Lead On!

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