Sunday, September 25, 2005

Seven things I never want to hear again at a Pastor's Meetings

Like dandelions on a church lawn, there are some cliches that nothing seems to kill . . . but that doesn't mean I won't stop trying. So here's my list of "six things I never want to hear again at a Pastor's Meeting":

1. “You should spend an hour in preparation for every minute you spend in the pulpit.”
Get serious – anyone who does this either:

  • the Senior Pastor of a very large church, or
  • preaching very short sermons.

Checking around, I find that most pastors spend roughly 12-hours a week in sermon preparation (plus or minus three hours). So tell us how to use this time more effectively –and please stop burdening us with unrealistic expectations!

2. “We need a return to Primitive Godliness”
As commonly used, this means “let’s stop talking about the tough issues that trouble our church today.”

3. “Traditional Family Values”
Actually, one of the biggest things that the Romans hated about Christianity was the way it subverted their traditional family values – and if you can’t understand why they felt that way, then maybe you haven’t preached lately on Luke 14:26.

4. “Life in the trenches.”
Soldiers haven’t fought in trenches since World War I – and when they did, their senior officers were not there in the trenches with them; instead, they were enjoying life’s little luxuries back in headquarters. So what are we really saying when we use this phrase to describe the pastoral ministry?

5. “Conservative churches are growing.”
Some are. Some aren’t. By and large:

  • Conservative churches that embrace popular culture are growing (think Rick Warren).
  • Conservative churches that kick out their moderates are not (think Southern Baptists).

[October 9: just finished an article in the October 4 issue of Christian Century on the decline in mainline churches; if the sociologists who wrote it are right, 70% of the reason for this decline is due to smaller family sizes, and 30% is due to a drop-off in people switching from conservative to mainline churches. And in both cases, the reason may be something as simple as the fact that mainline churches have pretty much always allowed their members to use birth-control, while conservative churches did not. Whether that's true or not, it's something to think about -- GB.

6. “The historic faith of the Protestant Reformers.”
The implication, of course, is that any change in our understanding of prophecy or Creationism is a crypto-Catholic plot – an implication that overlooks the fact that Martin Luther also believed:

  • the sun circles the earth,
  • infants should be baptized,
  • and the Book of Revelation should be excluded from the New Testament.

In short, Luther was a great man . . . but that didn’t mean he was always right.

7. "He has the heart of a pastor." Often used to introduce Conference administrators, this phrase is meant to reassure me. Instead, it reminds me of Stephen King's remark that he can write the way he does "because I have the heart of a small child -- and I keep it in a jar on my desk."

Pastor Greg

And remember: “Sinners can always repent, but stupid is forever” – evangelist Billy Sunday.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Go figure!

Most of us are pretty average.

And if you don’t believe me, check out Al Reimche’s section in your Statistical Report to the Delegates for this year’s constituency meeting. While I’m no expert on statistics, I did manage to figure out that:

There are no Adventist mega-churches in Oregon.
Our three biggest churches (Meadow Glade, Pleasant Valley, and Sunnyside) all average 450 to 500 people in attendance every Sabbath. That’s wonderful – but it ain’t Willow Creek.

You don’t have to be very big to be big.
Roughly 80% of the churches in this Conference have an average attendance of 150 or less.

To them who have, more shall be given.
Half the people who actually attend church in this Conference do so in a church where the average attendance is 150 or more.

Most of us aren’t seeing much growth.
In fact, overall attendance has been pretty much flat for the past five years. The exceptions: Beaverton, Hillsboro Spanish, Kelso-Longview, Medford, Pleasant Valley, Riverside, Roseburg, Salem Spanish, Tabernacle, Woodburn Spanish . . . and maybe Forest Grove, University Park, Vancouver, and Your Bible Speaks.

Our new church plants aren’t doing much.
The big exception here is church plants that target a specific ethnic group – all in all, they seem to be doing fine. But when it comes to attendance, the rest of them have pretty much hit a plateau . . . and some of them are even in decline.

So what does it all mean? Hard to say – but if you don’t speak Spanish, it looks as though your best shot at church growth is to pastor a church that's located in:
*a growing suburb of Portland (viz. Beaverton or Pleasant Valley).
*a major retirement community (viz. Medford or Roseburg).
*a town with a pulp mill (viz. Kelso-Longview or Riverside).

Pastor Greg

And remember: “Professionals are predictable, but the world is full of amateurs” – from Murphy’s Laws of Combat, collected by James F. Dunnigan.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Church secretaries

Our church secretary is retiring -- and to hire a new one, we had to figure out just exactly what a church secretary does.

Well, we finally came up with a job description -- and if you'd like a copy, send me an e-mail!

Pastor Greg

And remember: "You overcome weakness by developing strength" -- Peter Drucker