Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Questioning

So, I went off yesterday.

Some folks say that doing such things makes one feel better.

I'm not sure.  I'm a reflective kind of guy, and so when things start happening in such a fashion, I start asking questions.

Every so often, I wonder why.  Is there a purpose to such things happening?

I know most of the answers (the list is not exhaustive):

  • God is testing you--Works for some situations but not all.  Such a thought raises some interesting questions, like: does God test us by tempting us to produce works of the flesh?  The answer to that one is unequivocally no:  No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it;  James 1: 13-14  This doesn't mean that God doesn't test us.  1 Peter shows that. 
  • God is trying to strengthen you--built upon the saying, "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger."  Such a thing is a possibility.
  • God has a purpose, we just don't know what it is--Again, a trusting statement of faith founded in the cross/resurrection dynamic.  I fall squarely into this category most of the time.
  • God is teaching you a lesson--it's a probability, unfortunately, I am dense.  I wish He'd be a little more clear.  I think most others who deal with this answer feel the same way as myself.
Perhaps what I am definitely struggling with is how I have chosen to lead my congregation.  I've made no great secret in announcing that I believe the Church is a place where people who disagree vehemently can still come together under one roof as one family and worship together.  I've made no secret that part of being a Christian means not just associating with those who believe like you, but being able to be with and work with those who don't.  I've held firm on the statement it is not our job to change people; it's our job to be well defined in what we believe and allow God to change people over time--sometimes it seems like God takes forever.

I am well aware of several dynamics of Christian based leadership that may be at play.  One is concerning.  The other is heartening but demands faith and patience.  The problem is discerning which one is taking place.

First the concern: most congregations grow for a phase, level off, and then slowly decline.  Rarely do they break through to the next level of growth.  Is my congregation starting this process of death?  We've definitely leveled off in the past several years in worship attendance.  The involvement in extra activities has slipped a bit.  A few families have left.  Has the congregation lost God's blessing upon things?

Secondly, the hope: Are we being pruned so that fruit can be produced?  Are we on the right track in what we are trying to accomplish based upon the terms I outlined above?  Are we being prepared to head into the next level of what it means to be the church in Cat Spring, TX?  If indeed this is the case, while painful, the end result is going to be really, really good.  Yet, it requires faith not only on my part but on the part of the congregation to believe God is doing something in the midst of all this stuff.

Only time will tell, and I also know my leadership will be key.

One of my favorite stories involves the breaking of the sound barrier by Chuck Yeager.  Every time a pilot had tried to break the sound barrier in his plane, the plane began shaking violently as it approached the speed of sound.  Every time the plane started doing this, the pilot would ease off the accelerator for fear the plane was shaking apart.  Yeager finally did the opposite.  Instead of breaking, he accelerated.  Sure, the plane shook like the dickens, but once it broke the sound barrier, it entered into a level of calm.  Yeager took a risk and put the pedal to the metal. 

I hope I have the intestinal fortitude to stick with it and put the accelerator down.  I'm hoping there's peace on the other side once we (hopefully) break through.  Only time will tell.


Kathy said...

Man! How do you have time to write so much?! Do you ever sleep? I don't even have time to read it all....

I cannot believe your paragraph about "congregations grow for a phase." Over the last 40 years I have been in several congregations -- we moved several times. That was NEVER an issue. We went to the church in our parish -- and that was it.

Our priest or priests did not have the final word on Doctrine. We followed the Teachings of the Church, whether we accepted all of them or not, and the local church grew as the community grew.

As I said in a former comment -- you are not the arbiter of Doctrine -- the Church is. If your "church" has gone off the rails, then leave.

Kathy said...

"I've held firm on the statement it is not our job to change people; it's our job to be well defined in what we believe and allow God to change people over time--sometimes it seems like God takes forever."

From where do "our" (your) beliefs come? The Scripture? The Church? Tradition? Wherever they come from, they are YOUR beliefs. In reality, you will end up with the Church of Kevin Haug.

Sooner or later, the Protestant Church will become millions of little "churches," since few, few people agree on everything. This is why Christ founded His Church on the Rock -- not on a person's confession. (After all, Peter denied Christ 3 times.) The Rock is the unifying principle. Jesus could have said: "You are 'Glue-man,' and upon this Glue I found my church."