Resonance and Resistance
I've moved from the quote before the Table of Contents in Frost & Hirsch's book. Now I'm on the very first page, and I've found kindred spirits. Here's the quote that helps me know I'm not alone:
We've become disturbingly aware through personal experience and observation that those who advocate such a thoroughgoing recalibration of the church will not always be met with open arms by the prevailing church leadership.
Man, do I feel like I've been the Mayor of that Town over the last several years!
When I was first given the opportunity to speak to people about my perception of where churches have failed, it was in a particular arena. I was first invited to speak to the folks at North Point Community Church's Grow Up Conference for Family Ministries in 2004.
I taught two breakout sessions (each was taught twice) that year. One was specifically designed to unpack the philosophy behind the curriculum used at North Point. The second was about how churches can partner with parents in helping their children make a commitment of faith.
Notice that second was not about how churches can do this for parents but how churches can help parents do it themselves. You know...the way the Bible says it ought to be.
I was overwhelmed by the response. Suddenly, I was being asked to come and speak to churches all over the country. I had never intended for it to turn into this, but I found myself being invited to speak to children's ministry folks everywhere. And what surprised me most was how often I would be speaking and see someone moved to tears.
I wasn't saying anything particularly emotional. At least, I didn't think so. But it happened nearly every time.
I talked to a friend of mine about this, and he said something that was very powerful. He suggested that there are people who know the system is broken, but they don't have the words to diagnose the problem accurately. Or they try to tell the leaders in their churches that things aren't the way they're supposed to be, and they get told to sit down and be quiet and "get on board with our vision here" -- "be a team player".
In a way, my presentations were telling them that they were right. They weren't crazy. They weren't just imagining things or being overly sensitive.
As I continued to travel (and then began to train others to do the same), I found a pattern emerging. It was so common that we began to refer to it as "The Friday Night Conversation". Usually, I would fly in on Friday afternoon for an all-day Saturday seminar. It was customary to go to dinner with whomever had invited me. At that dinner, at some point in time, the conversation would turn to how their Sr. Pastor didn't get them or how the board had cut their budget and still expected them to do all the same programs or how the elders were afraid of trying new things.
This happened in many of the churches where I went.
I have prayed with more children's ministers, worship leaders and student ministry guys than I can remember. I have sat and listened to them tell me how they want to move forward and be innovative but they get shut down and shot down by the people who sign their paychecks. I've gotten more phone calls than I care to remember from these folks who says, "I'm done. I'm leaving ministry. I can't keep doing this."
I know what it's like to be met, not with open arms, but with a stiff arm. I've heard from leaders how immature those student ministry guys or those campus ministry guys or that children's ministry person is. They just don't understand how difficult it is to keep everyone happy. They don't understand that if we upset the apple cart too much, folks will leave, and we can't afford that just now. We're in the middle of a building project, after all.
I've been called a troublemaker, a liberal, a fundamentalist, a Pharisee, a Sadducee and everything in between. I've been called into the principal's office and scolded more than once.
Unfortunately, I know there are people reading this blog who have experienced this firsthand themselves. All I can say to you is two things:
- If you follow Jesus, you will experience resistance from religious people.
- You are not alone.