The Church Unnecessarily Continues to Lose People

"Oh Church" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“Oh Church” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

SHOP

I got sad today.

This post I wrote 7 years ago came up in my Facebook memories, Why I Pastor Weak.

Little did I know that the week after I wrote this post I would discover I had lost the support of major players in my congregation. The scale of critical mass for my support had finally tipped. It became clear to me that they no longer appreciated my pastoral style. They wanted a strong leader to take the church to a stronger position. They loved the quality of community, but they wanted to take it somewhere. I knew the rich authenticity of our community was precisely because of our weakness. I don’t mean weakness in a pejorative way. I mean weakness as in humble authenticity and mutual respect free of the ambition to control others and free of becoming impressed with who we were. Many realized it after the community was eventually destroyed. They’ve never experienced anything like it since. Although I experience it with my online community… but the local expression of it vanished.

This is what inspired this cartoon. I didn’t just lose the church. The church lost me. And I think that’s unfortunate. There are lots of people who would have stayed in the church if only they were allowed to be who they were. If people were given more space to grow into themselves, they would stay. But the church continues to harden its lines and drive people out without regret. The church might think it’s purifying itself, when in fact it is starving itself. It’s deprived itself of a beautiful diversity.

Anyway, here’s the post in its entirety:

“My style of pastoring is a constant frustration to people. Including myself. I don’t fit the bill. And I am vocal about it. I’m open about my struggle with the church, with my vocation, with the faith altogether. I’m open about my own doubts, fears, and questions. I am frequently informed that our church would be better off with a different pastor. Sometimes by those I pastor. But when someone decides to talk to me about it, or when I feel the time has come for me to open my mouth, I tell them that it isn’t just because I am lazy or deficient or inept. I tell them I am like this on purpose, that I am intentional about it and have theological reasons why I am the kind of pastor I am.

I believe my own obvious weaknesses allow others to be weak also. It often happens that when someone visits our church, their reaction is, “Wow! Your people have a lot of problems. They seem to struggle so much!” Actually, no. They are normal human beings. I believe everyone everywhere struggles just as much as we do. We’re just more open about it. And people find this kind of community where they can be honest about their struggles refreshing. How else can you help me bear my burden if we don’t know what it is?

I’ve been told so many times that as a leader I need to exemplify what it means to be a victorious Christian. If I don’t live victoriously, why would anyone want to hang around? Exactly! Which is why some don’t. I would rather exemplify what is real than what is superficial and artificial. I want to demonstrate joy in suffering, not joy without it. I want to be authentic and real, spots and wrinkles and all.

I believe that being open about my weaknesses is what the cross demands. The bible portrays Jesus as weak. The same with Paul. And I love the story of David. There’s something about not leading with authority that is repugnant. I see this in the biblical stories. But I’ve also see this in my own life. When I am deliberately weak and don’t lead with authority and power, which is so popular and in demand, people take this as a green light to despise you, insult you, and consider you disposable. I don’t get no respect. They really don’t know what they are doing. But we are like chickens in a coop. When one becomes sick or has a weakness, the others will crucify it. Well… peck it to death. I’ve raised chickens and I know what I’m talking about. I’m also a pastor and I know what I’m talking about there also.

I thoroughly believe that being weak releases a power that would otherwise hide itself. I think Paul understood this mystery. That’s why he boasted about his weaknesses. It proved that true spiritual wisdom and power was not achieved by human ingenuity, cleverness, intelligence, ambition or charisma. This is why I am the way I am with my community. The depth of love, generosity, spirituality and wisdom is not something we have manufactured. The weakness and humility of the people, even their plainness, ordinariness and self-effacement, are the fertile soil in which things like love, generosity, and wisdom grow.”

SHOP

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9 Responses

  1. Caryn LeMur says:

    “The seed that grew, fell into a good and honest heart”.

    I think that it is Authenticity about our self – just plain old gentle, soft-spoken honesty – that creates life and growth in our self, and in others.

    The simplicity of the good news – we begin new life by being honest with God, we continue that life by being honest with God.

    It is too simple for many people.

    And upon the fear of simplicity, we build religions, church programs, strong leaders, great worship music, ex-gay therapy… and then it all collapses, because the house was built on sand.

    And the storm came.

  2. David Waters says:

    Meekness is not weakness.

  3. shazz says:

    Thank you David. Yes! You’re speaking the words I couldn’t when we left the ministry. We were surrounded by the best people who loved us because we were “real”. But we weren’t enough. We weren’t drawing crowds. We weren’t making a unique name for ourselves in the busy church marketplace where we ministered.

    We didn’t buy into the “Apostolic” message about “taking spiritual ground in the high places” above our community. We didn’t submit to a hierarchical, manufactured belief system that made certain men outside our church higher and holier than others. We didn’t pretend we had special powers in the fight against good and evil. So we were expendable. THANK GOODNESS!!! We miss those lovely people, but we’re free of that ridiculous ego-driven superstition to just be who we are. People who enjoy supporting other people. No strings attached.

  4. Shazz it sounds like our experiences were identical.

  5. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    They wanted a strong leader to take the church to a stronger position.

    They wanted a Donald Trump?

  6. V says:

    I totally get this. Going through something similar. A few years back a couple of women and I formed a tiny facebook group phenomenon for Christian women called GIRL TALK based on the idea that Jesus Christ never once put a woman in her place. We saw healings of cancer and many other things as we encouraged one another. Then I went on to administer other groups as they needed, got burnt out after a few years, and answered a local pastors FB post about missional living. Met with him to find out what he had, and he invited me to His church and wantes to know what I would like to do. I told him womens Bible study , as informal as the one online. He seemed to go with it at first. The group was growing and then I had to tell them I was getting a divorce after three decades because of emotional, verbal and mental abuse. Nevermind that I was almost internally ptsd ing out. He didn’t want to make it work. At first the pastor and his wife seemed to be supportive, then they seemed to do a 180°. In the meantime my Bible Study stopped getting mentioned in the bulletin, and numbers dropped. And programs fell apart. I would be hurt but I am too ornery to be set back on my heals. So they won’t be seeing my shadow on their doorstep anymore. I am going church shopping, that way I keep meeting more and more brothers and sisters..

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