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Hi Jonathan,

I was at the Youth Workers Retreat that you spoke at last weekend, and I had a follow up question for you. First of all, thanks so much for your honest words and practical advice. I had a lot of great takeaways from the retreat and really appreciate your perspective!

My husband is the youth director at a 100+ year old church, and I am his most faithful volunteer leader (whether by choice or not :). We’re also on the worship team and a part of an effort to grow the young adult population in our church (we’re both in our mid-twenties).

As many very established churches are, ours is an “insider” church full of church politics and stagnancy.

The building itself is in a rich mission-field, directly across the street from a very high-poverty inner-city high school, but most of our members don’t live in the community and are primarily middle- to upper-middle class, white, grew-up-in-the-church Christians (not much diversity).

We felt a strong call to become members of the church and for my husband to take the role of youth director a couple years ago. Probably the largest factor in that decision (and our decision to stay at the church since then) is our intention to try to make a change within the church.

We often feel like all of our energy spent in relation to our church is pushing and pulling the congregation to think and act less self-centeredly and more missionally.

My husband has been pushed in his job as youth director to focus more on making other church members happy than to focus on outreach.

It’s frustrating to say the least, and we consider leaving the church just about every week, to be quite honest!

After hearing everything you had to say about deciding who you’re willing to lose (Christians or non-Christians) and how in most circumstances, the only people that get mad about things in the church are other Christians, our feelings of “what are we doing here!?” are especially strong.

In your opinion, do you see any value in having a personal mission of trying to open the eyes of the insider, self-centered culture of an old church like ours…or are we just wasting our time?

MY ANSWER:

Hey there!

Thank you for your email — I completely understand what you’re saying because my wife and I have been in your exact shoes!

Let me cut to the chase: In church-world, you can either resurrect the dead or birth a new baby.

Birthing a new baby is easier (that’s why my family sacrificed everything to start Life Church Michigan from scratch).

Any meaningful change within a church HAS to be birthed out of the heart of the senior pastor.

If the senior pastor is not the one leading the change, the change will not happen. Period.

Your job is to support the leadership of the lead guy.  Hebrews 13:17 says,

Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them?

My advice? If you cannot 110% support and champion the vision of the senior pastor, quit.

Today.

Flip burgers for six months until God brings you to a church where you can completely champion the vision, love the senior pastor and have his back, and use your gifts to further the Kingdom through the local church.

Your job is NOT to create change from within.  God did not appoint you as senior pastor.

I’ll take it a step further: even if your senior pastor were a Disney Villain, it is not your job to challenge him and try to hijack the church.

David was given the opportunity to kill King Saul and stage a coup d’etatyet he didn’t:

For I said, ‘I will never harm the king—he is the Lord’s anointed one.’

God will always honor leaders that can submit to authority and be in harmony with the church’s vision.

If you can’t do this at your current church, leave quickly and quietly.  Don’t stick around for a paycheck (wrong heart motivation!).  God does not bless sin, but He does bless humility and patience.

He will direct your steps and it is ok to work at the local video store or pizza delivery for a season
(I have literally done both in the past 10 years!).  

At the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, “How big is my God?”

Hope this advice helps!

 



Jonathan Herron is the founding pastor of Life Church Michigan, a fresh, modern church for people who don’t like going to church.  His first book on using the rules of comedy in leadership is releasing nationwide soon.

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Nicu Cocione

commented on Sep 14, 2016

Good question but what biblical authority is there for having a lead pastor? I obeyed the gospel 23 years ago and have been studding the bible ever since but never found the term. What church in the scripture had a lead pastor? My encouragement is study how to establish bible authority and ask bible questions if whatever's going on seems out of harmony with the word of God. The truth should stand on its own. You can certainly pick up and go but can it be that God wants you there for a reason? Lord bless you in seeking His will.

Steven Barsuhn

commented on Sep 14, 2016

T he issue is not titles or positions it is authority. Ministry cannot function with anarchy, dissension and factions. That is exactly what Paul was writing to the Corinthians about. Anytime we certain that we have the answers and other leaders need to follow we usually have a really big problem with pride.

E L Zacharias

commented on Sep 14, 2016

Here's a little help with your studying. To the leaders, aka, pastors, God gives the heavy responsibility to lead the people. If they are led astray, the pastor will suffer the consequence of that dereliction. There is one leader for the congregation, not many. That head is Christ, as Paul would remind the Corinthians, but the church is to recognize only the leader that is true to the Word of God and faithful to the Gospel of Christ. Keep watch over yourselves and the entire flock of which the HOLY SPIRIT has MADE you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood. Acts 20:28 Son of man, I have appointed you a watchman to the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from My mouth, warn them from Me, Ezekiel 3.17. To the members, Obey your spiritual leaders, and do what they say. Their work is to watch over your souls, and they are accountable to God. Give them reason to do this with joy and not with sorrow. That would certainly not be for your benefit, Hebrews 13.17. Hebrews 13:7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken to you ? 1 Samuel 8:19 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and ? 1 Samuel 15:19,20 Why then did you not obey the voice of the LORD, but did fly on the ? Proverbs 5:13 And have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined my ear ? Philippians 2:12,29 Why, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence ? 1 Thessalonians 5:12,13 And we beseech you, brothers, to know them which labor among you, ? 2 Thessalonians 3:14 And if any man obey not our word by this letter, note that man, and ? 1 Timothy 5:17 Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, ? Blessings on your life in Christ!

Lawrence Webb

commented on Sep 14, 2016

Nicu presents an ideal, but I believe Jonathan is correct in advising a staff minister other than the senior pastor not to make waves. Like it or not, churches typically have pastors who are expected by the church to lead the staff. A staffer who cannot take the lead pastor's direction will inevitably cause problems for himself/herself and for the congregation.

E L Zacharias

commented on Sep 14, 2016

Jonathan definitely has given great advice. As a pastor for over 25 years, I have seen members that are faithful to God and I have seen those who appeared faithful but who were wolves in sheep clothing. I have placed my trust in workers who spoke behind my back, causing divisions and offenses in the congregation. Some have tried to introduce practices without consulting me, which only caused grief and caused others to leave. The church that is healthy has one vision and one Savior, Jesus Christ. If people see anything but Christ, they are not in a Christian congregation.

E L Zacharias

commented on Sep 14, 2016

In other words, don't be causing grief for yourself or anyone else. If you are not one with the mission of the congregation, do everyone, including yourself, a favor: go somewhere else. When perfect people find the perfect church, they are sure to discover that there is only one thing missing. Jesus.

Stephen Belokur

commented on Sep 15, 2016

Ummm ... the writer of the email might want to ask the Lord, "Is this where you want me in spite of what I think or feel? Not my will but Yours." Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. Nowhere in the article did I see that the person writing the email was advised to pray, fast and seek the Lord's guidance. "Leave ... TODAY!" or "Leave quickly and quietly" may not be what the Lord has for you in the particular situation where He has placed you if in fact He has placed you there. The impossible is no problem for the Lord. If He releases you then go, if not stay!

Colin Bleakney

commented on Sep 17, 2016

Great advice from Jonathan, too many people get bogged down with pleasing the status Quo crowd when what is needed is a complete change of focus and Direction. Better, indeed to spear-head a new work and leave the old stubborn minded people to tick their own self righteous boxes!

Scott Coltrain

commented on Sep 17, 2016

First, you need to find a more Biblical Church in which to worship and serve. A church that has deemed it acceptable to create unscriptural offices such as Senior Pastor, Youth Director, Worship Team Leader, etc. is bound to have problems with pride and carnal politics. You need to find a congregation that, with humility, follows the New Testament pattern and example on congregational leadership - the only leadership authorized by Scripture are elders/pastors/bishops and deacons. When a congregation is willing to recognize the authority of Scripture in organizing a congregation, they will tend to have a greater spirit of servanthood by all members. While members are Scripturally commanded to respect and submit to their pastors, one can work to bring-about change in a negligent leadership and membership by one's example. If there is a weakness in performing evangelization or any other form of ministry, you should devote yourself to performing that kind of ministry and you would be surprised how much your example will inspire others (even the pastors and deacons) to get involved in that particular ministry. Even if your actions do not inspire others to follow suit, I would still encourage you to remain in that congregation because you will not be judged based upon the actions or non-action of other members but only upon YOUR actions or non-action. In the Lord's Letters to the Seven Churches in Asia, found in Revelation 2-3, I do not find the Lord telling any of the upright to leave a congregation due to the failings of other members. As long as you are able to function in the ministry/ministries to which the Lord has called you, you have no excuse to depart. I find that the Lord would encourage you to stay and fight the good fight. I like the Lord's letter to Sardis, in Revelation 3:4-5, "But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels." The only exception to that rule is if the elders or pastors have the congregation to worship in ways that are not authorized in the Scriptures or if the leadership teach falsely on how to receive the Lord's gift of salvation.

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