The Church Unnecessarily Continues to Lose People

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"Oh Church" cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

“Oh Church” cartoon by nakedpastor David Hayward

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.”

 

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