Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Nothing but Bragging

As far as I know my elders never read this blog. In fact, I am not sure that more than one or two of them even knows it exists. I'm not ashamed of it; it's just that I'm still a bit stunned that anyone wants to read the gravel washed eroded bits of brain cells that makes up this column. With that said, as a follow up to my last blog, let me brag on my elders.

These eleven men of God have traveled farther down a hard road than any group I have ever worked with before. When they saw that holding on to our traditions as if they were "thus saith the Lord" and keeping the church locked down in the building would not be effective in changing the world, they said, "enough."

It is the eldership here that said we will put no more money into the ground. We built our building and remodeled it as fast as we could, but we are still having three morning services to get the folk in (and to serve different groups). Some have said we need to sell this building and build bigger, like those other megachurches in town. Our elders said no. They are willing to put money into off-site churches in coffee bars or empty storefronts, happy to pour money into mission works in Michigan, Canada, and six or seven countries overseas, and thrilled to maintain a massive warehouse of clothes and food that serves between 30-90 families a week (good stuff, not hominy and hand-me-downs). But no more money for church buildings. Why?

They want the church to escape the building. They want us to go out and bring in the lost. They want us to find those who are different from us, care for them, love them, and, should they wish to worship with us, welcome them. So... what was an upper-income white church is rapidly becoming something else. A large percentage of our congregation has no background in the restoration movement and some worship services have 30-35% minority representation now. The poor, the punks, and the pierced sit beside old ladies with blue rinsed hair, people who came down the hall from their AA or NA meetings and found a worship going on, black, white, asian, and an amazing assortment of financial situations and emotional histories.

Small groups meet all over the county and beyond. Our own people are giving up their jobs to go into the mission field in numbers that, frankly, stuns me -- especially when I know that no one asked them to do this. It seems that once the church leaves the confines of the building -- using it as a gathering place and resource only and not the focus of church life -- things start happening that harken back to "daily and from house to house."

Our elders spend more of their time in prayer than in discussing budgets, staff, and next to no time at all mentioning the building and grounds. Men and women step up and serve, knowing that the elders are right there to love and support them. Staff are not afraid of criticism for when someone carps that "this isn't the way the church of Christ used to do things" the elders are there, standing up for them and making sure the people know that they are loved but they will not be allowed to drag the church backwards into the building.

They aren't going to read this, but know this: I pray for our elders every day and thank God I am allowed to serve with them. Agree with them all the time? Are you kidding? I don't agree with anybody all the time, including myself or She Who Must Be Obeyed. However, it is only speaking the truth to say that they have often been right when I doubted them. We may butt heads from time to time but we will never let go of each other or Jesus.

The most amazing thing about Christianity: when you really try it, it works. Amazing.


At 8/03/2005 02:59:00 PM , Blogger JD said...

I'm not sure why I came back again this afternoon to see if there was anything new...but I'm glad I did. We need more of this message. Well, I do for sure.

Signed, The Preacher Trying To Get Out of His Office and Doesn't Know How

At 8/03/2005 03:58:00 PM , Blogger TCS said...

Wow, Patrick. I am glad I stopped by this afternoon. I am teaching tonight (the second in a series) and this really helps. Last week I tried to discuss some very simple definitions. What is church? What is Faith? What is Grace? What is Worship? Yeah a lot for one night. A few left very "concerned" Particularly at our discussion of "the faith" and my diagram of what church is. I drew one diagram and they could NOT imagine any other way to diagram what church is.

Thanks again for feeding me.

At 8/03/2005 09:37:00 PM , Blogger salguod said...

I want a church lead by an eldership like this. I want a church with this vision.

At 8/04/2005 12:29:00 AM , Blogger Morris said...

Sounds like your elders know a basic truth. The church is not a building. It's all of us who believe on our Saviour. Too rare in this Laodicean age.

At 8/04/2005 06:59:00 AM , Blogger DJG said...

I too want this church. I am excited that people (leaders) are thinking this way....this is what my mind, my heart keeps telling me is right!

Thank you for sharing.

At 8/04/2005 08:09:00 AM , Blogger Jeff Slater said...

Having been raised in nearby Royal Oak, I am well-acquainted with the history of the Rochester Church (and with some of your elders). It does my heart good to see what that body of believers is doing for southeast Michigan.

Keep up the good work, Bro!


At 8/04/2005 08:47:00 AM , Blogger David U said...

Patrick, what a powerful witness to a group of Shepherds that are TRUELY shepherding!! Thanks for sharing the blessing you have with all of us. I gotta say (and I get the feeling a LOT of people CAN'T say this) that I feel the same way about the Shepherds at the congregation where I attend! They have chosen to model the Good Shepherd, and also the model of shepherding the Lord talks about in Ezekiel 34. Their goals are to walk in the steps of Jesus, and then do what the Lord asked the shepherds of Israel to do:
A) Bound up the injured
B) Bring back the strays
C) Search for the lost
D) Strengthen the weak

We are BUSTING at the seams, but I have not heard any plans to put money into a new building.

I am blessed to have these men as Shepherds. I know you are too!

At 8/04/2005 10:25:00 AM , Blogger Keith said...

Patrick. Thanks for sharing the examples of what I see is the NT pattern of true shepharding. You should be bragging about these Godly men. Because of this particular blog,(and some nudging from D.U.) I called one of the elders that I felt most comfortable talking to and set up a lunch today to discuss this exact issue. Unfortunately I'm not really close to any of our shephards(and I've been a member there for 28 years, and a past deacon), but that's another blog post. I pray that I can visit with an attitude of respect and humility as we discuss the direction that God would have us take. Thanks for the motivation, even if it does originate from eroded bits of brain cells. Keep blogging brother.

At 8/04/2005 02:53:00 PM , Anonymous Lee Hodges said...

I had lunch with our preacher today and we were just discussing how very bless we are to have such a great group of Elders who truly lead and who don't "rule". It is so encouraging to hear of your leaders. May God increase their number.

At 8/04/2005 03:50:00 PM , Blogger Cheetah, the cheetah said...

Unless something has changed since I last knew, I am proud that one of those elders of which you are so proud is my brother. I've been looking for a church like that for over two years but Jared tells me to look for a church that needs--us--rather than a church that already has what we want...definately food for thought....

At 8/04/2005 06:20:00 PM , Blogger That Girl said...

Now THAT'S what I'm talkin' about!

At 8/04/2005 09:13:00 PM , Blogger Hoots Musings said...

Working under an eldership like Patrick described is just awesome.

Our elders where I worship are true shepherds, caring for you every step of your journey.

At 8/04/2005 11:53:00 PM , Blogger jettybetty said...

This is so encouraging! I just love to hear stories where God is being honored like this. I believe this is what "church" should be!

At 8/05/2005 06:57:00 PM , Blogger Stephen said...

I'm not ashamed of it; it's just that I'm still a bit stunned that anyone wants to read the gravel washed eroded bits of brain cells that makes up this column.

Patrick you are always an interesting read. I do not know how to tell you how much of an inspiration you have been during some of the rough times here at Camp WaMaVa where I was ready to get on the train and go home to Ashtabula. Somehow amazingly you have been writing the things I seriously have needed to read in my role as Education Director here at camp.

Besides...Tim and Ron are allowed an institutional blog...but alas I am the only one seeming to write in it. I think my elders that I work for are some of the few that have gone along with the idea of a church having its own institutional blog.

And as to getting out of the building...I am trying to do that too...Tim and Ron have not been ready to go too far with that quite just yet!

At 8/22/2005 01:16:00 PM , Blogger Paula said...

In your post, paragraphs 3,4 and 5 sound just like what my church decided and what is happening now. Praise God, yes?


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