Q&A's and FAQ's
You've got questions; I've got semi-coherent babbling. ;-)
Seriously, though, the questions I'm attempting to answer below fall into one of two categories: either they've been asked of me enough that I thought bringing a response to them to the main page was merited, or, even if asked only once, they were thoughtful and important enough to merit a response shared with everybody.
Disclaimer: If you haven't noticed by now, this is one little guy with one little blog. I'm not on church staff, and I don't speak for the elders or the staff, and I don't mean to speak for them. What I offer here are my personal opinions and appraisals, not an official reflection of anything I know will be done or that I am even expecting to be done. The Church universal is infinitely bigger than BCC, and BCC is much bigger than little ol' me. I don't join any church so that I might see it made after my image, and I see my entrance into a local body of believers more in terms of my own submission to the Church and to community than in terms of my personal preferences being fed back to me.
So there's that.
Why don't you talk about the independent forensic audit? Why don't you mention the Fosters' salaries? Why haven't you mentioned the severance package? Why aren't you talking about the Crazy Campaign?
The answer to all of these questions is basically the same. I know that money is a very touchy issue, and it's just not something I care to focus on. I fully realize that people who have invested their hard-earned dollars in the church want some accountability regarding the results of that investment. I don't mean to dismiss that at all.
But for the purposes of this site, money is not my concern. I trust that the results of the audit will be shared publicly when they are finally received and analyzed. While the appearance of financial misdeeds concerned me, as it would anybody, I considered those concerns minor compared to the larger issues involved in the reasons for this conflict.
In addition, I'm not concerned about pastoral pay, because, honestly, I think ministers should be paid very well. Provided a minister is a true servant leader who is fulfilling his duties honorably and sufficiently, I'm not a fan of the "let's make 'em suffer for Jesus" philosophy of ministerial compensation. Maybe it's because I have several pastor friends who eat, sleep, and breathe their congregations and can barely make ends meet.
How do we move BCC forward and help her be better at training the "beginners" in what it means to have a real walk with Jesus? How do we educate , and teach how to be a good servant?
Ah, now there's a real meat-and-potatoes question integral to the forward movement of our church. (I want to personally thank the lady who emailed this question for her patience, because I have taken too long to get around to answering it.)
My answer is simple and complex at the same time. It is essentially my answer to the "why?" of nearly every problem with the American church. That answer is that we have a pulpit problem. We do not lack for dynamic, talented, and even biblically informed teachers. We just aren't equipping folks, at the weekend service entry point, to go beyond themselves and into the life of discipleship.
More than once a few folks have bandied about the phrase "What you win them with is what you win them to." This is a very good truth, and it predates our situation by a good stretch. The fall-out of the "seeker church" movement began several years ago, as younger generations of Christians and more mature Christians of older generations together began to realize there was more to doing church than business models, entertainment, and pragmatic ecclesiology.
The real question is: How do you measure success? Is it just numbers? Is it dollars? Is it profile and influence?
If it's any of those things, how a church does church will be at least a little different than if the measure of success is "bringing people to Christ and growing them into fully-developed followers." Churches, by the biblical standard, should be doing both.
I think most folks "in the know" realize BCC has been a revolving door church for quite some time. We exist to put on a fantastic weekend service which can serve as an entry point for those seeking spirituality. The problem is, that's all we got. And that is a problem. Because if all we're giving is a weekend service for water-testers and the only need we're awakening in them is for that service, we're not only not growing disciples, we're starting people off on a discipleship to something other than Jesus.
We have to, somehow -- and I can elaborate on how I think it could be done better in a later post -- create in our weekend service a call not just to "successful Christian living," but a to entrance into the kingdom community. The need for growth that centers on following Jesus as a church has to be part of the invitational approach of the weekend service. What you win them with, you win them to. So if a service is as deep as your Gospel goes, you're going to get folks who only go as deep as a service. But if a service goes as deep as Jesus Christ and His church as the vehicle for discipleship, then you're going to get folks who are won to the life of the church.
This doesn't mean a return to old-fashioned, boring sermons. This doesn't mean suddenly we aren't relevant to people's "everyday lives." Look, no one has to make the Bible relevant. The Bible's already relevant. There is such a thing as energetic, inspiring, touching, dynamic, and interesting speaking that makes the main thing the main thing. It's not like alliterative, fill-in-the-blanks topical preaching suddenly grabbed a monopoly on effective homiletics.
This is a holistic approach. From the worship to the general presentation to the preaching. What are we really trying to do? It has less to do with style and everything in the world to do with presenting a biblical Gospel in our services. Is the music designed to entertain or only to create a fun, lively environment? Or is it meant to draw people into contact with the living God through worship? There's nothing wrong with entertaining or having fun or being "contemporary." I personally prefer those things to the alternatives of boredom and stale traditionalism. But, hey, as far as entertainment goes, I can find a lot better on TV or at the cineplex. And the average seeker will too. Superficial mediums and superficial messages create superficial disciples. I hope we all agree we don't want that.
So, from the weekend stage, there has to be an over time developed invitation to and an in-biblical-context stressing of the need for all the things the average BCCer has expressed no interest in -- the sacraments, community, use of spiritual gifts, spiritual growth and the ongoing work of discipleship training, etc. What specific ways this will be carried out is not for me to say or speculate over. But I have heard this need is realized by our current leadership.
So the answer to the question is simple and complex. It's as simple as being solved at the same point of entry we've been working on perfecting for years, but it's as complex as all the hard work and forethought that will go into making a spiritually growing church realized.
How do we get the "lines of communication" to stay open at BCC so that people feel there is an outlet in/out of the church to discuss where we are going/should go/ etc in our growth, faith, teachings, etc?
That's a really good question, too.
First of all, I think some of this communication deficit would be solved simply by the existence of community. Our church does not currently experience community on a by-the-numbers significant level; therefore, we tend to feel disconnected or unheard. Everybody seemed fine with how things were going in the church office and on the elder board until a tough decision had to be made. Suddenly everyone wanted to know everything everybody was saying, doing, and thinking. It's understandable.
It's also a bit unreasonable. We are a large church with a busy staff. It would be impossible for every individual who had a concern to get their concern addressed directly by someone on staff or in leadership. There's only so many minutes in a day, and if you've ever worked on the staff of a large church, you know the demands can consume your available time like Cookie Monster does Chips Ahoy.
So in general, this feeling of disconnection and getting lost in the system is an extension of the sort of discipleship culture BCC is creating. When you exist for a one-hour gathering, you're going to have lots of folks who are interested in the life of the church feeling lost the other 6 days and 23 hours of the week. But if we can make some serious efforts at cultivating first a need for community -- and, folks, that's just not done by making some Conexus groups and hoping people sign up; it's something that has to be taught consistently and urged as part of the Gospel proclamation from the stage -- then we will have people experiencing developing community and thereby feeling "connected" to the life of the church.
The other angle of this question, of course, is just that "How do I know I'm being heard?" thing. I've sent emails to the church office that have gone unreturned. I know I'm not the only one. I don't have a handle on exactly why this happens except to speculate on two things: a) given the size of our congregation, we actually have a relatively small staff, so it's inevitable not every contact will be addressed in a timely fashion, and b) in terms of the previous leadership structure, the need for real direction in how to shepherd the needs of the congregation was just problematic to say the least. Part of the reason for this conflict stems from disengaged leadership when it was needed most and over-controlling leadership when it was needed least.
There are some simple ways to rectify this disconnect. Suggestion boxes have been suggested. There can be more attention paid to the general info email link on the church website. We used to make it a point in the service to direct folks to the perforated card, on which they could list prayer requests or other notes and then place in the blue buckets.
What we need to correct this problem is two things: some designated system in place to receive, acknowledge, and reply to inquiries, and perhaps more importantly, congregational inquirers who will be patient with the developing system and not expectant of being catered to. Because, let's face it, for every person who wants to voice their interest in a consistent midweek service, there's two or three who think we should repaint the bathrooms or serve free trade coffee in the atrium or have the pastors shaking hands at the exits. Or whatever. Not every request is reasonable, or even if its reasonable doable, so to some extent, while communication should be improved, the leadership's need to respond to every congregational whim cannot be one of the aims of better communication.
Did you create this site to get a job? Do you want to be the lead pastor?
The answer to both is no. A bajillion times no. I created this site for the reason(s) I've already given multiple times. Instead of just asking me the same question again, why not just call me a liar. I'd respect you more.
And I have absolutely zero -- no, less than zero -- interest in being a lead pastor anywhere, at any time. It's not even in my mind. Even the suggestion is ludicrous, not just because it's nowhere in my interest or ambition but also because, have you seen the qualifications required in the pastor search ad? The sort of dude they're looking for and the sort of dude I am don't even live in the same solar system.
No, BCC is going to hire somebody who's actually good, you can count on that. ;-)
Why must you try and convert every person to your way of thinking?
Well, last I checked, I hadn't yet kidnapped anyone and forced them to read the blog.
If you mean, Why must you explain your points and defend your claims and actually stand for your convictions?, my answer is "because I want to."
I know that doesn't satisfy, but then, there's no satisfying this commenter anyway.
Isn't the notion of the seeker church wrong anyway? Isn't true that it is God who seeks the lost, not the other way around?
This is a hardcore theological question, and from the perspective of my personal theology, and as far as they go, my answer to the first is "Sort of" and to the second is "Yes."
I hate to bring up the Calvinism thing again, but I do believe the Bible teaches that God has chosen us, and in fact, it is impossible for man to choose God prior to God's choosing man. (You don't have to believe that, btw, and I have lots of friends and family who don't, so it's not a make-or-break deal for me liking you or anything. ;-) But I can only answer from my perspective, not anybody else's.) But see, that's all in the economy of God's sovereignty over human salvation. On our playing field, imperfect humans issue a Gospel call and fellow imperfect humans respond or don't. So, yeah, technically speaking, it is God who does the seeking. But, yeah again, practically speaking, there are people who are looking for God.
I like what the great preacher Charles Spurgeon once said when asked why he invited people to get saved if he believed everyone who was predestined would get saved anyway. Spurgeon said that if he knew that elect people had yellow stripes down their backs, he'd go up and down the streets, lifting shirts and preaching to whoever had a yellow stripe. But they don't, so he doesn't.
Similarly, it is God's business who's elect and who's not. Not mine or yours. Our job, as the Church, is to call the world to repentance and to proclaim the wonder and beauty and excitement and adventure and burden-lifting and, best of all, freedom-from-sin offer of the life of citizenship in Jesus' eternal kingdom. To the extent that a local church can act as a prophet of this kingdom to people expressing interest in filling that God-shaped hole, I'm a fan of the "seeker church" as it was originally pioneered (not necessarily as it has become).
What do you think of The Gathering thing?
I hope that answers most of your frequently asked questions. Please keep asking them in comments or via email (jaredcwilson AT yahoo DOT com). I will do my best to keep making my fellow BCCers feel "heard."