Thursday, August 24, 2006

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 don't.


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."



At 3:15 PM, Anonymous Dirk Plantinga said...

Solid. Keep it up. I for one get something out of reading your point of view regardless of whether I agree with you or not. Now, I was figuratively kidnapped and strongly urged to adopt Calvinist theology - particular predestination, limited atonement, natural inability, irresistible grace and of course the perserverance of saints.

At 4:45 PM, Blogger judas icarus said...

Hey, did I ever tell you that I don't agree with everything you have stated here?

You want a list? I can email you! Wanna give me your cell phone number? C'mon.... !

Oh..... I see.... you've already figured out that most people will never agree 100% about anything, let alone everything.... haven't you?

Well, I thought I'd just bring it up... not really sure if I needed to.... but.... well...

Forensic salaries? Severance audits? And, all that other stuff.... hold on an eternity.... let me tell you what I think about all that....

Uh.... err.... ahh... hmmm.... neither one of us have that much time.... do we? : -)

Let me just say.... seriously, that I, at least, know you really have valid points of view and you back them up with concrete clarity... reinforced with biblical rebar and your life is clearly built on the solid Rock of Jesus Christ. That makes you a brother in Christ... and 'nuff said.

You go, girl.... you go!!!!!!!! :-)

With the kindest regards,

C. Evan Leonard

At 5:23 PM, Anonymous Nathan said...

Regarding the payment of ministers, don't you think we should pay ministers in proportion to average household bread winners ?

I believe that Foster's pay was determined by what the market (i.e. similar sized churches) afforded.

In other words, Pastor salaries are becoming similar to the business world where "talent" is secured by an escalating pay scale. To me that is disgusting and it has to be a stumbling block for many "real people" in the "real world." Shouldn't we avoid such a stumbling block with the very tithing and sacrifice that folks are making ?

Just because the money is coming in, it doesn't mean that valuable resources should be extended in such a way. Be creative, adopt a church in a third world country and see to some of that Pastor/ communities needs.

I understand that some "successful churches" are going to defy reason and establish disproportionate arrangements, but it shouldn't be a model to go by.

In general, I think too many churches try to clone what they see in other "successful churches" rather than relying on the Spirit's leading. This is a dangerous synergy than ammounts to the planning and wisdom of man.. er... "strategery."

At 6:33 PM, Blogger Jared said...

Dirk, thanks for the compliment. And I'll tiptoe through the TULIP with you any time, brother.

Chuck . . . um, yeah.
Hey, you know, Blogger blogs are free. Set one up and title it "Things I Disagree with Jared About." I'll even add you to the blogroll. ;-)

Now, see, that's why I don't talk about money. ;-)
Honestly, I think pastors ought to be able to support whatever size family they have in whatever area they live, have full medical and health insurance, be able to invest in some sort of long term retirement or savings account, and generally not have to worry about money.
Beyond that, salary should be determined by individual churches as individual congregations/leadership boards deem appropriate. I try not to get into how much is too much, because my too much could be someone else's too little, and my too little could be someone else's too much.

The American church in general, yes, has a problem with its addiction to affluence (or even the appearance of affluence). But I just don't get into the money thing, and that's seriously because for every one "rich" pastor there are four or five pastors whose congregations provide them with no family health insurance or who have to take second or third jobs just to pay their 2-bedroom house mortgage. I know a few such pastors personally.

I do agree with you, however, that how the church spends money in general is a pretty important issue. I'd be interested, for instance, in how much BCC spends on foreign missions in comparison to how much it spends on giant plastic iPods with plasma screens for the stage backdrop. ;-)

But that's a bone to pick another day.

At 7:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymouz said...

Jared said "I do agree with you, however, that how the church spends money in general is a pretty important issue. I'd be interested, for instance, in how much BCC spends on foreign missions in comparison to how much it spends on giant plastic iPods with plasma screens for the stage backdrop. ;-)"

Oh Jared,, why did you say that? now I have to know!!...I guess there is some comfort in knowing those ipods and plasma screens are the means to be a missionary to the good citizens of Nashville but... owie.... we could probably do without them and save some lives... It's really something to think about, but I wish you had not said it. I'm not sure I can stop thinking about it....

At 7:39 PM, Anonymous Nathan said...

Ah Jared,

I don't think we are terribly far apart. I wouldn't want to see any Pastor kept in poverty. I kinda suggested an average bread winner wage and considering that a minister deals with people from all walks of life he should live at a modest level that relates to the people.

Is average money not enough ? Like, is the 45k ( I'm guessing ) in Bellevue really not enough ? Are these average and below (that) average earners not successful ?

It's wildly successful, by global standards. It's just a matter of how much importance you place on "more" and how wise you are in your habits/ wants.

Sorry for the money laundering. Maybe Dave Ramsey is blogging tonight ?

At 5:04 AM, Blogger Richard said...

My brother, we live in a conspiratorial society where trust is rarely given. I, myself, feel betrayed by who I thought Dr. Foster was and what he has publicly demonstrated he is. You are a saint for trying to offer a forum for honest discussion. But you know they always kill the messenger.
I would like to comment on pastoral pay. For too long the church has failed to support her leaders. You might want to speak on Old Testament teaching on paying the priests with New Testament principles. I have always believed that a pastor should be paid a salary derived from the average salaries of the elder/church board. In return, a pastor should demonstrate good stewardship of both his finances and the church’s. Show me a man’s checkbook and his daily planner and I will show you where his heart is.

At 7:24 AM, Anonymous Chris said...

All right Jared.
You hit a nerve with talking about the iPods. Since those are my babies. Just kidding.

Actually, you'd all be pleasantly surprised at how much we spend on the sets for each series. It's really quite low. We are excellent stewards of our money and make a little go a LONG way. I'm not sure if at I'm at liberty to say how much money we spend. Not that it's not information everybody is entitled to know, just maybe not coming from me.

FYI... the BCC budget I'm pretty sure is available upon request from the Info Table in the BCC Atrium.

Any other comments/questions on the sets at BCC?

--Chris Thomas
BCC Technical Director

At 10:22 AM, Anonymous Chris said...

I thought of something else that is related to your comment about the iPods and foreign missions.

I'm a firm believer that the mission field is not only that of foreign location. Our own community is a mission field. Willow Creek is an awesome model of a church that helped it's own community and grew and now because they are heathy in how they serve their own community, God has blessed them in their world outreach. I recently went over to Germany with the Willow Creek Association. And the work they are doing internationally is absolutely amazing.

But you have to make sure that your home is healthy first. Bill West came up with some interesting facts about here in Bellevue. He did some research and found out that the population of Bellevue is 35,000. He also called around to the chruches in the Bellevue area and got their attendance. All of the chruches combined came up to a number of 5,000. Now, let's maybe factor in an extra 1,000 people just for unregistered or whatever. The point is is that we're only reaching 6,000 people of 35,000. Bellevue is a huge mission field!! One that we need to take more seriously. Bill also had Jeff Franks, the BCC Youth Pastor do research. Jeff found out that of all the schools that serve the Bellevue area, the student population is 10,000. And of all the churches combined with their student involvement, it's less than 1,000. So good Lord. Our students need the attention.

In my opinion, we can't justify spending money on foreign missions when there's a huge need right here in Bellevue. And like someone else said, those iPods and the other sets and all of the other creative ideas we come up with at BCC all play an integral part in reaching out to the community.

At 10:51 AM, Blogger judas icarus said...

Well, I don't guess it's easy to debate the whole "mission field" thing.... but take Cross Point Community Church (the entity that has grown rather rapidly and was the advent of a much unpublicized split at BCC a few years ago) and you will find that they are already doing pretty serious foreign mission work with an even smaller congregation/tithes/offerings budget to work with than BCC. And, they are sort of hip and cool and do neat things at their services to remain contemporary, I suppose.

So, it could be fair to say that sets and big screens and cameras and all that are integral... but I guess the question really is "how integral" to the larger mission of a church.

To say BCC would not be healthy with out it's sermon-accesories is a little tough to really swallow. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, just.... is it really the best thing to spend tithes/offerings on? And how long is a long way? Really tough stuff to debate and declare for some.

I would probably be called a reactionary if I were to compare the contemporary church with Jesus (in his time) regarding outreach and mission work. But, he did quite a lot without the bells and whistles, frills and accessories that contemporary churches seem to think are nearly impossible to work without. Especially, in the mission field of discipleship.

Substance, over style, should be and most always is a much stronger argument when you're talking Jesus. At least, for me.

That whole debate on how to reach people is quite the can of worms. I guess we would have to build a fishing hole "set" to really deliver the most transparent message, eh?

But, I do hear you, Chris... and you know I've been one to want to reach more people with the powerful worship music I believe exists but has been overlooked at BCC... and that, too, takes money. It would reach people locally and globally. So, which and what is the highest priority of a church looking to steward it's finances? And, what is reeally necessary and what isn't?

hold on a minute..... I think..... hey, I just got a bite.... unnhhh.... whoa.... c'mon boy.... come to daddy.... -reel...reel....reel...... ahh.... gotcha now....

wow.... It's a 2,000 pound, 2000 year old dilemma.... it's gonna look good on my mantle.... yea.... what a catch.... : - )

reel hope for reel people living in the reel world,

C. Evan Leonard


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