Here is something I have been thinking about.
In so many ways, we evangelical Christians have adopted the culture of the rest of America in forming the church, as opposed to the radically unusual world view that Jesus spoke so much about. You know, that "first shall become last" stuff. Pick up your cross and follow me? Be little, not big?
We have become a league of career climbers. We adore the large, the seemingly successful, the cool, the spiffy, the humongous.
This is for my pastor friends, those who would become pastors, and the like. Its also for all us lay people who take our leadership role in the church seriously. Recently, in my Internet wanderings, I came across this, which quotes letters written by Eugene Peterson, which I must quote nearly in whole:
“The one great advantage you have as a new church pastor is that you are forced to start small. Nothing is imposed on you. Determine that you will know every person, their names and whatever of their lives they are willing to let you in on. Be in their homes. Invite them into your home in small groups for an evening or lunch. The killing frost in too much new church development is forming programs that will attract people or serve their perceived ‘needs,’ getting them ‘involved.’ The overriding need they have is worship and that is the one thing that is lowest on their ‘needs’ list. Insist on it: keep it simple – learn to know every last one of them relationally. And call them to worship – and not entertainment worship, but a community at worship. Americans these days are not used to being treated that way, personally and apart from promotional come-ons. Religious entrepreneurism has infected church planting all over the country. When it is successful numerically (and if you are a good salesman and smile a lot it probably will be) you will end up with a non-church.”
And how about the greatest temptation when planting a church – and how do we avoid it:
“I’d say ambition. Church planters are tempted to do what it takes to succeed. Most of us grow up as competitors, competition is bred into our bones. And most of us are good at it. But the very nature of church – the Christian life – is to stay close to the ground that you are given, the people you are given, the Jesuw ho comes alongside of us. The temptation is to look for ‘leaders’ or ‘winners’ or look at people as ‘resources.’ That is not a mindset that cultivates patience with losers and the mediocre. Not that we don’t want to do our best, but unchecked ambition cripples us for dealing with the people who are right under our noses, the left-out and ignored. If we hold our competitive instincts on a short leash, we will probably stay small for a considerable time.”