The Deebs wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving with your loved ones. We shall also pray for those of you who are alone and hurting during the holidays. We are so glad you are here.
I have read a number of books that Tim Keller has written. I’ve even listened to a couple of his podcasts along the way. A number of unchurched people in New York City have come to listen to him speak and a few have become Christians. I have also read a number of works written by Martin Luther as well as the Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin (and I am still not a Calvinist).
Yet none of these men are/were my pastors. As you will see, Tim Keller would agree that he is not the real pastor of his people as well.
I attended a mega church in my area. I thought the putative pastor did a decent job on some of his sermons. I listened to some of his podcasts and thought a few of his ideas for ministry had merit. I do not think I came within 10 feet of him in the 1 1/2 years I attended the church. I noticed he once smiled in my direction but I am not sure he was looking at me. He seems like a nice guy but I couldn’t say for sure..
He was not my pastor but I guess you could say he was the one running the church services I attended. I don’t believe that he ever intended on being my pastor.
I joined a church with about 650 members after attending it for 2 years. I’ve listened to the sermons which I have enjoyed. The two pastors started calling my husband and I by name after we had been attending for a few months. They would often shake our hands and ask how we were doing without being intrusive. They stood by me when an awful letter was sent about me to many church members and our synod. The pastor contacted us specifically to ask if we would consider being confirmation guides. I was able to do so but my husband couldn’t due to his schedule.The pastors show up to lots of gatherings in the church and walk around to talk to the folks. They will pray for you BY NAME if you wish during the actual church service.
They are my pastors.
A dear person suggested I audit a class on Pastoral Leadership at a Lutheran seminary to understand how they view pastors. They appear to see things very differently than today’s mega site, mega watt, dude bro churches. They believe that pastors should do funerals and weddings and be involved if someone is seriously ill in the hospital. They believe that pastors should get to know the people in their church. They actually want to be real pastors.
Sojourn Network, along with most mega church and groups, sees pastors differently than my church.
Executive pastors and their brand new, super duper lexicon and organizational methods.
In October 2017, the Sojourn Network posted Drinking Jet Fuel w/ Tim Keller. As soon as I read the the title, I knew I was about to be told that things were going to be rapidly changing in churches associated with the Sojourn Network. I attended Ed Young Jr’s Fellowship Church in Dallas for a couple of years. Just as he was about to go megachurch on us, he did a sermon in which he told us to hold onto the tail of a supersonic jet because that was what was going to happen to Fellowship Church. Big money, big buildings and big programs(along with a super big house for Ed) were on the agenda. We quickly left the church, having no intention of letting Ed be the pilot of our Christian walk.
Tim Belz, the author of the article, is (say the following with a serious voice) the strategist for the Sojourn Network. Now, call me naive but I think the strategy for doing church is well outlined in the Scripture by the ultimate strategist-God.
Tim, who was also an *executive* pastor for two of these churches, and the *consultant* for 80+ churches around the country (we are duly impressed) is all excited about the new *lexicon and organizational model* invented by Tim Keller for growing churches. It appears the lexicon for churches in the Scriptures is not enough. We need a 21st century new and improved lexicon invented by executive type pastors who build big churches.
He erroneously believes that growing churches like his are just like the church in Acts 2.
He says that today’s mega growth churches are like the church of Acts 2:42-47. Did you catch this? Today’s churches are just like the brand new church formed after the coming of the Holy Spirit. Let’s look at those verses.
42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.(NIV)
I disagree with his co-opting of the miracles associated with the early founding of the church for his own church network. First of all, most of today’s big churches do not get there by making new disciples. They get there by poaching each others’ church members. The two megas in my area are playing the “You start a church in that new development, and we will start one right around the corner” game. Both of those churches are taking members from church #3, and they are all members of the same denomination. This is absolute madness. The Sojourn Network is in no way similar to the Acts 2 church which involved true conversions not church transfers.
In 2013 I wrote Church Planting: Is It About the Gospel or Acquisitions?
Dr. Ross addressed the belief that mega churches appear to be growing. He emphasized two points from the book. Mega churches primarily grow by:
Transfer from other churches.
Baptisms of the children of church members.
In a Christianity Today article, Ed Stetzer, of LifeWay Resources, wrote an article to debunk the myth that new church startups merely swap sheep between churches here. However, his arguments were unconvincing. He used the pie chart which can be seen at the top of our post today. He claims:
So there it is– about 44% of new members at megachurches are from other local churches– not 60%, not 70%, and definitely not 95%. I hear people saying 90% and I agree that’s a myth. However, look closely at the chart. See if you can spot the difficulties as did David Fitch of Reclaiming the Mission link.
1.) Ed’s Statistics are Suspect. I suggest there’s a lot to question in these statistics. For example, Ed’s numbers could be interpreted to show that the mega churches’ congregations are at least 90% transfer growth (not 44%). I add up distant church transfers plus local church transfers plus dechurched transfers (people have left another church, it’s just been a while) and it comes to 90% of people who are coming to this church from another church in some way. Organic growth could also be transfer growth, people coming from another church that were just invited through relationships.
I am inclined to side with Fitch. I suspect that the day that Swindoll’s church opened, 95%+ were merely “let’s go to the cooler church” Christians. In fact the next morning, at my kid’s Christian school, there was the inevitable bragging that their families went to Stonebriar and actually met Swindoll. (Christian kids can be weird).
Belz agrees with Tim Keller that when a church grows, the pastor must cease being pastor and instead be an administrator.
How very odd. I thought that pastors were called to that role. It appears the role should be dumped if the church grows really quickly. Here is what Tm Keller says according to Belz.
For example, let’s say your church is on the cusp of moving from a small to medium sized church. Keller identifies 5 key changes that may need to be made:
1.multiplication options (more than one service, adding groups);
3.shifting decision-making power away from the whole membership;
4.becoming more formal and deliberate in assimilation,
5.and moving the lead pastor away from shepherding everyone to being more of an organizer/administrator.
Sadly, Belz goes on and on about all the organizational changes that must take place, which doesn’t sound at all like what happened in Acts 2:42-47. There is not one word about glad and sincere hearts who enjoy breaking bread together while being filled with awe at what was going on. His description sounds like the pharmaceutical company I used to work for. It was successful business, but it wasn’t a church.
As you enact some or all of these changes, they will prompt associated changes in your polity and governance. Specifically, most churches experience the need to separate governance and management functions…that often requires revisions to your bylaws. Beyond Keller – many medium size churches face “mission creep” in the start up of multiple new ministries to attract and retain newcomers.
Do you want pastors or do you want administrators and walking podcasts?
Ed Stetzer once described how he set up his role as a church pastor while also being in charge of all sorts of other more important things. We wrote about it in Ed Stetzer and the Four Fence Posts that Define His Ministry.
Here is what he had to say. It boils down to “the members do the work and leave him alone because he has more important things on his plate.” Needless to say, he didn’t stay there long. He was on to bigger and better things at Wheaton College.
“At Grace Church, there are three things and ONLY three things that I do: I meet with the staff/apprentices, I preach about 70% of the time, and I lead a small group in my home.
One of the benefits this boundary has brought to our church is that we are very clearly not a pastor-centered church. I’m very upfront with my role to my church. I explain I can’t do funerals, visits, phone calls, or meetings. This leaves the door wide open for our congregation to see areas of leadership where they are needed, and to respond accordingly.”
It is perfectly fine to go to your mega church but do not pretend that you have a real pastor. You have a walking podcast or perhaps a professor. However, if you want to be part of a church body where you actually know your pastor, look for a church that has less than 800 people with a pastor who likes being a pastor and is not trying to become just another ho-hum *administrator.*
Just because you go to a 7,000 member church does not mean you are in a successful church. You are merely getting people to transfer to your church because the music is cool and they have climbing walls for the kiddos. The question to ask yourself is this: Does your pastor really care about you? Better yet, does he know your name? Even more important, does it even matter to him? Is he really a pastor or merely a podcast with legs…