April 19, 2014

Hooray for Shaun King!

Last night I read that Shaun King resigned on September 1 as pastor of Courageous Church in Atlanta, GA. Here’s what he said to the congregation:

After much prayer and many discussions with my family, friends, and mentors, I have decided that it is time for me to transition out of my role as Lead Pastor of Courageous Church.  These three years have been the most meaningful, fulfilling, exciting years of my life and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

I thank God that I am not stepping down in shame or scandal, but it is clear that God is calling Rai and I to take our family in a direction that is just significantly different than what most in the church are asking for.  Over the past 6 months I have taken Courageous Church down a difficult, counter-cultural road in an earnest attempt at building true disciples.  It’s been rough.  All but a few families are now yearning to go back to a traditional Sunday focused system and I am sure that I am not the person to lead you there.

I know this will cause many mixed emotions, but just know that I am making this decision out of a sincere desire to never lead you in a direction that I don’t actually believe in myself.

I did not know King before reading about this decision, but he has apparently made quite a name for himself. Calling himself a “techie-humanitarian,” his website notes that he has launched nearly a dozen different successful startups designed to help empower and show compassion to hurting people throughout Atlanta, as well as Haiti and other developing nations. He has won numerous awards and has been the subject of articles in many major periodicals and media outlets.

One of his entrepreneurial efforts resulted in a “successful” church plant known as Courageous Church.

Shaun King described Courageous Church as a “super cool Sunday worship-service-centered church with 700 people.”  The church was intentionally diverse, with a mixed race congregation, and it was viewed as one of the cutting edge churches in the city. In developing the plant, King followed the advice of church growth experts who counseled him to focus on making the Sunday morning service a special, dynamic “worship experience.” This, they told him, is what draws people and keeps the church exciting and growing. Looking back, Shaun King now says, “I sold my soul for church attendance in our first week and I could never quite get it back.”

When he realized it had all been a mistake, that everything revolved around the Sunday morning “show,” and that the church was not making disciples or looking anything like Jesus and the priorities of his ministry, he tried to change things. He tried to transform the congregation from their Sunday morning focused program into a community based in small groups that would meet monthly for large group celebrations. People responded well to his sermons about this. His leadership helped set up the structure.

Within three months, he lost 85% of his congregation.

And as of this month, he has stepped down from pastoral leadership in the congregation.

Hooray for Shaun King! He has proven himself perhaps the most courageous member of Courageous Church. He was willing to say, “The emperor has no clothes,” even when it cost him his ministry. He had enough insight to see that megachurch Christianity bears little resemblance to anything seen in the NT, that “church growth” principles may build American cultural Christianity but can be deadly for the way of Christ.

As he himself put it:

What I am saying is that church attendance, Sunday morning services, sermon-listening (or even sermon preaching), song-singing, hand-clapping, amen-saying and all the other things that “Christ-ians” have lifted up so high look so little like Christ himself that I am utterly convinced that we are completely off base with what discipleship means. Considering all of this, I think I have given up on church as I knew it. Big buildings. Huge crowds.  Few disciples. I’m not with it. It’s inefficient and just doesn’t feel right with my soul. This is not a rejection of big buildings or huge crowds, but an indictment on how few disciples are being made in the process of it all. A better way has to exist.

 

Comments

  1. Several pastors I know would love to do what he has done if they could only figure out how to pay the bills if they left. I’m suspicious they’re only the tip of the iceberg.

    • Tom Huguenot says:

      Sam, hundreds, if not thousands, of pastors serve Christ in very difficult circumstances in Africa, Latin America or even Western Europe. For them, paying the bills or even putting food on the table IS a real and daily challenge…

      What Shaun did certainly requires some guts. On the other hand, while we can rejoice he stopped, we should also ask ourselves “why did the mega-churh model even started?”.

    • Perhaps they should go get real jobs… (ducks and covers)

      • Don’t duck and cover too much. Making tents did work out OK for one guy…

        • Exactly the point, ONE GUY. Many of these pastors have a wife and kids to support. College tuition, health care, and any other modern day neccesity cost a lot of money!

          • Well, my father was a pastor (still is, actually), and for most of the time he’s pastored he’s had to work other jobs. My mom worked most of the time as well.

            My comment was partially a joke, although there was some truth to it. I’ve met some kids who go to Bible college simply because they think it would be a fun and easy job to go out and be a youth pastor or worship pastor. The only problem is so do all the other kids they’re graduating with. So there’s all these people who have degrees that are worthless in the real world left looking for a job. I just think if people can do something else rather than be a pastor, they should. Only if the call is burning so intense in them that they can really do nothing else should they be a pastor.

          • Phil I knew a guy who joined Campus Crusade for Christ because he didn’t know what else to do with his life. Quite a calling…. Kind of like the way some people want to be missionaries in Africa, etc.. They don’t know what to do and they like the attention that comes along with being a “mishey..” 8-O

          • Actually, I consider college and health care, as we now know them, to be the equivalent of megachurchianity- huge overhead, not a sustainable system, people being thrown under the bus, etc etc.

          • Phil: frankly, your description of Bible college sounds like the reality of grad school in the sciences these days too.

      • Why? You have a nice comfy job, with a big office and a staff to serve you. Someone needs to hold that chair down and prevent it from floating away… ;-)

    • I wonder if this is why some people have “moral failures” as a means to get out of the situation. It definetly is a way out…

  2. Good for you Shaun. A tough but necessary lesson all Christians learn in various ways.

    “A better way has to exist.”

    Amen. And that way is the same as the first moment faith kindled in your heart. Just trust Jesus…it really is that simple…and that hard.

  3. that was one of the most inspiring testamonies i have ever heard. i don’t know anything about his guy either, but i pray that he finds his vocation in God and continues to work the work of the kingdom. i also pray that it gives many other people courage to make these difficult choices.
    “sermon-listening (or even sermon preaching), song-singing, hand-clapping, amen-saying and all the other things that “Christ-ians” have lifted up so high look so little like Christ himself that I am utterly convinced that we are completely off base with what discipleship means.” that spells out my own personal struggle with church. i don’t how things should look like either, which is why i never became a pastor. i just felt strongly that i couldn’t achieve anything abiding within this scenario. i feel that even preaching sermons has become just another consumer commodity. something deeply significant is missing.
    i still believe in preaching, but it is not the backbone of the service that people tend to think it is.

    • In the circles I moved…I wished I could have found community and the means to discuss difficult stuff. I learned that not many Bible studies want to wrestle with the problem of evil. Church was for social life. A means of meeting someone, dating, social activities, etc.,., It was shallow as hell and had little meaning. Who knows..if I found a culture that was not shallow and had substance, intellectualism and genuine love…would I have lost my faith? I don’t know…maybe I would have responded differently than throwing away my Christian material.

      • Eagle, i value yout commentary on this blog. your continued desire to join in on this discussion is important to all of us.
        i became a christian at a bible study by a retired counsellor who posted his services (mainly marriage counselling) at several churches of all demoninations. the people at the study were from every walk of life, from very rich to unemployed. they were catholic, penticostal, baptist, among other churches. and they all had the same thing in common: they were all broken people who had nothing left but honesty with each other to bring to the home group every week. that group lasted another 4 years before it was closed for good.
        since then i have encountered every rediculous thing imaginable within christian community, and i have witnessed a lot of destruction and grief at the hands of much bad christian culture. some people very close to me have had their lives ruined. yet, those early days kept me together all this time.
        when i think of people who grew up, or experienced a conversion, within some of the stifling and ignorant christian cultures out there i feel horrified. i too fell into stupid things at times. word faith for awhile, and preaching king james only and promoting kenneth copeland and crowd. stuff like that. but i had the foundation to get beyond it, because i was blessed to see the truth in action with my own eyes.
        i can tell you that there is the real thing out there. i have seen it and my life will never be the same.
        i often ask myself why God would let people be hurt so bad in the very place where His name is supposed to be. it’s a hard thing. i ask, “why was i so fortunate to have met so many great people?” but i don’t have the answers.

  4. This was clearly an unpopular decision, and he made it out of conviction. Courageous indeed. Here’s hoping that the many who came for the “dynamic worship experience” will see his example of repentance here and reconsider their own theology of worship.

    • When I read his story and visited his website I was impressed. I have a deep amount of respect for this pastor. There are not many I can say that about. Too many are narcissistic and bask in the glow of attention. The world revolves around them (given how the church is about science in its history maybe I shouldn’t say that….) and they let it be known. But I get the gut feeling that this guy is the real deal and genuine. As an agnostic all I can do is grant him respect for pulling the plug. if I knew more people like this than maybe I could believe again. Too often I felt sick at the facade and circus that modern Christianity has become. I could not see this happeneing at McLean Bible or other fundegelical churches I was involved in. There is too much power…too much pride and bloated egos that would prevent that from occurring.

  5. On one hand he should be congratulated for identifying and removing the “show”. However, was his alternative any better?

    Once a month gather? Should we not routinely gather to hear the word, rightly preached, careful to distinguish law and gospel? Should we not gather to be called to repentance by the law, hear the proclaimed gospel for the comfort of our anguished souls, and receive the sacraments? Instead, small groups, where the passages are discussed as to “what I think it means” and “it makes me feel” are used. Should we not be called to grow in our vocations of father, husband, son, employee and loving those around? Defining those relationships and our position in those relationships as a given child of God.

    I would be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt but when the marks of the church, the word and sacrament are missing (which it seems they are at best diminished in frequency based on the description), my alarms go off.

    • “given” I meant forgiven child of God.

    • Rob, I am not necessarily endorsing the methods he was moved to try. However, his concern for serious discipleship and his assessment of the megachurch culture appear right on.

      • Sure his assessment may have been right on, but it appears the remedy was worse than the cure. Rob’s point is perfectly valid. The pastor may have kept his integrity, but he went from one misguided problem to another misguided solution. Lose – Lose

        • I have much sympathy for what you are saying. After all, I am out of that evangelical “make it up as you go along” system now.

        • PB, The only lose was that the congregation preferred the Sunday morning extravaganza over interpersonal, face to face fellowship–which is where real discipleship happens. Sermons have their place, but they should be the exception rather than the rule.

          T

    • Exactly, Rob. Pendulum swung all the way.

    • I believe that the model he was going towards was not Church every Sunday gathered in a building, but church in their homes around a table, eating together, worshiping and serving their community as smaller groups of disciples every week.

      I’m not sure how meeting in smaller groups that are actually discipling followers is a lose, lose? Isn’t this how the early church met? Home churches… certainly not a new concept.

    • What I read in the post was this;

      He tried to transform the congregation from their Sunday morning focused program into a community based in small groups that would meet monthly for large group celebrations.

      Communities of small groups meeting through the week that would then all meet monthly for a celebratory time. Routine gathering was constantly taking place.

      T

  6. “Big buildings. Huge crowds. Few disciples.”

    This sounds just like Isaiah chapter one to me. God condemns Israel for trampling his courts, burning incense, singing hymns, lifting hands, etc. but all with blood on their hands. God declares he will not listen to their prayers; their “worship” has become a burden to him. He finally tells them “stop doing evil, learn to do good.” God was NOT interested in their worship service; what he wanted was followers.

    Good for Shaun, thank you Mike.

  7. “I sold my soul for filling the pews and never got it back…”

    And this young man had the courage to back up the train that was going 100 mph…in the wrong direction.

    Which may beg my question: What is the appeal of large and trendy worship based fundamental churches (or, more acuratly, the men leading them) that does such a great job of recruiting potential Christians, but then cannot “close the deal” in making these new recruits Christians?

    • Pattie, I think it is in great part because following God was never meant to be anything where a deal should be “closed”. The appeal to the big mega churches is that they are cool, they are trendy, they make people feel good for a time. Why do we go to a concert or a movie? To get away from our everyday lives and feel different for a bit. The church I attend is a traditional liturgical type church (not crazy liturgical, but we follow the church year, we have liturgy). We have old people, young people, middle aged people. What is the biggest complaint people have? They get bored. They want something more upbeat, something more fun. But, as this young pastor discovered, when you do that, you have to keep reinventing yourself, keep upping the ante or people still get bored, and then you aren’t the coolest church ever any longer.

      Following God is not something that is a one time deal, like buying a new car. Marketing works to sell products; God isn’t a product. Unfortunately, we’ve allowed God to become just another product that we have to market in a world full of marketing. We try to sell the product and “close the deal”. IMO, getting rid of the marketing mindset would do wonders to make disciples and allow some true Christian compassion and love to flourish. Right now, I identify myself as a Christian, but when I converse with many of may fellow believers, I can’t help but think that I do not belong there.

      • “you have to keep reinventing yourself, keep upping the ante or people still get bored, and then you aren’t the coolest church ever any longer”

        and

        ” Marketing works to sell products; God isn’t a product. Unfortunately, we’ve allowed God to become just another product that we have to market in a world full of marketing. We try to sell the product and “close the deal”. IMO, getting rid of the marketing mindset would do wonders to make disciples and allow some true Christian compassion and love to flourish. Right now, I identify myself as a Christian, but when I converse with many of may fellow believers, I can’t help but think that I do not belong there.”

        –Extremely well-put, Suzanne. My thoughts exactly.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      And this young man had the courage to back up the train that was going 100 mph…in the wrong direction.

      And is apparently in the process of getting run over by it.

    • A million friends, missionary opportunities galore. Other possibilities included hanging out in the cafeteria or grabbing a coffee before church. And then there is the prestiege that goes with saying where you drink the kool-aide. Trust me…I drank the kool aide by mouth, IV and catheter. Many fundys like numbers.

  8. YAY for Shaun for having not only the courage, but the insight to recognize that vibrant worship alone does not make a congregation….more importantly, it does NOT make disciples. I have witnessed time and time again the culture of co-dependency created by the “dog and pony” show style of worship. Worship without sound spiritual formation leading toward authentic discipleship (marked by a natural outpouring of service) is just a show, and it does nothing but enable what I have come to affectionately refer to as “pew potatoes” who are not really worshiping God, but tend to worship the vibrant and charismatic pastor is some sort of cult of personality. “I’m here to get my Pastor ______ fix.” or “It’s Pastor ______________or nothing,” are the telltale signs of said cult. Congratulations to Shaun for seeing the truth in the misguided advise of so-called worship experts and for standing in what he knows is a more authentic path….the one that teaches what Jesus taught – empowered discipleship.

    Lauri Lumby
    Authentic Freedom Ministries
    http://yourspiritualtruth.com

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      And what happens when a Bigger, Flashier, and Trendier show comes to town?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        And why did Emerson Lake & Palmer’s “Karn Evil Nine” start looping in my head right after I posted the above?

        “WELCOME BACK MY FRIENDS
        TO THE SHOW THAT NEVER ENDS!
        WE’RE SO GLAD YOU COULD ATTEND!
        COME INSIDE! COME INSIDE!”

    • But those pew potatoes are people. And many times they’re just folk who want to be decent people. And going to church for them is part of being decent people. They don’t want to be intense or 110% committed or whatever the terms are these days. They just want to do their duty, go to church, maybe get stimulated while they’re there and then go back home.

      • Was that satire, Cermak?

        If being “decent people” is what’s it’s about, then Jesus wasted his blood.

        T

        • No, it wasn’t satire. It was honesty., This is why some people go to church. Not that they don’t, I suppose (who can really know what’s in people’s hearts) believe in a salvific effect from the Resurrection, but for some folk it really is about trying to be decent people.

  9. Wow. My prayers will be with Shaun and his family. Thank God for a pastor who truly desires to make a kingdom impact, and won’t compromise kingdom principles in the process.

    Great works aren’t always big and popular. Cudos to a courageous pastor!

    • Kingdom principles…sure. Great works? You mean only gathering as a church once a month and instituting small groups “I think what the Bible is saying to me…” as nearly the sole contact with the Church? No I disagree. Fine line between courageous and foolish.

      • This pastor has balls. I will say that and he has my respect. Maybe if more were like him the church would be different today.

      • Who says that small groups have to be full of “I think what the Bible is saying to me…”? I’ve been a part of several small groups that have intensely focused on the Word. Right now, we are studying Proverbs with a book that encourages us to mark up our Bibles, find key words, make connections, and sincerely read and understand scripture. We pray for each other and encourage each other.

        I don’t really think I see a problem with meeting with the overall large group once or twice a month either. You can worship, learn, and grow with a smaller group shepherded by and with a larger group and leaders. Not only pastors are capable of understanding God’s word and properly applying it.

  10. I know nothing about Shaun King, but I am sick and tired of pastors who have the authority to make dramatic, life changing decisions which effect not only themselves but hundreds or thousands of other people. This phrase “Within three months, he lost 85% of his congregation.” upsets me greatly.

    • Allen, it’s not Shaun King’s church it’s Jesus’ Church. The same Holy Spirit that prompted Shaun to leave will provide what the believers in that church need after he’s gone. One plants seed, the next waters …. etc. God will keep working in this world.

    • I think the the power a congregation has over a pastor is much greater than any power a pastor has over a congregation in all but pretty rare cases. People can and do choose to leave churches all the time, and it has minimal impact on their lives. Congregations can make pastors lives a living hell.

      • The ability of congregants to leave a religious community is a very important check on the power of any individual church. The Collinsville decision pretty much spelled out that the power of withdrawing from a community resides in the individual and that even such things as church discipline cannot continue after a person withdraws.

        It’s the most important right any faith community’s people have…the power to leave.

    • I do have questions about the wisdom of introducing such dramatic changes in so brief a period of time. On the other hand, congregations that demand new stimulation all the time shouldn’t be so averse to change. Evangelical pastors are in a tough position. They are expected to be “dynamic” and “visionary.” But when they introduce dynamic changes, people leave.

      It’s one of those pastoral matters that left me disillusioned with the evangelical system.

  11. I almost kind of wonder… If he has already “driven off” 85% of the congregation, then why bother resigning? I mean, obviously he has already paid the price for sticking to his guns and is whoever is left is probably ready to follow his lead. It seems the huge loss of numbers provides the perfect opportunity to restructure and change focus. But I guess maybe the 15% who were left weren’t that interested in it either…

  12. After reading this post and the comments I read the following:

    “Personally, my friend, I would rather be numbered among the ragged few who learn joyful service from Jesus than among the legalizers, moralizers and hairsplitters who build monuments of religious correctness…..then cannot see over them to a child of God in need.”

    Brennan Manning – The Ragamuffin Gospel

    It’s not exactly, but it was the last line that got me. So many do so much to “grow”, “do”, etc. And what is lost in the meantime? The ability to “see” over their “growth” and their “doing” to the child of God in need. Whatever that may look like.

    Prior to those words Brennan said this:

    “The unglamorous and little-noticed works of mercy, feeding and sheltering, visitng the sick and incarcerated, educating, correcting, encouragement, bearing wrongs, counseling, comforting and praying with people embody the kingdom lifestyle.”

    For this girl, that’s got the narrow road written all over it. I pray for unglamorous and little-noticed. Why? Because it’s not what I desire naturally. I’m a worldy believer with selfish motives. Lord have mercy!

    Good for Shaun!

  13. David Cornwell says:

    I know nothing about the man but do have to admire him for his realization that the entertainment=church growth model is fundamentally flawed and will eventually decay from within. People seeking stimulation and more stimulation can go elsewhere, indeed a lot of places. When the church abandons the gospel, it will soon lose it’s relevance.

  14. Isaac Rehberg (the poster occasionally still known as Obed) says:

    This isn’t necessarily a response to what King has done, but the whole discipleship thing has got me thinking a lot lately. I just finished Robert Webber’s Ancient-Future Evangelism which was inspired by a bishop or someone at a major evangelism conference lamenting that the Church has become a “mile wide and an inch deep” due to a lack of discipleship. But the thing about discipleship is that it is a LOOOOONG process in which gaining momentum is really difficult. Any church that wants to get serious about discipleship has to be willing to expect really, really slow results at first. Serious patience is needed to get things going in the right direction. I’d be that 85% loss in 3 months would be pretty typical.

    Or so Webber says.

    • “…a mile wide and an inch deep…” AWESOME….concise and all too true.

      I totally agree with all who have commented on the marketing of Jesus…..especially under the guise of marketing the show and the amenities at FunForALL Spirit-Filled Truth of the MiddleClass. (Now with Chai Lattes at the Coffee Bar!)

      Perhaps the biggest mistake in reaching out to the un-churched is making Christianity look like “fun” to draw a crowd, and then allowing new members to think that going to church makes one a follower of Christ (like the old saw about going to church not making one a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes one a car.)

      And this ole’ Catholic would like to add (observation, not recruiting or braggin) that very few adults who convert to Catholic (Roman or Orthodox) drop away out of ennui. My personal guess WHY is that the long preperation and instruction, which includes all of the grisly suffering and cross bits, tends to discourage joining the Church on a whim, expec ting rainbows and unicorns and prosperity dropping from the sky. JMHO—don’t shoot!

      • Actually, my own experience doesn’t agree. The drop out rate for Catholic converts in either of the two parishes with which I’m familiar is about 1/2 make it to 5 years. The other half drop out. It’s strange, one would think the long prep time would help make sure you have serious converts, but no. Some reasons are: that some people convert due to 1. wanting to get married to a Catholic and avoid friction in the Catholic family–once the wedding is done, the commitments to Catholicism fades; 2. dealing with a life changing event like death of a spouse or parent. Once the grieving process is over, so is the commitment to the faith; 3. Finding a intellectual faith in the Church Fathers, and then discovering that an awful lot of the way Church is actually practiced is magical (e.g. constant talk of miracles, spiritual warfare etc). Plus the fact that anything you can be argued into you can be argued out of. and a 4th reason is some people are just spiritual nomads. They find the excitement to be the conversion process itself. Once that fades, it’s time to consider converting to something else.

        • Thanks for sharing your experience…perhaps things are different in my parish (because I certainly have seen the “conversion to marry” situation in other parishes).

          Of course, I live in a city KNOWN for its international evangelical church and college, and there are only a handfull of Catholics (although there are churches on EVERY corner!) so maybe here you are already risking friendships and social status to convert….and, perhaps, to STAY!

    • John Stott said that “Evangelicalism is a mile wide and an inch deep.”

      T

  15. I have very little sympathy for Shaun King. He tried to pull off a bait and switch and it crashed and burned.

    If he felt called to start a new ministry he should have begun a new ministry.

    • did he do a bait and switch? more than likely he woke up and realized that he was stuck somewhere he shouldn’t be, and did something about it. that ‘something’ was drastic probably because he had no idea what else to do. (he does look very young, and who is he going to go to for help in this crazy christian culture. everyone is going to say to keep the thing going ‘for the people’s sake’). it’s a heck of lot better than doing nothing and letting the tide carry a whole congregation absolutely nowhere.
      maybe he felt that the monster he had created needed to be destroyed, rather than just moving on.

    • That’s a very cynical way to look at it, isn’t it?

      I think just about every pastor I’ve talked to over the years would say that he or she is in a different place theologically than when they first started. This particular situation where it was a church the guy planted could be particularly tricky. He was somewhere when he started, but found himself somewhere else in the end. I can totally understand why it would be a hard thing to walk away from. He probably was close to many of the people there, and there’s always a fear of letting those close to you down. Pastors are regular people, too. Evangelicals seem to want superhuman people in these roles – people who will be visionary, charismatic, and energetic on one hand, but on the other hand they don’t want to be too much of a free thinker. Those things are often at odds with one another.

  16. “He tried to transform the congregation from their Sunday morning focused program into a community based in small groups that would meet monthly for large group celebrations.”

    I’m sorry. I would have jumped, too. And I have no interest in a Sunday morning worship show. Small groups are no substitute for corporate worship. As someone who came out of the Intervarsity small group indoctrination, I think the days of small groups have passed. There. I said the unthinkable.

    • David Cornwell says:

      Balance may be the key. Worship can be a place where people WANT to do it. The service can be balanced in various good ways. Small groups can be good also. It depends on the purpose. Indoctrination is bad. Gathering to assist in corporate and personal growth can be good. Prayer and bible study can be good in a group. Early Methodists would engage in some introspection and self examination. AA does this also. This is an area that needs caution and good leadership if one ventures into it at all.

      I just think balance in all things (moderation?) would solve a lot of problems. A bandwagon following something or someone new is a caution flag. Church grown became a bandwagon is now fragmenting and breaking down.

      Just some thoughts.

      • Agree regarding early Methodists; however, their meetings never replaced Anglican worship. Wesley remained an Anglican priest his entire life.

        It does seem like a leap from one bandwagon onto another.

    • I would argue that you must have both. We need the worship service, and the church is a worshipping community.

      But the worship service is God centered. We also need community and discipleship. Small groups is the best way to accomplish this. It brings accountability and the possibility of deep spiritual formation. It is the mechanism whereby we become a body.

      A worship service alone can breed lone rangers (me and Jesus got our own thing going). Small groups by themselves can become bogged down in the messy details of life with no transcendance.

      Both together can produce spiritually healthy, worshipping disciples.

    • I think the need and desire for small groups is still around. Maybe it doesn’t do anything for some people. But I think there are many who are longing for the authentic connection that can come from being involved in a small group,. It’s not enough to sit in a large room, all facing forward, singing a few songs and listening to someone talk to you. Yes, those times of coming together are important. But I long for, and I know others do too, an eyeball to eyeball, heart to heart meeting with a small group of people. That brings life and grows faith. Another thing that deepens our walk with God is serving others together: feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, reaching out to those in pain.

    • david carlson says:

      +1 to dumb ox that small groups do not replace corporate worship

      Also, exactly where were the elders? board of deacons? wise counsel? anyone?

      Color me not impressed by his decisions and how those decisions have impacted others.

  17. Frontiersman says:

    When I read about men (or women) who break the callous code for something different and new, I applaud them for following the Holy Spirit’s direction. However, I also make sure I don’t knock what he or she has come out of, because it obviously still serves a purpose in the lives of those who have chosen to stay in it. Who are we to say that it no longer has value? That is like a toddler, “kicking his playpen,” because he has discovered the open floor, or a teenager “kicking his bicycle,” because he has discovered what it is to drive a car. Some people still need and value the playpen and the bicycle.

    A few years ago, my son became involved in a dynamic youth-filled prayer ministry that attracted young people from all over the world. The electricity in the air was exciting when they gathered together, and great things happened. However, before long the immature ones in the ministry began “kicking their playpens,” condemning the very churches and pastors who had lovingly nurtured them all of their young lives. The term, “paradigm shift” became their mantra, and they began telling folks back where they came from that they were doing things all wrong, and that they should adopt the new “wineskin,” or else God would not use and bless them anymore. Were they correct in this judgment? Were they right to criticize the churches of their parents and grandparents? Can not God continue using today what He has used in the past? Please understand, I am all for the new, but not if it means condemning what is, or what has been. Ours is a God of variety, as well as of a variety of expression. He does not limit himself to one form of worship or structure. When we compare the large with the small; the exciting with the more liturgical; the new with the old, we are in danger of doing something God has warned us against, and that is bringing division. I have traveled the world, and have sensed the strong presence of God in some liturgical settings just as strongly as I have in dynamic Pentecostalism or Charismatic circles. I have experienced God’s blessing in a mud hut in Africa, with only one half-blind, toothless musician pounding on a skin-covered drum, just as strongly as I did in a mega-church with dozens of highly trained musicians and singers. The Lord looks on the heart of each of His children, and He will use anyone who is sold-out to Him, in whatever setting they have, so long as Jesus Christ is worshiped there. The mega-church setting must still be okay, just as the small home-church setting, or the mud hut setting is okay, because God is the one who gave it. He used devoted and lovely Christians in the past to establish what they now have and enjoy, just as He is using dedicated and lovely people in the present to establish what they need and enjoy. Who are we to say which is the best? I tip my hat to anyone who loves Jesus with a passion, regardless of the setting in which they choose to worship, and I believe the Lord is pleased as long as it works for them and brings meaning to those called to be with them.

    • The only problem with that is that I have seen the sort of thing used to justify all sorts of things. “God is moving, it must be good!” Sure, the Lord can work through all sorts of situations. He is gracious and meets us where we are. The thing is, there are a lot of things that are seen as unquestionable just because they are working for some people.

      What if you found out that the youth group that was such a blessing for your son had a youth pastor who was driven to be a workaholic by the senior pastor, and this was causing all sorts of problems in his life that remained hidden? I’ve seen that sort of scenario all the time. It’s kind of the thing where everyone enjoys eating sausage, but no one wants to see it being made, or worse yet, be involved in making it.

      I mean it’s great that there are people are blessed by various ministries. I just wish that there wasn’t such a horrible human toll associated with keeping these ministries running.

  18. Steve Newell says:

    Not to put down Pastor King, but many of today’s pastors are like shooting stars that quickly burn out and I don’t know if they will have any long term impact. For example, we like to talk about how much of an impact that a given pastor is making in Church but are they really?

    The great leaders of the Church have always been ones that point us back to the cross of Christ and living in the shadow of the cross. They concerned that the church is properly proclaiming and teaching the historic Christian faith. They are always point us back then trying to take us to the “future”.

  19. When you put more time into the show or worship part of your church, than you do the teaching and discipleship part, your headed in the wrong direction. Bravo to Pastor King for realizing that. It’s a tough call to make, because ANY change will cause someone to leave.

    I don’t mean to offensive, but most people who church shop aren’t looking for real spiritual growth, they want something they can sit and enjoy. And when that stops, or it starts getting hard, they move onto the next church. That’s why Warren and others have created all these rules for a successful church, it’s about feelings and getting people in the seats. It’s certainly not about the more uncomfortable parts of the bible, and certainly not something that’s going to cause discomfort.

    So when he loses %85 of his membership because he started to push them down a more biblical path, then that’s the cost of doing the right thing. Those %85 percent, just went to the next comfortable thing. Is this any different than when Christ talked about communion in John 6:55?, how many left the minute his teachings got hard?, the twelve stayed at least ;)

    So Kudo’s to Pastor King, doing the right is never easy!

    But someone has to do it…

    -Paul-

    • Does anyone other than those personally connected to them, or even only themselves maybe, know the specific motivations of that 85% of people?? I applaud trying to do the absolute best by the church, and I’m not a person who thinks all things should continue unquestioned for all eternity just because, but I think we all need to be very careful about judging the hearts and motivations of fellow believers–their actions, perhaps, but not so much their hearts.

  20. Randy Thompson says:

    “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mathew 16:25).

    It seems to me that anyone who willingly loses his “life” for the sake of Christ is on the right track, even if he gets everything else wrong.

    The following verse has a lot to say too:

    “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” (Matthew 16:25).

    If his resignation didn’t begin with the cross, it certainly will lead him there.

    Why be any place else?

  21. I must say, as I started to read his goals for the church involvement in what God had placed on Shaun’s own heart, I could also hear echoes of the April iMonk series on demythologizing “Radical” Christianity, and Skye Jethani’s warning to not replace consumer Christianity (getting “from” God) with activisim (“for” God).
    http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/demythologizing-radical-christianity-3

    • Randy Thompson says:

      Great point.

    • Quixotequest says:

      Excellent article!

      I am tired of hearing this “radical” word being attached to “really living out what Jesus would do.” It feels so trendy and fabricated. It’s a crazy mind f&*k and warmed-over version of “No True Scotsman” fallacy rolled together with human-initiative-righteousness and extreme-sports-pop-culture.

      I don’t think there is any way for “church” to create “radicals” if that’s what being a disciple is. Outliers in thinking, in service, in relationships have the draw within them not given to them by being at church. If church has a useful place, then give them the encouragement and means to be real to doing what’s in their heart for Jesus. But chances are, outliers won’t create more outliers. But they can create a gravity well enough to change the orbit of some people a little more than if they weren’t around.

      Jesus let a number of disciples hang around him, like apprentice to teacher, but they weren’t always hanging around Him; After His death they all didn’t turn into radical amazing people who solved the problems of poverty, neglect and abuse and die a martyr for the cause. He did say to examine our heart’s allegiance and that He’s there among the “least of these”. He didn’t say you have to be constantly and tirelessly among the “least of these” being “radical” in order to find Him.

      Discipling seems like it should be crazy radical given how crazy radical is our God. Things aren’t always what they seem.

      Sorry, if it’s disrespectful for the importance we levy on Churchness but this is God’s work. I’m full of faults, try to be self-aware of my shortcomings in vision and expectations, and pray He’ll still use me as He needs. But I’m not falling for all the “extreme radical discipling” crap.

      But hey, do I love hearing that Shaun is freeing himself a way for his gravity well of passion for God to likely grow more authentically to who he is inside. He doesn’t really need church to be for himself what it is for others.

      • Both “radicals” and “conservatives” engage in looking back. Conservatives look back to preserve. Radicals look back behind those things which conservatives desire to preserve. Radicals force conservatives to ask the right questions about what they want to conserve–which usually pisses-off the conservatives.

        T

  22. After reading the post and the comments, I would suggest that you keep in mind that Shaun King is young. His mistakes look very much like a young man’s mistakes to me. This is not a condemnation, but an observation. If he learns from his mistakes, and continues to make mistakes at a prodigious rate, he is likely to become wise very quickly. Keep in mind that we worship a God who seems to like using failures.

  23. I did it two years ago after twenty years in “corporate church.” If you are searching for others who have gone before you, I can say that my family of three biological and two adopted children from Uganda are the most healthy in every way that we have ever been and I am once again alive and free. If you are interested – http://the514i.com//docs/confessions_of_a_coward_clergy.pdf

  24. I see here you’re discussing how authentic discipleship is lacking these days, and it seems church is all about showiness now – this article goes hand-in-hand with what you’re saying – http://christianbookbarn.com/2011/08/radical-taking-back-your-faith-from-the-american-dream-2/ that our modern day culture has lost the true meaning of discipleship as Jesus saw it, I really think this goes together with your article.

  25. Two words have recently captivated my conscious mind. No, they are NOT Facebook & Google. They are subculture and counterculture! My spirit says that we have become the former but Christ’s intention was that we be the latter!

    As a sub culture (a social group within a national culture that has distinctive patterns of behavior and beliefs) we are, in essence, still a product of the Western/American, Capitalistic, Individualistic, Materialistic & Humanistic way of life.

    It seems that the ‘house of the Lord’ or the “church” which WE have built looks more like a theological house of cards or an Americanized corporate entity, than a “new and living way” or a redeemed community of care and concern.

    I am afraid that entertaining such heretical thoughts may give birth to an experiential encounter with Christianity, which is seen not as a religion or system of belief or thinking, but as a new way of living – and living by a new and divine source of life – the Spirit of Christ indwelling you and I.

    Then, I/we may discover the true meaning of being a Counter-culture, which is defined as:

    ‘A culture with values or lifestyles in opposition to those of the established culture.’

    Unfortunately much of what is touted as counter cultural within modern or post modern Christianity, is simply an attempt to dress up traditional Western Christianity in new, more fashionable and acceptable modern attire! It is merely a strategy of attempting to conform Christianity to modern thinking or ideas.

    It is, in essence, no different than the evangelicalism it seeks to displace.