October 17, 2018

iMonk Inconsistency: Is PDC A “Movement Accelerator?”

Hypocrite!230x150.gifBefore I get into this interesting letter and topic that came today, I want to say that I’m well aware that I am open to charges of hypocrisy. That’s been the case for quite a while now. When you’ve written as much as I have for the blogosphere, there’s going to be some interesting juxtapositions of thought.

More than one person- but Jeff is typical- wants to know how I endorse Goldmann’s accelerators for movements to Christ and then post criticism of Rick Warren? Good question. (BTW, Jeff’s letter also gives the other side of the PDC experience, and you need to read it to see what it feels like to come into a church thinking you have permission to make changes when you probably never really had the blank check you thought you’d been given.) [Goldmann’s “Accelerators or Inhibitors” pdf here.]

Listen closely as I weasel out of this. This isn’t a reply to Jeff’s letter or a criticism of Jeff, but it is an explanation of how I see the difference in the new church plant and the traditional church.

1. I think there is a lot of value in Warren’s Purpose Driven approach when it emulates good church planting and missionary approaches. Warren’s background is a church planter and much of his methodology is drawn from that background. I’m totally in favor of apostles to the unreached of North American using those approaches for effective evangelism and church planting. New churches are the accelerator subjects. To that I have nothing but support to give.

2. Church planting is an environment where being “Purpose Driven” really matters for survival. Traditional churches are a different creature. Maybe they want to revision, retool and renew themselves. Maybe they don’t. Maybe they have no idea what you are talking about. Maybe you made it really difficult to understand because you’re using a lot of buzzwords and insider talk. Maybe you’re being the planet Uranus and acting like you and the last conference you went to are the mind of God.

3. In other words, when a younger pastor is brought in and asked to make a traditional church grow, it’s highly likely that there are actually three things going on. A) Most of the church would like some growth if it could come without any major revolution. B) A faction of the church wants revolution, probably against the people paying the bills, holding the power and keeping them from bringing in a kickin’ sound and video system. C) The people holding the power and paying the bills expect the pastor to show up- on his own- and get the map and rules of the playing field, including the chart on how to EARN the right to make changes.

4. I love traditional churches. Yes, there are some beasts from the lower reaches of the pit in there, but they have a lot of sweet, wonderful, generous, servant hearted people who are the backbone of evangelicalism. They don’t oppose the praise band, the removal of the pulpit, the removal of the hymnal, the worship leader in shorts and drinking a beer because they hate you. They oppose all of this because they have no reason to support it. It’s all they know, the associate their way with God, and one sermon series from you isn’t going to change their minds. They are great people and they want to love and support you. When you make them the enemy, you do a bad thing.

5. Let me repeat that word EARN. A good idea from a good conference isn’t EARNING the right to take out the communion table, Hoss. A visit to a church growth consultant that has you all juiced doesn’t EARN you the right to take the hymnals and put secular music in its place. Being young and sincere doesn’t EARN you the right to send the organist packing. Leading is about…leading. You know…leading? Moving them from one place to another. Not standing in another place and demanding that all the true Christians show up and stand with you.

6. OK. So let’s review: As church planting methodology, Warren’s insights are solid. In traditional churches, they need to be implemented by leaders who lead, EARN the right to make changes and respect (as opposed to neglect or dismantle) the structures that exist. Having the keys and the pastor’s office mean a lot less at a traditional church than you think.

7. All right. I hear that voice out there, saying that the church needs to grow, and bowing to the power of these old people is sin, and if anything is more important than reaching people its an idol and so forth. If you were dealing with a business, you’d be on the right track. A traditional church deserves to be treated as the people of God. They aren’t there to be used or tossed to the curb. They are the people and church of God. Treat them like Jesus bought them. Don’t make the seekers more important than the church.

***thud***

Ah….I see what did it. I said, “Don’t make the seekers more important than the church.” And I meant it. If you are going to deal with hymnals and furniture and dress codes, do it with respect, love and patience. Don’t do it as if the church has no history and wasn’t expressing its faith in its past choices and decisions.

8. New churches get a huge pass from me. Churches starting over from scratch should get out the Warren books and follow the blueprint. But traditional churches get another kind of pass from me; a pass for having a history, for having real people who need to be brought along and for not owing an explanation to Rick Warren for singing hymns and having a Sunday School and a communion table.

9. We need leaders who can gauge where and what their church is at a moment in its life and lead from there with the qualities of a Biblical pastor. This business of sending all young leaders out to be clones of a few successful pastors is nuts, and the number of pastors who act like they have the right to do whatever they want in the name of growth is too large.

10. PDC tends to produce a very consumeristic version of baby boomer evangelicalism. This may or may not be intentional. I recognize the missional accelerators in Warren’s work, but I also see the tendency of American churches to use Warren’s emphasis on relating to the unbeliever to produce a church that is more influenced by the culture than influencing the culture. In other words, the PDC model doesn’t produce a counter-evangelicalism, but a non-traditional, yet still entirely predictable and compromised Evangelicalism for consumeristic boomers.