Why people don’t want to go to church…

boredCan we be honest? I mean, gut-level honest?

Most people don’t want to go to church because they see it as an irrelevant, boring, waste of time.

Hang on a minute. Don’t get your knickers in a knot. Hear me out.

To be clear, I am not saying it is a waste of time. But yeah, can I admit that I’ve spent a good part of my life sitting in church being bored by well-prepared, well-presented messages that have no apparent direct implications on my life? I’ve learned a lot of stuff. I know that Malchus was the high-priest who got his ear chopped off in the garden. I know how many books are in the bible. I know about bears mauling kids and I know the layout and design of the temple. Whenever there’s a bible category on Jeopardy, I cruise through it and make those brainiacs look like morons.

I went to seminary and spent thousands of dollars studying the scriptures and numerous theological writings. Christology, eschatology, ecclesiology, Augustinianism substitutionary atonement,  anthropomorphism, complementarianism, Apollinarianism,  hermeneutics, propitiation, Calvinism, Arminianism …and on and on. It was all helpful stuff. I need all I learned and am glad I went. I use it to formulate my messages. I dropped out of the Phd program when I was struck with liver disease. If the Lord allows, I will dive in again now that I am healthy. Education is good. I recommend it.

But back to reaching people. One of the greatest challenges I face in ministry is editing my messages and presenting them in a way that is understandable, memorable and beneficial to the listener. I have 25-30 minutes to communicate.

Am I dumbing down the message, elevating entertainment value and am feeding into biblical illiteracy or am I merely adjusting to the realities of current culture and packaging the message differently? Is it better to include 7 points in one 50 minute message or focus on 2 points each week? I cannot justify spending my time and yours, delivering a seven point sermon when data has shown this the least effective method of communication. My job is to communicate the message of the gospel in a way that is understandable and memorable. My calling is to encourage you to press on, help you know that God is for you and give you tools to help you navigate life. I am charged with communicating Truth in a relevant, applicable, memorable way.

I will do that by building my messages on Scripture. I’ll use humor, object lessons, story, testimony, interaction and involvement. I’ll move around and try to engage people with energy. I’ll use video, music and analogy. We may cry together or laugh. I might make you angry or touch a sensitive area now and then. If I can get you to hear, see and experience, I know you will retain more of the message. (Edgar Dale’s Cone of Experience)

Nearly 30 years ago, when I was just beginning in ministry, one of my mentors, Dr. Louia Gransee gave me a nugget I have carried with me. Pastor Gransee said, “I have 20-30 minutes of people’s focused attention. I can preach for 50 but they will choose which 20 to listen. I’d rather focus my messages than have them picking bits and pieces.”

That message was reinforced when I attended the Ken Davis Dynamic Communicators Workshop in the late 80s. His research showed:

  • Seventy-five percent of the people leaving a speech or sermon had no idea what was communicated.
  • Fifty percent of the speakers cannot communicate the objective of their message in a simple sentence.

That news was totally unacceptable to me. I believe the Lord called me into ministry to connect people with the Good News of the gospel! If I am not connecting I am just wasting my time and theirs. I work hard to make sure that doesn’t happen. If 75 percent of people leave after hearing me speak with no idea what I said, I need to do something else.

The bottom line is people take part in things they enjoy. Why can’t attending church be enjoyable, real and relevant? It can be!

I would love for us to be able to invite our neighbors with confidence that they will enjoy coming. No, they don’t have to like everything or agree with everything but how great would it be to have them feel loved, encouraged and considering Christ? Most of us don’t invite others because we’re afraid they won’t like it. What if we changed that so we could have confidence that they will like coming?

We will not change the message. The gospel is unchanging. But can we change some of the methods? I think we can. I think we must be open to change if we are going to reach people who are not connected.

Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious,  meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists,  the defeated, the demoralized – whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ – but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it! 1 Cor. 9:19-23 Message

 

 

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Hi, I’m Scott. I’m your interim pastor. (What’s that???)

I'm excited to share these months with you! - Scott

I’m excited to share these months with you! – Scott

There are a few types of interim pastors. All of them are temporary positions. It’s similar to a substitute teacher except it’s more like a substitute shepherd. Word on the street is that it’s a tough gig. I honestly don’t know. I’ve never been an interim pastor before. But while your search committee is hard at work, here I am, your interim pastor.

What are the types of interim pastors?

1) The Maintenance Guy. The key to this model is that nothing at all changes. The maintenance interim comes in and does little more than fill the pulpit and lead the teaching times. His job is to maintain the status quo until a fulltime pastor is in place.

2) The Transitional Guy. The TIP (transitional interim pastor) has defined goals to accomplish before the church even searches for a new lead pastor. He may be a peace maker following a painful splt. Or, if a church family has endured crisis or abuse, his job might be to initiate healing and encouragement to get the people on a healthy footing for a permanent pastor. The transition interim is normally in place for a longer period of time.

3) The Intentional Guy. The IIP (intentional interim pastor) is a groundwork guy tasked with preparing the congregation for necessary change helping it move forward. His focus is more targetted than the TIP and his task is more defined. The IIP could be tasked with clearing blockages to growth, resolving conflict, building unity or even focused on preparing for a specific mission.

Interims number 2 & 3, from what I am gleaning, are specialists with the most demanding tasks whereas the Maintenance Guy is charged with filling the gaps.

From what I understand from meeting with FBC leadership, I am in the third role. My job is to begin laying the groundwork for a new lead pastor who will come in focused on outreach and doing some rebuilding. He or she will be tasked with leading the congregation of FBC into effectively connecting with its changing community. He will be charged with helping you discover the tools and methods needed to better reach our area with the hope of Jesus.

So what’s so tough about my “gig” as the IIP? It’s up to me to begin asking some tough questions. My job will be to get us excited about looking beyond what we like and need to what those outside our doors like and need. I’m going to do my best to get us praying courageously and faithfully so that we are ready to consider any option for the cause of Christ.

We will be asking two overriding questions in the coming months:

1) What will it take to reach the unchurched and dechurched* in our community?
2) Are we willing to to do what is needed even if it means change?

I am thankful that before my health declined and I had my transplant, I completed my Masters Degree in Theological Studies at Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary with a focus on church planting and reaching today’s society. Then, the Lord moved us to Westbrook where I live close enough to hear the First Baptist Church carillon’s music at noon and 6:00 PM. And now, here I am, serving in an exciting capacity as Interim Pastor with some awesome people who are asking, “what can we do to reach our community for Christ?” I am constantly amazed looking back seeing how God has moved to accomplish His goals. Some call stuff like this coincidence. I doubt that.

I’m thrilled to be here with you for this season, First Baptist Church. Let’s get ready to ask some tough questions and prepare our hearts for what God is calling this church to do in the center of Westbrook.

Even though I am free of the demands and expectations of everyone, I have voluntarily become a servant to any and all in order to reach a wide range of people: religious, nonreligious, meticulous moralists, loose-living immoralists,  the defeated, the demoralized – whoever. I didn’t take on their way of life. I kept my bearings in Christ – but I entered their world and tried to experience things from their point of view. I’ve become just about every sort of servant there is in my attempts to lead those I meet into a God-saved life. I did all this because of the Message. I didn’t just want to talk about it; I wanted to be in on it! – 1 Corinthian 9:19-23 (The Message paraphrase)

*dechurched: formerly involved in a church but left with hurt or disappointment.