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Is Your Church Guided by the Head or the Heart?

One of my favorite secular songs is called “From My Head to My Heart’ by Evan and Jaron.  One line in the song says “The furthest distance I’ve ever known is from my head to my heart.”  It would appear, based on some recent blog traffic, that the Christian Church is suffering somewhat from the same malady.   (http://www.casadeblundell.com/jonathan/the-biggest-struggle-currently-facing-christianity/)

In a May 3rd post asking people to list “The Biggest Struggle for Christianity”, and anonymous responder said: ” The “church” needs to quit talking quite so much about visions, plans, strategies, new teachings/ authors/ bands/ missions/ buildings/ teams/ heresies, and just start being the heart/ hands/ voice/ compassion of the Body of Christ, every Christ-follower, everywhere, everyday………………..so, what are the chances of that happening in our church-enterprise culture?“  I think this person put his or her finger on an interesting phenomenon.

More than a decade ago, our pastor at the church we attended back in Phoenix asked me to help him refine and document a “Vision Statement” for our local church, and present it to leading members of the congregation.  I did as he asked, and although the experience helped me to develop a close relationship with those congregants, it raised lots of red flags.  I found that the congregation and the pastor in that case were well out of synch – a situation increasingly prevalent, and described in my blog entitled “Pastoral Predicament”.  Not long afterward, the pastor was ejected from the church on the basis of misconduct.  The congregants of the church basically felt that there was no need for a “Vision” or a “Mission Statement” or any of the other business types of trappings in a Bible-based church.  The Bible clearly lays out the functions of the church in the New Testament, as well as the roles and responsibilities of specific church officers.

Several years later, my brother shared with me that the pastor in his church had enrolled the services of an outside consultant to develop a strategic plan for their church in northern Illinois – the church in which I grew up.  The plan looked very much like a strategic plan for a business.  It included a background section, a description of the church itself (history, size, revenues, attendance patterns, and so on) as well as a very thorough market study (how many people in each surrounding town, the religious affiliations of that population, demographics related to ages, and so on) and some recommendations.  It was all very business like (what our anonymous commenter referred to as “our church-enterprise culture”. As it turns out, the church involved has plummeted since that time in terms of attendance, giving, and outreach (both mission outreach and local community impact).  Poor pastoral leadership was devastating to what had once been a vibrant Christ-centered lighthouse in the community.   I think our anonymous commenter would view these circumstances as validating evidence of the assertion about our modern “church-enterprise” culture. Clearly, the respondent’s message was that modern Christian churches need to be much less “head”, and much more “heart” driven.

There is biblical precedent for this in 1 Corinthians Chapter 1, where the Apostle Paul is admonishing the church at Corinth, and says: “Some of you are saying ‘I am a follower of Paul’.  Others are saying: “I follow Apollos’, or ‘I follow Peter’ or ‘I follow only Christ’.  Has Christ been divided into factions? Was I , Paul crucified for you?”  By way of summary, Paul introduces this topic by saying: “Let there be no divisions in the Church.  Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.”  Later in this same chapter, he says: “So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters?  God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish.”  And finally, in verse 25:  “This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans.”

The church of Jesus Christ was never meant to be run like a business.  The models of church and business have diametrically opposing purposes, with business devoted to making as much money as possible to enrich shareholders and employees.  A church based on the example and teachings of Christ is devoted to glorifying God, reaching the world with the message of salvation that is only available through Jesus Christ, and meeting the spiritual needs of its members.  It is characterized by sacrifice – even sacrificial giving – rather than acquiring material possessions.  Often I have observed that pastors want to emulate the success that they perceive among the business people in their congregation, and so they begin to emulate business practices in their churches.  I believe that’s a mistake.

What do you think?

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