I saw a sign once, actually in the shop where I got my last tattoo, and it said something like this: "If you are looking for a deal or a fight, if you are drunk or high, ticked off, or just generally in a bad mood, come back when you're not." That be the disclaimer I lay out this morning before I start typing. I set out not to tick people off first thing in the morning, nor do I just look for ways to offend, but this morning something hit me and I need to write about it. So, if you are looking for an argument or if you are just waiting for someone to say something that offends you, stop reading now. Of course, having said that I have effectively just turned today's blog into a train wreck that you might not want to read, but can't turn away from. You absolutely have the right to disagree, but I reserve the right to delete any ugly comments.
This morning I ran across a video that a friend of mine posted. It was a message by a guy named Michael Lukaszewski. I've never met him, and have no clue who he really is. I don't know where he pastors or even what city he's in, but he said something that made me perk up. It was an analogy, or maybe not, since he was saying that something was not like something else, but what he said struck a chord with me. He was a guest evangelist in this particular worship service, so he could say what needed to be said without having to worry about cleaning up the mess later, and he made some valid points.
One of the things he said was this: "The church is not a cruise ship." Now, I've never been on a cruise, and not real sure that I care anything about going on one, but I know enough folks who have been to understand what this guy was saying, and he even mentioned it in his message. A cruise ship is designed for one purpose; to make its passengers happy and provide a space where they can have a good time. Everything on that ship is designed for the sole purpose of helping folks relax and enjoy a few days reprieve from their work-a-day life. Actually, come to think of it, maybe I do need to take a cruise. I digress.
After Michael said that, I started thinking back through my ministry and realized that every single problem or difficulty I have encountered in the life of the body and bride of Christ, without fail, no exceptions, is due to the fact that folks have decided they are cruising aboard the S.S. Jesus. He nailed it, and I know that I have just raised eyebrows...and that I may get into trouble over this...but he nailed it. Every situation that I have faced in my career as a pastor, and that has caused me sleepless nights or unbelievable stress, has happened because someone in the church thought that our mission was to make them happy.
When they become unhappy, the first thing they want, or feel the need, to do is let someone know just how unhappy they are (usually through a series of clandestine parking lot meetings, late night phone calls, or secret facebook messages). The second thing they do is start watching for other things that make them unhappy and begin taking notes. The third thing they do is create a spirit of dissention among their fellow cruisers, and finally, after the waitstaff has continually failed to make them happy, they jump ship to board another one.
(If you're still reading, cool. This next section is a rant. I own that.) For twelve years I have worried about making the people I serve happy, and here's why. If they are happy they'll come to church. If they come to church, the numbers will be solid, the budget will be met, and we can pay our apportionments. If we do all of that, I will be seen as a very effective pastor in the eyes of the conference. So, if they didn't like what I was doing, I stopped doing it. If they didn't like the way I dressed, I dressed differently. If they thought I needed to do more of this or less of that, I did. But this morning, I have to ask myself, who am I really wanting to please? Is my task to please the people, or the God that called me to discipleship?
Now please understand that I'm not trying to be rebellious. I'm not upset about anything. I love my job, and the people I serve with my whole being. I would lay down in front of a train for any member of my flock. However, the realization hit me this morning that I've not been making disciples. Like Michael said, I have become a cruise director. I think it's time I returned to the task I was called to in the first place. I'm not real sure how to go about it without coming across as a jerk, but I'm pretty sure it can be done. I'm not going to jump off on some new direction, snapping, and barking orders to get my folks to follow, because I know that wouldn't work.
But...what I can, and will, do is to gently remind in love that this journey we are on is not aboard the S.S. Jesus. The Church does not exist to make us happy. Our task, our very reason for existence, is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. My prayer is that, in every message I bring, every meeting I'm a part of, every small group discussion, every Sunday School class meeting... in every thing we do, everything we are, everything we ever hope to become, we never forget the task before us.