May 28, 2013

When You're Not The Cool Church

Our friend in ministry told us a story once about manning his church's table at a college ministry fair. Because his table was assigned just outside the student center, he was stationed in the blazing hot summer sun and, as a result, stationed to a table where no one wanted to be.

To make matters worse, just inside the sliding glass doors--the doors that opened with a whoosh of air conditioning--was the table for The Cool Church. Each time the doors slid open and our friend looked in, raucous laughter spilled out and students gathered in hoards around their table. As our friend told it, he felt on the outside looking in, like the junior high kid wanting to be invited to the cool kids' table. And his church's table wasn't the cool kids' table.
We laughed together about that story because we've been there, too. We know what it's like to not be The Cool Church, The Cool Pastor, or The Cool Pastor's Wife. We know what it's like for people to leave our church in search of greener pastures or to follow the crowd to the latest and greatest church in town. We know what it's like to be openly compared to other churches and fall short in the comparison. 

Most of us are not at the cool kids' table, and when we're not The Cool Church, it can be frustrating and annoying. But it can also reveal our hearts. What I've found is that hearing about how great other churches are can, if I'm not on guard against it, create a sense of competition, pride, and even self-condemnation in me. I too easily turn to criticism, judgment, and jealousy of others rather than to gratefulness at God's movement and a sense of partnership among churches.    

It's like I think only one can win. Or like it's about winning in the first place. 

And this is probably why we've never been The Cool Church--because God has had to do a lot of work in my heart. 

The main thing He's taught me in our average-ness is to fix my eyes on Him rather than on others. When I do this, He leads me to consider some questions. How is He using our church? What are our strengths as a church? Why does He have us in our city? Because there are answers to those questions. They may not be glamorous, but there are good things happening in and around us. The same goes for me. What are my specific gifts? Why does God have me in the church that I'm in? There are answers to those questions, too, and, although not spectacular, they are positive answers.

The second part of this is that when my eyes are on Him and I take these questions to Him, He reminds me that I am not responsible for making myself or my church "cool", but I am responsible for my faithfulness. Am I being in faithful with what He's given me in the place where He's put me? That's all I can do, and that's all I'm supposed to do. Sometimes faithfulness doesn't result in measurable responses. Sometimes (most of times?) faithfulness happens in the unseen.

The Cool Church and The Cool Pastor are being asked the same questions. God does different things with different churches and people, but in the end, He's looking for our faithfulness in what He's given us.

Perhaps you're not The Cool Church or The Cool Pastor's Wife. Maybe God is protecting you from something your heart can't handle. Or maybe He's just not all that concerned about your cool factor in the first place. But there is one thing He's most definitely concerned with.

And that's your faithfulness to Him. 

How do you fight comparison and competition when people talk about or leave for The Cool Church? 


Christine said...

I just love this post!! It's my faithfulness not my "coolness" in ministry that matters! I needed that reminder!

Christine said...

Christine, this is so encouraging, and something my heart needs to be reminded of often! I have really enjoyed digging into your blog recently, as I'm a worship pastor's wife. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us!

Christine said...

I remember listening to an Erwin McManus sermon and having an 'Aha!' moment that has never left me.

He talked about not worrying if solid Christians left your church to go elsewhere because of their strong faith they will find another church community.. he said to worry instead about those who are just coming to faith or don't know Jesus.

This was a huge revelation to my peacemaker/pacifist/pandering self that has been proved correct in my experience so far.

Churches go in cycles of cool, or whatever... But I see now that if Christian people leave our church for 'greener pastures' that it's often a good thing (even if it hurts a little at the time). It saves you bending and contorting your vision, your call, and your style of church to fit everyone's ultimatums and agendas... if someone is not 'on board' then better they go somewhere else where they feel better fit to serve God and they can be 'on board' there. If they are solid Christians it's not going to be a salvational concern for them to leave as they will find another place to fellowship. Overall, sometimes it's just better this leaves us to be able to focus on the Kingdom vision God has given for our particular church and people.

This one truth has given me a real freedom, and has helped me to no end when riding the storms of church life. It keeps for me the focus not on people pleasing, but on God pleasing... on those on the fringes, and those who need to encounter Christ, and not those who are trying to make demands instead of serving because they aren't seeing the vision God has given or want to add their own agenda to things.

Christine said...

Now that is a great perspective! Thanks for sharing.

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