Why do you think they call them elders?

March 9, 2007 at 7:26 am 10 comments

“The current church culture in North America is on life support. It is living off the work, money and energy of previous generations from a previous world order. The plug will be pulled when either the money runs out (80 percent of money given to congregations comes from people aged fifty-five and over) or when the remaining three-fourths of a generation who are institutional loyalists die off or both…(Reggie McNeal “The Present Future”)

If you wonder why churches in America make the decisions they do, look no further than money.  If 80% of the money given to churches comes from those of us over the age of 55, as author Reggie McNeal says, then whatever it takes to keep that demographic happy will be done.  Say what you will about caring about kids and what kids need, when it comes to strategic decisions they are made on the basis of whether or not the “money” group will approve or be willing to fund the project.

I applaud the young men who have posted comments on this site in recent days for being concerned enough about situations in their church to write letters to the decision makers. (see comments by Kasey C. and Brad H. under Build Greg a new playlist.)  

Their optimism for affecting change through the expression of their concern is refreshing.  Unfortunately they are much too young and their resources much too small to be taken seriously.

Why do you think they call them elders? 

(Comments related to church difficulties and their effect on kids by Damon [When a Christian..] are helpful as are the comments by Brandon related to the importance of dissent [Sometimes you have to dig a new well].)

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Entry filed under: Christianity, Church, Faith, Thoughts.

No other reason. Moving on (by Linda)

10 Comments Add your own

  • 1. formedofclay  |  March 13, 2007 at 12:10 am

    Some of us were silenced at every turn. There is more than enough pain and hurt to go around. Being allowed to talk is something in and of itself. There is no healing from the pit.

  • 2. Diana Burke  |  March 12, 2007 at 8:18 pm

    Thanks Traci for honestly sharing your thoughts and your feelings. And thanks for having grace with others making their comments.
    I agree with another writer that this can be a good avenue for healing…
    Many people in many ways are not yet healed from the circumstances that have occured within the local part of the body at FBC over the last two years. And while I believe we’re all trying to move on I also believe the healing will only come over time and hopefully with time, opportunity to communicate, to be heard and to hear.
    Thanks Greg for sharing a deeper part of yourself than most have previously been given the opportunity to know.

  • 3. TraciA  |  March 10, 2007 at 10:36 am

    It is interesting to me that the more “difficult” or more “personal” or the more “close to home” a subject hits the less we want to hear it and the more we like to take stabs at the person writing it or saying it. It is difficult for me to be objective in situations relating to my family and so obviously I hope all reading can offer me some grace.

    But for the record…. Brandon and I did take our grievences to the elders and leaders of the church, time and time again. We went there seeking healing for our family and hopefully for the church in general and we were listened to. We had one on one conversations many times with the leaders and honestly we were listened to but often not heard. I am sorry if this hurts peoples feeling or makes them uncomfortable, but for 17 years I looked at the leaders of “my” church as family. My whole life was the church and I thought what I had to say mattered. That my hopes and dreams mattered, but I don’t think they did. Ultimately, it was better that our family (the Armstrong’s) left. As I said before in a post, I did not always approach the leaders with the right intentions and for that I am wrong and like I said in my post before I am working on that. However, I am tired of hearing my family be put down for saying that the way the church handled things was wrong. I have heard over and over you don’t know what the elders or leaders are thinking, you don’t know the whole story about your father. We can (I can) still love the “church” and the people in it and not agree with it. Sure I am hurt and that is ok. If you came and talked to e or anyone of us in my family you would maybe understand why, however, I still love the Lord and his body. I still love “my church”, but I am sorry if this makes any of you uncomfortable my church hurt me!!!! My father’s choices hurt me as well, but he doesn’t keep doing it and he has tried successfully to restore his relationship with me. Moving on??? HMMMMM? Working on it……..

    I am not bitter. I am just tired of it not being ok for me or my family to say that we have been hurt by the church. Please read my other comments on confronting a brother if you are having trouble with what I am saying here.

    Not that this was the point of this post at all. As my dad said these are his deeply personal thoughts he is choosing to share with us.

  • 4. Damon  |  March 10, 2007 at 7:21 am

    Hello, me again:) So, Greg, in the spirit of sharing on topics I hope you are bringing up for uplifting and encouraging discussion; I tend to agree with you and your thoughts on churches today. I am hearing that in your past you share in the “closed mind” that can happen to leaders. Being a business owner and a parent, I can suffer from this sub clinical condition as well (subclinical; suffering from a condition that you are not necessarily aware of).

    I appreciate your willingness to be honest in this; I can remember when I asked you to go to lunch before I started to come to FBC a few years ago; I wanted to interview you, and I shared some similar concerns I had with “church” overall. I remember you doing a good; polite and gracious shift of the gears to a bit of the goals of the church; deflecting my concerns and inviting me to come and see what I think. I think this might fit your comment above about steering me in what you felt was the right direction. I came to you with a couple of thoughts on biblical topics and I again felt the shift.

    Now, in saying this I am in no way harboring anything negative…………just confirming for other readers that I appreciate your honesty.

    As for the 50 + influence (and I am nearing that mark); I must say that I think a big benefit of more birthdays is the life experience variable that can be a big positive and needs to be respected; can be frustrating for younger brothers and sisters; and can be negative overall.

    From a general perspective, I see some of the problem is as you stated, it is hard to change direction of the train. However, it is unfortunate that people such as myself, tend to only focus on “our thoughts and needs” when we come to pastors and leaders and not how to come to pastors and leaders with thoughts and concerns that would be beneficial to all.

    For me personally on the tithing issue; speaking honestly; only part of my tithing goes to the local church and the rest goes to other ministries I feel God is using in great ways and leading me to support. I struggle with the knowledge that pastors of the local church need our support as well as, what I see as a more global ministry need. I know that there are many thoughts on this; I am always happy to hear thoughts. I do hope that there is not too much of a financial “influence” on leaders, but this is very difficult I expect; just look at the Catholic church difficulties with the pedophile issue. My brother is a deacon in the Catholic church in Spokane; the church really got caught in a financial trap, and I feel in many ways the financial stress and influence caused them to make several negative choices when it came to dealing with the situation properly.

    I see churches struggling with concerns of the “members” while trying to be able to reach out to the lost………..what a tough job for so many leaders of churches who are trying to juggle their day job, family and church responsibilities.

    I hope with this type of conversation; small groups and more of a 24/7 approach to our focus on God, we can yield to God’s will in our lives.

    Which leads me to a word I forgot on my last post: thankful. I am thankful for pastors and elders who have such a burden at times and such a sense of responsibility to the Lord. I am thankful for all they do and thankful that God is faithful to them and us.

    PS: as I write this comment; Grace and family have arrived safe and sound; I am very thankful for that as well:) Blessings

  • 5. Damon  |  March 9, 2007 at 7:17 pm

    I am so excited this evening; my daughter Carissa and my son in law Scot are bringing my new and only grand daughter “Grace” to visit this weekend. I have not seen her since she was born on November 30, 2006.

    With some of the thoughts that are being shared it makes me think of the “grace” Jesus gives me each day.

    I think some of the thoughts Greg has shared have been dangerously close to be taken as thoughts of revenge, anger, resentment……..but, I am willing to extend “grace” to Greg because I do feel this is and can be positive healing for Greg, Linda, the Scandrett family, the leadership at FBC and any others effected; something I feel is reasonable and necessary.

    I also have shared my thoughts with a couple of the elders at FBC; I think the men I know personally there, and the others are definately deserving “grace” from us all, and I hope they feel the love from the body and know that I for one have and will continue to pray for them. I agree that from what I have seen, they have and are challenged, burdened and are trying to hear and follow God’s direction.

    Which leads me to “foregiveness”; I hope that this process leads to forgiveness that is felt by all who have been intimately involved in this process. I think that forgiveness to the level of Matthew 18:21-22 is needed in this situation by all involved who feel they have been wronged, and/or wronged several times over. Our acts of forgiveness will lead to God’s healing in our lives.

    This leads me to “humility”; Romans 12:3 speaks a bit to “grace and humility”.
    I hope we all recognize that “Greg” did not just fall into sin……..we are all sinners; “sinners are winners” with Jesus…….we all need to humbly fall on our knees each day (many times each day for me:)) to keep pride at bay.

    I must say I come to the word “eternal”; we surely need to focus on what is unseen and not what is seen………..we must realize that we will be “hanging” in Heaven together and we are “the big Lottery winners” in Christ. We tend to get to caught up in this world and not passionate about our promise of eternal life and love with God in the new heaven and earth.

    Which leads me to the Gospel………..God created the heavens and earth and all was good………sin came into the world and created the need for…………Christ………..the lamb of God who died on the cross and rose from the dead……….conquering death; promising His return………..giving us the command to share the “good news” with others that they to may share in the gift of eternal life.

    This leads me to Truth……….God’s word is Truth………..Jesus is Truth………..many churches struggle with being able uphold “all” of the Word as Truth; but I am not ready to sit in judgement of any church; hoping I may be able to contribute any church which at this time is primarily FBC.

    So, I am resting my heart on God’s Word; willing to give grace and forgiveness; hoping to be humble; counting on the body to help me in this area; Romans 12:5 (which I must say Greg and a couple of the elders have done for me and my family). I am not willing to “take sides”, only willing to yield to God’s will; looking forward to Christ coming soon; eagerly awaiting the new heaven and earth; while I cherish the moments I have with my Christian family and my immediate family; tonight and this weekend my newest family member “Grace”.

    Which brings me back to comment I made previous about children; we need to think of the children more in all of this……….if parents, leaders, pastors etc are not able to play in the sandbox “nicely” ie utilize God’s word and be “obedient” to it; what can we expect the children to do??

  • 6. Diana Burke  |  March 9, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    Let me try this one one more time.
    …”I did it for years. I listened but if I did not agree with what they were saying, I would file what they said in some category of ignorance and go on to do what I thought was best. I believe that is generally the case until a 50+ male with a sphere of influence comes in and then decision makers listen. Sad but I think true.”
    I couldn’t agree with you more on any point than I do on this one. SAD, if it really is true. It breaks my heart to hear you did this. But with every conversation I ever had with you as “My Pastor” I always preceded it with prayer that I would hear God. In similarity with your own often used words, I would request (of God) that what was from HIM would remain and what was not would fall away. So I am confident that because God is God HE is able to use us (people in general) to accomplish HIS will. Even if as today’s original post states,
    “If you wonder why churches in America make the decisions they do, look no further than money. If 80% of the money given to churches comes from those of us over the age of 55, as author Reggie McNeal says, then whatever it takes to keep that demographic happy will be done. Say what you will about caring about kids and what kids need, when it comes to strategic decisions they are made on the basis of whether or not the “money” group will approve or be willing to fund the project.”
    On this one other point I may agree, “The current church culture in North America is on life support.” I guess the church culture is the problem with the church (speaking generically about the institution or parts therein). So maybe some one should pull the plug. Particularly if it is motivated as Reggie says. Then maybe the Resurrected Savior could get to work on what He is about, saving those He created for His glory and His pleasure. *God we (all your people) need an outpouring of Your Holy Spirit badly. Please be gracious to us once again and move us by the power of Your presence.*

  • 7. Janice Pascher  |  March 9, 2007 at 3:42 pm

    I agree with Diana.
    I have sat and watched the whole process at the FBC and have seen these men we call elders. I have never seen more honorable, godly men work together for the good as these men. I have seen their pain first handed. I have complete trust in each one of them and the decisions they make.
    As a business owner I came to realize that the people at the top can see the picture as a whole and the people (our workers) only see what pertains to them. I know that our god does not believe our church or any other for that matter should be torn apart. So lets move on..

  • 8. Greg  |  March 9, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    I have not been responding to comments made on this blog but I think I shall on the previous two.

    First, the View from the Juniper Tree is intended to be for a broad and general readership. However what I muse about and ruminate about as I look out through the branches of the juniper tree are my ruminations and musings and thus they are personal. Though my desire is to write in about things that could apply in lots of different locations, there is no doubt that some are making application to a situation that is intensely personal to me and my family and to many of you. I can’t ever remember anyone ever accusing me of being passive/aggresive so I have to smile at Kasey’s words. If the reader believes I am taking pot shots at unnamed people so be it. It is not, however, my intent. But as I said these are very personal musings and ruminations so…

    The second thing I want to say is that if I chose to, I could control the comments that are left on this site. I could, if I choose, design the site so that no comments were accepted. I could make adustments so that only those I assign a password to could make comments. I also can, at my choosing, allow comments but then delete the ones I don’t like or even change them to fit some agenda I might be trying to advance. My choice has been to leave all comments as they come in, regardless of whether I agree with them or not and sometimes I don’t agree and sometimes I find them uncomfortable, but they are allowed to remain. Anyone can respond. Even those who some of you think I am passively writing to.

    Thirdly, I think that often when people take their complaints, concerns, frustrations to decisions makers in all kinds of venues they are “heard” but not really listened to. I’m pretty sure, based on a long experience serving as a decision maker, that young people, people without influence or money are generally heard but not listend to. They are written off because they do not “get it”, “do not have all the information” or any number of other reasons including they might be female.

    I did it for years. I listened but if I did not agree with what they were saying, I would file what they said in some catagory of ignorance and go on to do what I thought was best. I believe that is generally the case until a 50+ male with a sphere of influence comes in and then decison makers listen. Sad but I think true.

    Listening over and over to the comments of constiuents without hearing is typical of decision making groups who have already decided what they are going to do about any given situation. I guess if this shoe fits somewhere…

  • 9. Kasey Cronquist  |  March 9, 2007 at 10:06 am

    Diana, I would probably agree that Greg’s tone sounds pessimistic and that the last week of blogging hinges on a passive aggressive tone that some might question does not do the job of stabbing in the front. However, (and I owe you an email on this), I think your concerns for the health of these conversations are unwarranted. I’ve learned so much from others in the last week of reading responses and meditating on these matters. If you go back to Greg’s first email he sent out inviting us to read his blog, you’ll see many emails that reflect the persons intended for this community of conversation. Based on Greg’s informal statistical analysis of his own blog that he shares along the way it appears obvious that the audience has grown. I think then we have a responsibility to consider our communication’s tone and content for those that might feel personally attacked. However, this forum is and I hope will continue to be a place to air institutional frustrations of life and the church. When I pray to God, I don’t just pray in thanks and in general terms. I will spend time complaining to God, arguing with him, asking for guidance and being very specific in my requests and thanks. That might be just my style, but I think that’s what he wants; a conversation, the good and the bad. If we’ve conceded our sinfulness and are seeking righteousness then I trust He will work with us on getting there.
    Look, I recognize Greg has been hurt, Brad’s been hurt, the Scandrett family treated in such a way that it will probably affect each of them and their walk with the Lord and how they see the church for the rest of their lives. I consider those things when I read Greg’s post and extend them grace during this period of healing and frustration. I will also be the first person to stab people in the front that I believe are posting to be personally hurtful and attacking, just as I would hope others would do for me.
    As a former leader of a large church in a small community, I gleam from Greg’s post an insider’s perspective on what happens in the “board room” and considerations that are forced upon the leadership because we live in this world (operational costs, salaries, loans, membership). Greg is quoting and sharing the facts as he’s experienced them.
    Diana, all of your tithing is money well spent and God honoring, but if you find what Greg’s suggesting alarming, just be sure you don’t kill the messenger.

  • 10. Diana Burke  |  March 9, 2007 at 9:03 am

    Wow Greg, you’ve begun to sound so pessimistic and so…? So I guess that all the money I have tithed since I started walking consistently in the light, 19 years now (and I certainly am not 74) was for nothing. And I suppose all of the dozen or more conversations I’ve had with my First Baptist Church leadership over the past 16 months, (or maybe just those I had with you prior to that since I was younger then) were also for nothing since I am not over 55. Or am I misunderstanding the tone of this last BLOG topic?
    I happen to believe that if anyone who attends First Baptist Church of Shelton AKA FBC, takes their questions to the leadership of that small piece of The Body and Bride of Christ that those leaders would attempt to answer them with honesty, even if it is only their perspective which certianly would not be the same as every other perspective. In Fact I challenge anyone who has had or has any questions or comments to go to the current leadership and air them directly to them. In fact, STAB THEM in the FRONT. But, by all means, try to allow yourselves to make it a two sided conversation. It is so sad to me that I see confusion and resentment and division as I read some of these posts/comments. It is so sad to me that I see members of the body injuring one another. Gosh, I think I prefer to build up and strengthen EVERY part of the Body and Bride of Christ. Brandon, what ever your perspective in your last post I appriciated what you had to say. I think it was full of truth and grace.

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