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My Critic


Churches go through stages of growth. Watching other small churches grow into larger churches, I am convinced it is always true that a point of critical mass must be reached before each stage of transformation can take place. What is that, you ask?

If you're not familiar with the term "critical mass", think of it like the chicken-and-egg problem. You have to have enough people to do all of the jobs in a church effectively and sustainably. But, it is difficult to attract new people if the jobs in a church aren't being done effectively and sustainable. After all, who wants to listen to a pastor preach who doesn't have thoughts collected on Sunday morning because he has been busy setting up chairs and running microphone cables? Who wants to bring their kids to Sunday School if the teacher is too busy making coffee and greeting people at the door to supervise her classroom before lessons begin? If you try to do too much with too few, you risk burning out the workers you do have, and the whole congregation can collapse. When the church reaches critical mass, there are enough people to do all of the jobs, week-to-week operation is effective and sustainable, and the church is ready to go to the next level.

Our church has not yet reached the point of critical mass where we can proceed to the next level. Yes, I have to spend my Sunday mornings setting up the sanctuary instead of gathering my thoughts. But it's more than that. We are still small enough that I have to double as the Music Director. That means during the week, I am taking away from my sermon preparation time to get the song list ready, distribute copies of music to the musicians, and have a practice night (when we can). I am also doing other jobs for which in a larger church there would be additional volunteers, such as organizing our fellowship activities and maintaining our web site.

One of the difficult things about having lots of jobs to do in addition the one that I'm supposed to be doing is listening to criticism from members who aren't volunteering like the rest of us. Tonight, I got to have that conversation with one of our members. I'm sure the person meant well. The words spoken to me were gentle but quite frank. What I was told is that I preach too much from my head and not enough from my heart. I was further instructed that to be able to preach more from my heart, I needed to spend at least an hour every day in prayer and meditation. To respond well to a conversation like this requires a certain level of maturity both in one's Christian walk and in pastoral experience. I am grateful that God has equipped me with both in sufficient quantity to be ready for tonight's conversation.

This conversation was actually an example of a textbook tactic of Satan. Usually, the person being critical is not giving of themselves in a way to alleviate the stress placed upon others and contribute to solving the problem. I already mentioned that this person is not volunteering to the same extent as others in the church (not by a long shot). Besides that, this person hasn't contributed monetarily in over a year. I have no doubt that the person is paying tithe somewhere, but the funds are directed outside of our church.

I made it a point to form my responses in such a way that would not attempt to cause the person to feel guilty. The way I look at it, God can do that if He wants, but I should not. I simply acknowledged there was a problem in me and stated what I think would be helpful to me as I attempt to overcome the situation.

To be able to maximize my preparations on Sunday morning, I asked my critic to pray that God would send some people who would unload my truck and do our weekly sanctuary setup, completely freeing my wife and I from this burden. This would allow me to gather my thoughts for preaching. This would also allow the elders and I to have time to gather for prayer in a back room before service begins (something I have wanted to institute for a long time). Perhaps God will lay it on his heart to be part of the answer to the prayer he prays.

To have more time through the week to form my thoughts about sermon topics, I asked my critic to pray that God would send some people who would take over some of the other volunteer jobs I have been doing (Music Director, Activity Coordinator, Web Master). Perhaps God will lay it on his heart to be part of the answer to the prayer he prays.

I have not even mentioned yet that I am employed full-time outside of my work in the church. Yes, I am a Software Engineer five days a week, eight hours a day. At some point in our church's growth, I'm going to need to become a full-time pastor and let go of the other employment. When that happens, my income will have to derive from the church. So I asked my critic to pray that God would send more families to our church who would be faithful tithers. That way, when that day comes that I go into full-time ministry, the church would have sufficient resources to take care of our needs. Perhaps God will lay it on his heart to be part of the answer to the prayer he prays.

In all three cases, the prayer I asked my critic to help me pray is the same. "Father, as we are faithful to carry out the mission of the church as you have called us, help the church to grow quickly and reach the critical mass necessary make the transition to the next level of service for Your Kingdom. In Jesus' name, Amen."

Spirit and Truth Fellowship /