Public health warning: Rant and soapbox ahead - may appear nuts!
Yesterday I had the misfortune to find myself at the hands of the facile observer, the sort of person who looks at someone with their arms crossed and proclaims them to be defensive because they once read something somewhere (back of a cereal packet perhaps?) that said that and the making of this 'knowledge' theirs has made them an expert!
I am sure you know the type - the sort of person who issues the trite statement as if they were bringing forth tablets of stone written from on high (my least favourite is the person who utters the awful, 'Assume makes an Ass of you and me!' epigram). I'm sure those who read this will know someone who matches the photofit I am creating.
But, for me at least, the thing that disturbs me most is the retreat of those who should be winning souls and proclaiming Jesus, the Christ, into spreadsheets, flowcharts, organograms (AKA organisation charts) and the like seem to be turning ministers in to administrators.
I engage with people who were pastoral and up close and personal with people who have become distant and working in personnel (Human Resource Management [HRM] rather than Human Resource Development [HRD]) and this is wrong. HRM manages people - HRD develops them (or so I was taught when doing that sort of thing). One checks attendance and sickness and disciplinary stuff whilst the other seeks to equip and enable people to do the job well. The problem is that all around me I see little passion for people or development but loads for administration and meetings; parameters, guidelines and reviews being the order of the day! (aaaaargh!!!)
I find people who should be ensuring that the church they are in and the Church around them is singing from the same song sheet but instead they are carried away by spreadsheets instead. Rather than call upon God they call yet another interminably boring meeting and try to arrange the deckchairs on a ship which is destined to sink when what is really needed is the services of a pilot who will help us plot a course through, or away form, the icebergs and potential perils before us!
I am an evangelist, pastor and a (lightweight) theologian by calling, nature and passion. I love people, the excite me and stimulate me to say, do and be things I might never have imagined. The Gospel is the fire in my belly and the desire to see people live life at the fullest and be the best they can be is something that fires me up and keeps me mad (was going to say 'sane' but realise how many there are who might just disagree with that).
I am an Anglican priest because I believe in the Church of England I have found an expression of Church, a denomination, with so very much going for it. Our liturgy is biblical, our worship* is at times sublime and our consideration of the whole of the Bible (thanks to the lectionary) all-encompassing and enabling and our traditions and practices generally spot on (or at least somewhere near).
So as I go to break bread and pour out wine I will issue this plea from a lowly, probably inadequate in most departments, cleric to all who minister (lay or ordained):
+ Put aside the management speak, the spreadsheets, flowcharts, organograms and the like.
+ Stop planning for grow and instead preach the Gospel, build authentic Church and enjoy growth** instead.
+ Regain the gift of being a minster of the Gospel (and we all are called to be ministers by virtue of being baptised so this is something that applies to us all) and pick up your Bible and read; fall to your knees and pray - asking, thanking and praising; sing God's praise and make a joyful (even if not tuneful perhaps) noise.
Let's bring the Church back to the place it should be as the different, counter-cultural, voice in the wildness of today's frenzied society.
Or you carnage another business meeting to ponder over the BOPs and the Share and other really important stuff - but as you do yet another SWOT*** analysis ask yourself whether you are the 'S' column or the 'W' insofar as Church and discipleship and 'doing the stuff' is concerned.
We need to be good managers - don't think I'm not saying that - but most of all we need to be passionate, informed and focussed Christians who are managing their spiritual households.
*Worship: Not just the music! Anglican worship is the words and the music, the liturgy guides our work and the music gives a chance to sing spiritual songs, the prayers are more than 'gimme' moments for this too is worship. Worship is a multi-faceted, multidimensional and exciting thing: all encompassing and life-enabling in itself.
** Growth: When asked by a senior clergy person about growth recently my response was, 'I'm hoping you mean growth in the spiritual sense.' Sadly they meant it in the sense of BOPS (Bums on Pews) and so, sadly, it continues :-(
*** SWOT: Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threat. You make a list of the four categories and see where to applaud, where to be worried and where you need to work to survive and to grow. A really useful, although just a little hackneyed, way of getting people to think. But it works when used lightly and intelligently.