This past month, I got to be part of the Echo Conference ? a wonderful group of people who desire to see the Church emulate the heart of the Creator as we gathered to worship.
This year, I noticed a consistent thread that seems to have far reaching implications into every aspect of church life and ministry. I think Blaine Hogan summarized it well in the phrase, ?Pastor CEO?: The idea that most of our churches are run by a sole, central figurehead, and the staff and volunteers of the church serve that individual?s vision and mission.
Barton Damer, speaking on the creative process, also touched on the concept. There were several times where he accurately referenced lead pastors he worked for as the ?client?. I was listening to Barton, who just completed designing a global campaign for Nike, talk about presenting work he?s done for churches to lead pastors. Most of those pastors are foreigners to his field, but they end up giving him feedback on what he should change. What?!
Recently, our church in Orlando went through an identity change. We began as the ministry of a local church and are now being sent out to plant our unique expression of the local church. In the process, we commissioned a group of about a dozen designers, branding professionals, writers, and artists in our community to seek God?s wisdom and direction. The team came back with a name and visual identity they believed fit us well. So the next step was a presentation to our elders.
After a short presentation came the feedback process…
Most humans default to their preferences. It?s most easily seen at the movie theater. We watch a movie, walk out, and what?s the first question we ask? ?Did you like it?? It?s the question we most often ask about any creative work, and we rarely go any deeper.
Our church had commissioned a collective of full time artists to lead us through this process. Then we ? a team who are mostly untrained in this area ? become the critics based on our preferences. We start talking about fonts, placement of words, and colors.
Had Moses done a visual identity campaign for the Exodus, it would have made sense for him to oversee the process. He was the sole conduit through whom God was delivering His message. But after Israel left Egypt, Moses continued to do all the work and make all the decisions. Jethro, Moses? father in law, came to him and said, ?What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening??
Moses replied that the people were counting on him to hear from God, to which Jethro replied, ?What you are doing is not good.?
As Jesus transitioned us to the New Testament age, we see an even greater shift to shared responsibility as the Holy Spirit empowered individuals in the Church with spiritual gifts to ?build up the Church.?
Isn?t it possible that each time our preferences become the baseline for decision-making, we?re interrupting the work and giftedness of those in our congregations?
So, as our elders gave feedback to the presentation of our new church identity, it was important that we made a shift ? a shift from asking ?do you like it? to ?does this align with the spiritual direction of the church?? Elders and Pastors do have a spiritual responsibility, and those are the eyes through which we should look. Rarely are there deep spiritual implications to the minutia of what we give our time, attention, and feedback to ? things like fonts, colors, or placement ? or the equivalent components in every other ministry of the church.[quote]Many of us pastors unintentionally rob people of their God-given voices.[/quote][quote]The role of the pastor is to equip people for ministry and then free them into living out their spiritual gifts in the context of community.[/quote]
Many of us pastors unintentionally rob people of their God-given voices. When we see our leadership and volunteers as servants to execute our vision, we no longer believe that God is empowering them to contribute to the mission and vision of His Kingdom. But we know that God, beginning in Acts 2, poured out his Spirit on all people. Artists aren?t in the church to give a creative voice to my vision as the pastor. Artists are in the church to help make the revelation of God?s vision more complete. Together, we steward the communication of God?s vision.
The role of the pastor is to equip people for ministry and then free them into living out their spiritual gifts in the context of community. It?s messy, and it?s way more difficult than making all the decisions ourselves. But in order for the church to be all it’s intended to be and for us to live into the effectiveness God has called us to live into, it’s essential.
Today, be encouraged. Make a shift from controlling as much as your strength will allow to recognizing and empowering people to live out the gifts God has placed in them. As we do, we?ll see the church flourish like never before.