The “joker” has struck again: why the churches…?


The “Joker” has struck again: why the churches…?

For those of you who haven’t read my previous blog post explaining what I mean by “the prankster”, it’s simply a word I’m using here for my proposed role as a questioner in a church. My proposal is that every church, even every Christian organization, have a person whose job it is to ask the hard questions about Why it does things. My experience is that most churches (and Christian organizations) have habits, customs, beliefs, practices that are worth questioning as they have not been reviewed and may not be helpful. Some may even be unbiblical, unethical, or abusive. The “joker” (or “jester”) is someone who can, without penalty, ask any question about beliefs, customs, practices, etc. not examined. In my proposal, the church or Christian organization would decide to give this role to a mature member. (or a trusted third party).

The joker question of the day is this: Why do we use worldly language for our church, its worship, its building, its practices, rather than traditional Christian language?

According to this “joker” view, churches in America (with many exceptions, I know) have adopted the language of theater to name and describe their places of worship. This is just one example of the problem. For example, the congregation is often referred to as “the audience” and the worship space as “the auditorium”. I even heard the worship leader called the “master of ceremonies” (master of ceremonies). The pulpit is often referred to as “the pulpit” and the place where it stands as “the platform”. I could go on. The entrance way is called the “lobby” or the “foyer”. The whole thing reeks of secular entertainment. The church is not a place of entertainment. There are traditional Christian words for these spaces and things.

Another example is that when a church recruits a new pastor, it talks about “hiring” him. What happened to “calling” a pastor? The language of business, of the corporate world, has crept into the churches. This contributes to the fact that the church is often viewed as just another business and the pastor often seen as the CEO.

*Box: the opinions expressed here are my own (or those of the guest author); I speak on behalf of no other person, group or organization; Nor do I imply that the views expressed herein reflect those of any other person, group or organization, unless I expressly say so. Before commenting, read the entire article and the “Note to Commenters” at the end.*

Do not mistake yourself. I am not advocating that churches and Christian organizations use esoteric language that only a few “insiders” understand. But I fear that the churches have adopted secular and/or pagan language for who they are and what they do.

I believe that words use us as much if not more than we use them. When we adopt secular/pagan language for everything, we begin to think of the church (or Christian organization) as just another business or fraternal group or club (although many of them keep their own words , such as a Masonic lodge or even a temple). Gradually, over the past few decades, I believe I have noticed a distinct tendency for churches to become too much like secular businesses. For example, the budget is almost always based on what was paid out (or earned by endowments) in the previous year or two. Faith for more is rarely considered.

But here’s my biggest question (and implicit criticism) in this whole area. I have been to many churches looking for new pastors. Almost always they would form a “pastoral search committee” (formerly called the “pulpit committee” in the same churches) and seek to recruit a new pastor, stealing him from another church. The Pastoral Search Committee often gathers the names of potential pastors, then visits their churches, listens to them preach, and then decides which of the three or four to “invite” to leave their church to come “try out” at their church without a pastor. It is simply unethical. The same churches that do this complain bitterly when a pastor they love is “recruited” to leave them and pastor another church. Then, suddenly, the practice is unethical. And yet, this church will turn around and do it to another church without batting an eyelid. I have seen this done many times.

Some large churches even employ a secular “headhunting” company to bring them names of potential pastors.

The argument that “he must have wanted to leave his church” does not justify this practice.

The right way to find a new pastor (in a denominational setting where there is no bishop who assigns pastors or priests to churches) is for the pastoral search committee/pulpit committee to post the need for a new pastor and accepts applications from men or women who really want to change their pastorate. There are several ways to do this, but I have rarely seen these methods used. Instead, the common practice now is for the pastoral search committee to lure a pastor away from their church to theirs – after investigating him and deciding they want to “hire” him. Often, even usually, the pastor didn’t even know about the new church until he was contacted by the pastoral search committee. after they visited his church – stealthily – on a Sunday morning. I’ve even heard pastoral search committees report how stealthy they were when visiting – entering the church separately and not in groups and parking separately so their license plates wouldn’t betray them. Many churches that love their pastors actually have people watching over these visitors to rob their pastors.

I tried to report this ethical lapse to several churches and was met with puzzled looks. “That’s the way we’ve always done” and “God uses this method to move pastors” were what I heard. The first answer carries no weight and the second is very unlikely to be true.

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