On Wednesday night, our small group had our church's new pastor, Matthew, over for dinner. It was supposed to be entirely social but he opened the floor up to business by asking each of us (yes, every single one of us separately) what we were hoping to see our church as in the future.
Personally, I never think much beyond the end of my nose so I have no picture of what I hope for our church in the future. I do know of many things about the church now and in the past that I want us to escape from and that's actually what all of us talked about. In specific ways, I'm sure that I disagree with what other people are thinking but in general terms, I agreed with what everyone said. Even Matthew added a few points that I agreed with and hadn't thought of on the spot when asked. In fact, he made a comment that hit a really huge nail square on the head and which I hadn't been able to formulate a description for.
I've never felt that Brian was my pastor (he and his wife and a few friends started our church and he was the senior pastor since they first voted him to be until early this year) except that he was the guy usually giving the message on Sunday mornings. When I started going to Cedar Ridge, Bob J was "my pastor." He paid attention to my spiritual development, or at least helped when I asked. He left and there was a gaping hole until Gene M came along about 4 years ago. Again, somebody seemed to care what was going on with my spiritual development. He left abruptly (or at least abruptly to many in the congregation) and I just realized on Wednesday night why it was so devastating to me that Gene left... we had a relationship beyond, "Hey, good to see you" and a hand shake.
I'm not suggesting that the senior pastor or even any pastor has to know everybody in the church and what they're going through. But it is nice if there is at least one pastor who seems to care. About me. Yes, I'm being selfish here and I'm asking what can the church do for me instead of just what can I do for it. But come on, there's got to be something, some little thread I can hold on to at the church besides my small group, don't you think?
Matthew's comment that leadership in our church needs to be relational struck a resounding and melodious tone that I was incredibly happy to hear. Of course, I don't think he's said anything yet that makes me question that he's the perfect senior pastor for our church right now, but as even he said, we'll have to see some changes to know that it's really going to work out.
I asked Matthew that since he's gotten to know the staff, heard stories from most if not all of the ministry leaders and talked to various people like us, how he would rate his level of shock or surprise at our dysfunctionality. I gave him a scale from 1 to 10 with 10 being, "Holy crap, I had no idea it would be like this; get me a plane ticket out of here!" and 1 being "This is exactly what I thought it would be." He answered (and I was stunned to a level of 10) "2." Then he qualified that with little things that he noticed along the process of our search team finding him, interviewing him, etc. that told him that we're fairly dysfunctional. I was amazed at the things he noticed during the short time that he had to get to know Cedar Ridge before deciding whether to accept the position as we offered it to him. A couple things he noticed: 1) we had to go outside the church to find a new senior pastor because there was nobody in the church even remotely qualified to lead us meant to him that we didn't have a relational leadership style going on and there was no sort of mentoring or leadership training in place and 2) the rate of turnover of all levels of staff is extremely high which meant to him that something wasn't right. Add that to comments such as, "When a church or other organization starts with a charismatic leader, that leader is likely to bounce around on different whims [my word]; one expects that the organization will need another leader later on to step in after the charismatic person has found some other niche to fill for a time and the new leader will need to bring the organization to a point where it can determine its identity and how it wants to work in order to be true to that identity.
And Dianne said, "Amen!"