On Wednesday, August 14th, I sat down with the three deacons of my church in Sacramento, CA and communicated with them about issues that I felt needed to be addressed for my continued tenure. I no longer agreed with the track the church had taken and continued to take and change was forthcoming. But the church I pastored was an independent Baptist church and the word “change” is mostly a cuss word in the movement.
Now I wasn’t trying to gorilla my own way upon the people. I loved them and deeply cared for them. I wanted them to realize and experience the amazing grace of God. I was encouraged to hear testimonies from people telling me how focusing on God’s grace rather than man-made standards of righteousness had transformed them. I felt like we made some good progress. But I knew deep down that I would soon face the inevitable with my church. I would soon be leaving. In college we would hear it said about churches, “It is easier to give birth than to raise the dead.” The clear writing on the wall finally came when my changed views toward the Second Coming of Christ conflicted with the church’s Constitution. To be honest with the church, it was essential that I go. So to make a long story short, I stepped away from my pastorate on September 1, 2013.
So I have now been away from pastoring for a little over six months. I am currently finishing up another Master’s degree (this time from an accredited seminary). I am set to finish in July. I have actually enjoyed this journey and have left the future of my ministry in God’s hands. In these past six months I have also relished the privilege of visiting many churches. Some have been great and some have not been so stellar. In each church I observed what seemed to be working well and what probably should be changed. I had the unique opportunity to view things as an outsider.
So I’d like to share some of the things I’ve noticed. The points are not in any particular order of the churches I visited. Of course, these are all my opinions so you can take them or leave them. It is my hope that they can be a blessing to you.
• You might think that the stage prop that has multi-colored lit boxes makes your church look trendy, but it is very distracting as it keeps blinking while you speak.
• A projector with low lumens washes out the colors and makes the text and images hard to read.
• Childcare check-ins with touch screen kiosks that print labels for the children are simple and amazing.
• It’s awkward when your bass player plays without any shoes on. Big white feet are distracting.
• I really enjoy saving half of the song service for after the message. My heart is directed toward God in the sermon and I get to express praise afterwards. It sends the people away with a song of praise.
• If you say that you are going to call someone during the week for lunch, then do it. It reflects poorly on your character when you make empty promises and never communicate any change of plans.
• If you are Reformed, you don’t need a large picture of John Calvin and Martyn Lloyd Jones in your foyer.
• I can understand those who believe a service should be a time of focusing on God instead of others, but don’t use that as an excuse for why your church is cold and unfriendly.
• Broken up matzah bread tastes the best for communion.
• Not having childcare for very small children practically guarantees that one of the parents will be standing in the foyer or outside with their child or children. Two year olds don’t sit well through an exposition of Romans.
• There are still churches passing an attendance book during the service?
• Make it as easy as possible for new people to connect to a small group.
• Friendly greeters are still very effective.
• Don’t make changes to your service schedule without communicating them clearly on your website or voicemail. By the way, when is the last time you checked the info on your church voicemail? It still has the name of the previous pastor.
• You still don’t have a Facebook page for your church? If you have one, is it updated?
• It’s a very nice touch when you personally greet people before a service or as they leave.
• If you take an offering by means of a box in the back, be sure to communicate clearly about it in the service. Otherwise guests who would like to give are not sure how.
• It’s effective if you smile a lot through your message.
• The Baptist Confession of 1689 is not the 28th book in the New Testament.
• If you are still going to have Sunday School or a Bible study before the main service, then make it great. The 70-year-old teacher who didn’t even look over his lesson until that morning reflects very poorly on the church.
• Why are you wearing a gold name plate? Do people easily forget your name? It shimmers from the stage lights.
• Having a competent person do the announcements is imperative.
• There is no excuse for multiple-burned out lights in the auditorium. Get them fixed.
• Communion every week is very meaningful.
• You need to fact check the stories you share. Even though I am not a Joel Osteen fan, he did not start his own religion like you had heard.
• Did you know your piano player looks like she is playing Bejeweled on her cell phone during the announcements?
• The personal note from the children’s director sent to our kids was a really nice touch.
• The portion of your song service that allowed people to come to the front and pray with some leaders while the rest of the congregation continued to sing the worship song was really powerful. I was encouraged to see people praying with one another.
• It is refreshing to hear someone confidently and correctly preach the Word.
I hope these have been a help in some sort of way. I am thankful for you all who faithfully teach God’s Word and pastor His people. I understand the struggles and triumphs. May the blessings of God be upon you and your family.