I went to Starbucks the other day. I pulled into the parking lot, pulled up the app on my phone, and I looked to order my usual: a grande cold brew with a couple of pumps of classic syrup. This is a pretty quick process; much quicker than standing in line, ordering, and then waiting. I walked in, stood at the counter, and waited a couple of minutes for my mobile order to magically appear on the waist-high counter in front of me. Eventually, a barista with an empty cup looked at me and said, “Sean?”
“Yes, that’s me.”
“I’m sorry, Sean, but we have run out of cold brew and won’t have any until tomorrow morning.”
At this point, I was faced with a choice (or a dilemma, depending on how you are dealing with it). I could angrily storm out, accusing them of negligence because the app didn’t alert me that they were out of cold brew, threatening to go to the Starbucks in Crestview Hills because they can probably accommodate my desire for cold brew. In this choice, I would likely offend the barista, but she deserves it, right!?
Or I could just get an iced coffee is an appropriate replacement. My barista was thinking the same thing.
“We can make an iced coffee for you, or maybe an iced Americano.”
“An iced coffee is fine.”
Within 30 seconds, I had an iced coffee in my hands. If I had chosen the former option during my choice/dilemma, I would have been driving through construction to another Starbucks without the guarantee of cold brew, leaving the barista in bewilderment (and maybe hurt over something she can’t control). But now I was sitting in an air conditioned cafe, sipping a delicious caffeinated beverage on ice. Plus, I am a gold card member. I get free refills. What a deal.
I work in the world of full-time ministry. Often, my person is not just associated with me or my family. It’s associated with an entire church. This is probably why people like to tell me what’s right or wrong with my church.
That’s fine. It really is. I’m more than willing to listen and talk about the heart behind many of our strategies and methods of ministry. I enjoy it, actually. But I occasionally run into something that cuts me to the core.
Sometimes people decide to rid themselves of the association with a particular church because of one method of ministry or strategy. It almost always results in hurt feelings, lost friends, and bitterness.
You’ve seen it be done. If you’ve spent any time in church at all, you’ve heard jokes about churches splitting because of a disagreement of the color of the new carpet. We laugh at it, but we laugh nervously, because we know it’s about 10 seconds from happening in most churches. Maybe even the church we are plugged into.
I think this happens because we begin to hold the ministry methods we are most familiar with in a sacred spot. As in: If we don’t do this, then we aren’t doing anything right.
But in reality, our ministry methods and strategies aren’t sacred. In fact, very little is sacred within the church (gasp!). The only sacred thing in the church is God and his spirit living within his followers. Everything else (including you, me, and our methods) are not sacred. They may be God-inspired, and hopefully they are, but they are not sacred. They will change. They will probably change way sooner than you think.
Plus, when Christians assume that certain ministry methods and strategies are implemented haphazardly, they completely and totally disregard the countless hours in prayer and study that the church leaders have committed to this decision. Maybe the leaders are doing this thing because God has given them the ability to lead this church in the way that he wants them to.
Remember my fun time at Starbucks? If I were to yell at the barista and storm out, what would it accomplish? The cold brew would still be out, and I would be completely disregarding the barista’s attention to detail and her kind demeanor when telling me that there is no more cold brew for the day.
If we decide, as followers of Jesus, to storm out of a church because we think that a certain ministry method is wrong, then maybe we should pray that God would lead us into full-time pastoral ministry. Obviously, we think we have the market cornered.
Sure, there are times when a ministry method might be wrong scripturally. But that will be painfully evident to everyone around, not just 5 or 1o of your buddies that sit beside you in the pew.
Maybe we should recognize that the church is a living movement organized by Jesus himself, so when we don’t know the reasoning behind something, we should search for it by searching Scripture. Take into mind the heart of the leaders. If we really think that the leaders are maliciously leading the church astray in terms of methods and strategies, we have a bigger problem.
Maybe, instead of being angry, we should be happy with the iced coffee in lieu of the cold brew. Who knows…maybe we will enjoy it and be on board with it.