Posted tagged ‘church culture’

The Sound of Squeaky Shoes

August 10, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         August 10, 2017

                                   

A couple of Sundays ago I was walking up the sidewalk to my sister’s front door. She was trailing along behind me and she said “Your shoes are squeaky.” We had just come back to her home from church and I was wearing my “Sunday-go-to-meeting shoes”.

I hadn’t noticed a squeak until she said that, and then I noticed…yes, they do squeak! Of course, at that point all I could hear for the next few minutes WAS the squeak…every step…every high squeaky octave of their connection with concrete, carpet, or wood.

“You hadn’t noticed the squeak?”

“No, not until you called my attention to it!”

My wife and I have a similar situation at home. I like a fan on at night when I sleep. The coolness and the background noise helps me fade off into a slumber filled with dreams of dunking a basket, eating Vietnamese egg rolls, and winning the Pike’s Peak Ascent…well, okay, not really the egg rolls. I just threw that in there because I’m thinking about them right now! Carol likes quiet at night, meaning no background noise. She hears the sounds, but I don’t! Ironically, during the day if I’m reading I like quiet, whereas she likes the TV on during the day for the background noise. Call us weird, but we’ve been okay with our quirks for 38 years now!

All of us have “squeaky shoes” in our lives that go unnoticed. Being a retired pastor I now have the opportunity to visit other churches besides the one I had spoken at for so long. So I notice things that probably go unnoticed by the “regulars” of that congregation. For example, I notice the usher/greeter who is handing out bulletins to people who are entering the sanctuary for worship and seems like he put a “grouch patch” on that morning. Or how fast people seek to leave the building following the worship service! Or how much “insider language” is used in the worship service! Or if there is a clear understanding as to what families with young children are to do, or are they just expected to know! If there’s coffee available (And you usually know because a few people are walking around with coffee cups in their hands!) is a visitor invited to have a cup of coffee?

Every church has a few squeaky shoes that go unnoticed by the “wearers”, but are revealed to the new “hearers”. New hearers don’t know the history or the circumstances. They don’t understand why a congregation stands and reads the church covenant every first Sunday of the month, or why Baptists are prone to celebrate communion on the first Sunday of each month, or why only men seem to be the ones involved in positions of responsibility but those involved with children’s activities or care are always women?

Some squeaks just are, and others have reasons! Although ‘’squeaks” are rarely based on some kind of doctrine, once in a while a congregation’s “squeak” is the weirdness of the sermon or some kind of issue that the pastor just won’t let go of. There’s a difference between a driving force or a passionate cause and an annoying squeak! Many years ago I remember a pastor chastising his congregation over the fact that the wedding reception of a church family the night before had included alcohol. I got the feeling that he would have been annoyed by Jesus turning the water into wine. Forty years later I still remember the “squeaky sermon” that was excessively guilt-based!

That Sunday I went in and changed shoes right away, taking off my squeaky dress shoes and putting on my Nike’s. There was no squeak, although I always have to check to see if they are leaving a trail of mud. Slinging mud, however, is another issue entirely!

The Church’s Go To

March 8, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         March 8, 2017

                                     

In sports there is a saying that rings true. If a team needs a basket, a first down, or a final out they have a “go to” player or play that they are confident will give them the needed result. It is not a coincidence that the Cavaliers get the ball to LeBron James in crunch time, and that the Golden State Warriors get the ball to Kevin Durant…er, Steph Curry…er, Klay Thompson. Okay, okay! The Warriors are not a good example for me to use!

Back to the point I was trying to make!

Churches have a “go to” also. Once in a while it’s a person, but usually it’s the bottom line of their congregational culture. Whereas with professional sports teams the “go to player” is a positive most of the time, in churches the “go to” is more often than not a negative.

Churches, in general, resist change. At best change is tolerated as long as it doesn’t threaten what people are comfortable with. When changes threaten the congregational culture there is almost certainly going to be a shaking that happens. Picture a tree in autumn. If a strong wind happens most of the leaves on the tree get blown or shaken off. What remains, however, is the tree trunk and branches. A church’s “go to” is the tree trunk. New ideas and thoughts might be present, but a wind of unrest will scatter them, leaving the church’s trunk in place.

Spiritually sounding churches will say that their “trunk” is Jesus, but reality says something else. Sometimes the “go to” is whatever the power family in the church says is going to happen. Pastors may come and go, but the power family dictates what will be and what will not be.

Sometimes the “go to” is more aligned with Old Testament judgment rather than New Testament grace. Church discipline becomes punitive and harsh rather than restorative and healing.

Church budgets are often indicators of what a congregation’s “go to” is. For instance, how much of the budget is focused on building maintenance and property compared to missions and community outreach? Going back to the power family, what do they support? Is their influence apparent in the breakdown of the budget?

The Cavaliers go to LeBron because they want to win. Churches yield to their “to go” because they fear losing. Losing, however, is defined as a family getting upset and leaving over a change they don’t care for; or it is defined as the loss of the church’s comfort zone; or “too many new leaves on an old tree!”

What is your church’s “go to?” How does it tend to react to problems and/or changes? More often than not, going to LeBron produces a victory. For churches, the tendency is to yield to the “go to” because they can’t afford to lose!