Thursday, June 01, 2006

Paranoia or Legitimate Beef?

Near the middle of May, my little church up on the hill hosted a Family Movie Night to raise funds for the local Relay for Life. This wouldn't just be sitting in a room around a TV...this would be projecting a movie onto the side of the church or, in case of rain, onto a wall of the sanctuary. We advertised it around town, particularly on the local cable announcement channel and on our sign, explaining what it was and to bring blankets or lawn chairs.

As it turned out, it did rain that night, so we held it indoors. No big deal. The group chose Madagascar for our family-friendly movie, which I'd never seen and thought to be absolutely hilarious (the penguins alone are worth it). We ate pizza, we had fellowship, AND we raised money for a good cause. A few of us decided afterwards to try the outside deal again sometime, perhaps later this summer, and advertise it better.

Well, yesterday afternoon I had to drive past the local Gigantor Church which, as luck would have it, is actually right down the street from us. Their sign reads as follows:

Come To Our Drive-In Movie!
Willy Wonka
Support Our Youth

My face must have turned some shade of crimson, because it took on this tense feeling that is beyond description. Such tense feelings HAVE to involve a color change. My stomach started treating my torso as its own padded playpen, suddenly screaming to get out while the guards weren't looking. I couldn't speak, could only grip the steering wheel tighter.

The megachurch stole the little country church's idea.

The megachurch stole the little country church's idea.

That tells me one of two things:

1. I should be happy about this development. It shows that Gigantor Church of the Consumer Nothingness doesn't always have the best ideas. It shows that my little church inspired them to take something on that we had first, instead of the other way around.

2. I should continue to be pissed off about this. This church doesn't acknowledge the local ministerial association and other churches in town resent it for sheep-stealing. Now they have to take our ideas, too? An activity that no one else in town was doing is suddenly being done by the one with the most resources. (Except, of course, they'll do it better...IT'S A DRIVE-IN~!)

So yes, I'm feeling a little put out by this situation. My wife even suggested writing them a letter. For some reason, I don't see that doing a lot of good.

But oh wait, here's the High Road Paragraph:

Well, no one holds a monopoly on an activity. We should celebrate our unity in Christ and not let such petty squabbles weaken our bonds to one another in the Spirit. They are the colon and you are the appendix. We are all pieces of the body of Christ and should serve our functions as best we can as we have been given. Now turn to 356 in your songbooks where we will join in singing, 'They'll Know We Are Christians.'

That's all well and good. I cannot disagree with the above paragraph. But it's a two-way street. Gigantor Church of We Are the Borg has been absorbing people in town for as long as they've been in existence. It is a little suspicious that, so soon after our wall projection evening, they would have one as well. Could they have had one last year? Could this really be an annual thing for them and I just missed it?

I actually hope that that's the case. I hope that they've been doing this since they first moved in. If they have been doing this that long, then I can rejoice that, in this instance, what's theirs is theirs and what's ours is still ours...that for one instance, another church in town--the biggest and richest--didn't just improve on something already being done and thumb its nose at the same time.

Again, no monopoly. Probably paranoia. Christian unity.

But they started it.

Update: For various follow-ups, read this and this.

Second update: I regret ever writing this stupid entry.

While I appreciate the discussion that it has encouraged (when it's focused on the issues and not on what a horrible pastor I must be), the whole thing was ill-advised.

Some part of me likes the extra traffic, but it's really been for all the wrong reasons, and with each passing day and each additional visitor I regret the image of myself and my ministry that I have helped to cast.

I don't get sole blame, however. This was partially meant tongue-in-cheek, hence the addition of lines such as "they started it." Mr. Rhoades over at MMI helped to cast this as full-out jealousy and hatred by titling his link "Church Competition." I've never seen myself in competition with other churches, and that's the last thing that I had in mind when writing this. Instead, I wanted to raise the question of whether a neighbor church thought it could do one of our recent activities in a "bigger better" way.

I love my people. I love my church. I love Jesus.

This whole thing has been very unfortunate.


Daniel said...

You could look at it this way, does their having this similar event cause any detriment to your event. If so then it is not the body of Christ working in unity and maybe something needs to be said. If not then just rejoice in a good and original idea, and that megachurches are not as impervious as people think

Anonymous said...

I think the IRD stole your idea and flipped it to the other church in an effort to steal your sheep. It's part of a broader conspiracy by the IRD to steal churches using drive-in movie theaters.

Jeff Nelson said...

Daniel, that's what I want to believe. I'm sure I'm overreacting and just seeking another whipping boy.

James found a good one. I'll just blame the IRD for everything. LOL

Jeff Nelson said...

And actually James, it can't be the IRD. I must be a part of them since I'm linked on your site.

Anonymous said...

Thats right Jeff... It's like playing the 'Kevin Bacon game' and you are only 3 degrees of seperation from the IRD.

Anonymous said...

The "relevance" movement will use what ever "method" anyone else uses including the church down the road.

If you have a speaker, they'll have a speaker, if you get gas cards, they'll get gas cards. If you have a movie, they'll have a movie. "Whatever it takes"...

However, one place they cannot compete is Truth in Genuine Love. People can tell when a person does something from their heart and someone does it for a bottom line and if they can't at the time, they will when things get tough. Many churches are involved in entertainment and numbers. Be about the Lord’s work in teaching sound doctrine. Men by nature want their ears tickled and teachers that make them feel better. Let this not be true of some as we stand doctrinally on Sound Truth and not worry about the invasive worldly business practices that have infiltrated and deceived the hearts and minds of church leaders all around.

Stand strong in Him and His Way, Truth and Life.

leoskeo said...

Steel Sheep, Gigantor we are the Borg… We automatically assume that a church is big because it sold out on some principles of truth and ministry so we make statements like these. Mile wide and inch deep. They only grew because they took other churches sheep. They are impersonal and shallow. They only care about numbers. They compromise the gospel just to attract people. They water down truth so as never to offend. They are just trying to entertain. This is the stuff of blogs these days when it comes to the large church.

Why would a pastor of a thriving church want to join people in a ministerial association who speak like this about his leadership in public and private? I pastor a new church launched by a mega church. I was on staff there for a year getting ready for the process. We have grown by reaching people for Christ and growing them. Small churches should try that, it really seems to work and it might even be what Christ had in mind when he said. “Make disciples”

In the past 18 months we have seen over 200 people make a decision in the direction of Christ. Some were recommitments from people who had not been to church in years; many were first time decisions to trust Christ. When I share this in the ministerial association I don’t experience the joy of a sinner returning home but the sneer of the older brother in the Prodigal son story Jesus told. Must be watering it down, you only care about numbers… and then the rant about the mega church.

Try this: Ask God to give you a clear vision of what your church is to do in its community and then develop the leadership to accomplish that vision. From there call the Mega church pastor and apologize for the way in which your heart has judged his. Finally humble yourself enough to ask for input and guidance from pastors who are in thriving, growing churches.

One last thought and I am out. I pastored a struggling church for 8 years. In that time we could never get over the 150 mark. I was tempted to blame the mega church for stealing sheep. I was tempted to complain that they never helped my. But what God said to my spirit was that I just was a crummy leader. He told me to grow and fan to full flame the gift to lead that He placed in me by His Spirit. I did and am still to this day. Most pastors of small churches I know are pretty good communicators and genuinely love their people but are crummy leaders. They do everything and work to the full limit of their strength every day, not giving much to recharging, refreshing and renewing their passion. Most are gifted to lead but never fan to flame their gift to lead. Then end result for me was exhaustion, frustration, some bitterness and anger. God’s kindness corrected my heart and filled me with joy and vision. I pray this for the brother who wrote the original post.

leoskeo said...

I apologize to Jeff for impugning his leadership and saying it is crummy. Rude and clumsy on my part I ask your forgiveness.

Anonymous said...

Just keep doing your thing and don't worry about 'em.

Assume the best concerning their intentions, and do not let a root of bitterness grow in your heart.

Bo Grimes said...

You can't steal ideas. The Swiss and English Reformations were not a "theft" of Luther's "ideas" any more than he "stole" his from Augustine.

The Church should be like science in this regard. Never, ever inhibit the free exchange of ideas in the service of Christ.

In his book "The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination," Loraine Boettner writes on the copyright page: "Anyone is at liberty to use material from this book with or without credit." His desire is "to further, not restrict, its use."

I worship at a small church (around 120 in service per week), but I do not categorically reject large churchs and assume they must be consumerist, shallow marketing-driven bastions of vacuity. One should remember in this season of Pentecost that 3000 people were added to the first church after Peter's sermon on the first day.

I happen to think that it's as much a problem that there are literally three dozen churchs within a five mile radius of my home, and I don't live in a city. I don't think we can have true unity without truth, but no one ever seems to address the fractured and fragmented nature of the Church.

I don't watch football, but I'm a Redskins fan. Why? My dad was and his dad was. One person is a Lutheran, another Church of Christ, a third Methodist, yet another a Presbyterian. Why? His dad was; her mom was.

(In case you're wondering I was raised Presbyterian, my wife Episcopalian, but my wife is in the Air Force and we have worshipped at Baptist, Methodist and currently Lutheran churches. When we move we look for a church where we can worship God "in Spirit and Truth.")

I haven't found any more people in small churches than large, and I've been a member of both, who know the difference or care. We have dozens of churchs per square mile in America, isolated from and competing with one another, mostly in complete ignorance of what seperates them.

Why don't y'all get together and do a combined movie night?

Anonymous said...

My friend:

I understand your feelings but you are way off base. It is not your responsibility to judge other churches. That is God's responsibility. Your responsibility is to "seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness" and let God take care of all the other churches that you are apparently jealous of.

By the way, maybe people don't come to your church because you use language like the following that you used in your blog: "I should continue to be pissed off about this".

If you used that kind of language in a blog, I wouldn't want to attend your church, either.

Jeff Nelson said...

Anonymous, I invite you to read my two follow-up posts located at the bottom of this entry. Too many people are visiting from MMI, reading only the initial post, and then passing judgment.

I'm particularly saddened that so many seem to be hung up on language. Of COURSE I don't say things like that in church, let alone that often in conversation. That's a tad overdramatic.

So read those other two posts, please. There you'll find that I acknowledge misplaced anger and the strong possibility of coincidence, as well as flesh out some of the reasoning behind it all.

Anonymous said...

Again, I understand your feelings about the other church. I have pastored a small church before and I felt very inadequate in comparison to the larger churches.

But I was wrong in my feelings. I was jealous of them. They weren't out to get me or steal people from our church or the community. They were just interested in reaching people for Jesus and that is what it is all about.

You say that you don't use the kind of language that you used in your blog in your church or conversations. But, surely, you must know that there are people in your church (or in your community) who read your blog.

It can't be right to use wrong language just because you are not in church.

Jeff Nelson said...

Your reply doesn't indicate that you read those other entries, let alone the addendum made to this entry. I'm not going to regurgitate it here. Hopefully future visitors catch it.

I regret that this entry was ever posted. The whole thing was ill-concieved.

At any rate, I've moved on and want to focus back on things that build the kingdom of God.

Anonymous said...

Cool! No problem. But that is the risk that bloggers take when it comes to the internet.

Jeff Nelson said...

I get the last word, because this is my blog.

Todd Rhoades entitled his MMI article "Church Competition," and that is simply wrong. I don't see myself in competition with this church. From the get-go, I meant to raise the question of whether a larger church set out to "improve" upon an activity that we had just done.

I don't pay attention to this church if I can help it. I have a much different ecclesiology than them and usually take the "they have their way and I have mine" stance.

This movie thing has been the only real instance where I've questioned them at all. Otherwise I've been content to ignore them altogether.

So there really isn't any jealousy and there isn't any competition.

And now we're all over it.

Comments closed.