10 December 2017
I appreciate your prayers for my family as we experienced the birth of our daughter, Adeline Shea DuBose, this week. While in the hospital, I had more time than my usual schedule permits to pray and think, and I felt led to share with you the burden of my heart as God has now called you to share in the leadership of our congregation.
My heart aches and breaks for our church and her leadership. I feel like Paul who, in II Corinthians 11:28, after telling of his hardships for the sake of the Gospel added, “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for the churches.” This burden I have for our church has been increasing over this year, and I am afraid that the very conclusions I did not want to be true, and prayed and worked to change, continue to be true. I will first address my concerns for our leadership before moving on to general concerns for our church. Please hear these words as the cry from your weary, broken-hearted pastor and nothing more.
On the part of some in leadership, there exists a desire to tear down rather than a desire to build up.
Ephesians 4:3-6 gives a clear call to the Bride of Christ: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
Despite this clear and unwavering call, and there are many others in Scripture like it, it would seem as though the efforts of some in our leadership, past and present, were toward disunity and dissolving the bond of peace based on their words and actions.
While it has been aimed at me before, it has recently taken a different form. In particular, this has lately been directed at our brother, Scott. In Scott we have a brother who has devoted the last four or so years of his life to becoming a licensed worker with the Alliance, culminating in an oral interview with our District Superintendent, Dr. Mick Noel. Following that, our elders confirmed his appointment as our Associate Pastor earlier this year. To the glory of God, he agreed to voluntarily serve as our Discipleship Pastor in an effort to help us curb our gross and discreditable lack of discipleship – and what has been the reaction of some? “Scott is not a pastor” or “Scott is not qualified to serve in leadership.” This attitude is downright shameful, heartbreaking, and completely counter to the character of Christ. Where is the “every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” in such a spirit? How backwards and spiritually darkened is it to tear down a brother - and seek to turn others against him - whose heart and efforts have been toward more fully and wholly serving Christ and His church?
We must, as the leadership of the church – if we do nothing else – be united with Christ and one another. If we are not, then Christ is working and will continue to work elsewhere while we sit and poorly build our own divided kingdoms here. Consider this a call to unity or a call to leave, and I whole-heartedly include myself in that call. We must go before Jesus and beg Him to unify our group, which perhaps means that it cannot include every person who is here or who we would like to serve next year and in the future. Without such unity and peace, our church will continue to flounder and be fruitless, and the Holy Spirit of God will do His life-changing work elsewhere. Furthermore, as the pastor, I cannot and will not tolerate such a divisive attitude in our leadership, for such is the work of our adversary.
On the part of our congregation, there exists a general apathy and lack of passion for the mission of Christ.
In our efforts to stir the hearts of people toward the mission of God, what has been the response? Resistance. Resistance to what, though, - the pastor and/or the elders? Or is it certain methodologies, just the personal preference of one way of doing ministry over another? I have wrestled with these questions, but am becoming convinced that it is something different altogether, and something larger and more spiritually oppressive and Holy Spirit quenching than resistance to a man and/or methods.
I am persuaded, generally speaking, (and this is true of most churches as well, but this is our church) that our people are almost entirely void of passion for the mission of Christ. We have in Scripture not only the mission of Christ to “go and make disciples” from Matthew 28, but we also have specific instruction about how we go about fulfilling that mission. What should mark our attitude and character as we live with intentionality and purpose for Jesus? Romans 12:11 is clear when it says: “Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the LORD.” As you serve Christ and fulfill His purpose for your life, it should be full of zeal and passion for Christ and His Kingdom.
Yet, our people largely have no discernable zeal for evangelism or burden for discipleship. In my efforts earlier this year to stir their hearts and passions, the response was largely, “I am passionate…about maintaining the status quo.” What I felt was an attitude of, “I appreciate your heart for that, but not me. Maybe someone else, but don’t you ask me to get involved.” I have desperately prayed that I was wrong about this, because it is earth-shattering to me to think that I would be correct about God’s people not caring for His mission, but I cannot see it any other way.
I was reflecting on something the other day that horrified me: I have been in ministry for thirteen years and in three different churches. In that time, I have seen ZERO converts to Christ who were not children. I must give an account for that to the Lord, and that thought mortifies me. When is the last time this church celebrated a convert to Christ because of God’s people reaching out to them? You must give an account for that to the Lord, and that thought should mortify you. Who has come to our church, for example, since my arrival in 2013? The Morrison’s (from the Presbyterian church), the Hopkins’ and Mercer’s (from First Baptist and have already left), the Harrell’s (from Barefoot Church and have already left), the Moore’s (moved from a Baptist church in Asheville), Pete Madison (from an Alliance church in Ohio), and the Sierer’s (moved from Pennsylvania and may have already left) are all living examples of this systemic problem. We have experienced no growth from conversion, and it sickens and depresses me to think of the amount of effort put into “church” that produces no fruit.
Does this not burden your Spirit? If it does not, then you don’t know the Christ you claim to worship. If it does, then what are we to do about it? The “status quo” is not reaching people for Jesus, and yet our people are almost completely indifferent. Worse still, when prompted and stirred, attitudes of resistance and obstinance are their general responses. Is it because they would have to personally own decades of failure, and that cost is too much to bear? Is it because it is easier to blame “society” and those “young people” rather than ourselves? Perhaps, some might suggest, it is due not to a lack of passion and zeal, but rather not knowing how to address this problem. If this were true, then why the steadfast resistance to a new or different methodology that cannot possibly be worse? Even if a new or different way to conduct ministry produces no evangelistic fruit and no one comes to know Jesus, the results will be no different from what we are doing now! I don’t know why this resistance persists, but I have been almost entirely unsuccessful in stirring these passions.
This was the heart that birthed our recent ministry evaluation forms, and the response was and continues to be near non-existent. Why would a Christ-loving people not desire to evaluate their efforts in light of the mission and heart of Christ? I can only conclude that it is because they do not care for it. Their zeal, if it were ever present, is extinguished. In Scripture, the burden of Christ and His followers is consistently to see people come to know, love, and follow Jesus.
We recently read these words of Paul from Romans 9:1-5: “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised!” Paul’s zeal for people is such that he says, “If it were possible, I would go to hell for you so that you might know Jesus.” What an amazing and humbling attitude, and yet we cannot even fill out a two-page form about a ministry for which we are supposedly “passionate”.
This is simply the heart of your pastor. I am wrestling with the “state of the union” and I am tired and empty. I have given these concerns to Christ, and I now leave them with you. I would like for us to meet and pray together over them.
Just a man trying to save his thoughts and correspondence