Who sets the church tone and agenda?

In discussing various approaches to congregational life, Biblical and doctrinal literacy and church priorities, the question arises as to who exactly should be setting, establishing and monitoring these fundamental aspects.

Not only do these issues affect the tone and nature of the assembly, but they often have a resounding though quiet effect on the faith and satisfaction of the lives of believers. This effect is often in direct proportion to their level of involvement, but not within their control or influence it many cases. That is, the more involved people are in church life, the more affected they will be, either for good or for bad. That said, it might be prudent for any adherent to have a close, objective look at the church organizational and power structure (the real one, not the published one), and its health, before getting heavily involved. A little circumspect observation while still somewhat detached can go a long way to avoiding grief and finding joyous satisfaction in cases where change is needed and unlikely to occur.

In the church of today, the techniques of successful secular business are strongly in vogue. These are currently concerned with downloading responsibility, distributing accountability, and the encouragement of strong organizational growth. Church leaders are much enamored of business management gurus and writers, with their growth techniques and operational philosophies. Pastors are just as likely to be reading and championing the latest business strategies as they are Biblical approaches, often even bringing them to the pulpit. Irrespective of whether this is appropriate in a Biblically based organization (in my view it is not, but that is a subject for another discussion), it is the reality of the day and the effects are many and resounding.

When secular management gurus (with completely worldly agendas) are the order of the day for congregational management and guidance, what is the likely result? One could propose that since there is great success in these philosophies and organizational approaches, the church as an organization in decline in recent times could benefit from their techniques. On the surface, when judged with a priority on growth and numerical success, that may well seem true in a pragmatic sense. But is it in line with Biblical priorities? While it occasional may move in parallel, in general my answer would be no.

The Scripture lays out very simple priorities, and none of these include organizational growth for its own sake. They also do not include growth to support resource intensive programs and entertainment. Those are secular, plain and simple. Scripture also clearly lays out the responsibilities of church leadership, and these similarly do not include that focus. Ignoring all the explanatory words one may hear to work around or rationalize the approaches on these issues, the focus is in the wrong place.

Not only that, but as can sometimes ironically be the case, this is quite clear to many of the rank and file in the pews, who comment on it frequently in one form or another (even if they may not be able to articulate it perfectly).

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