Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Attachment Disorder Churches

If your people won't follow, it may be the result of past abandonment.
by Kenneth Quick

It used to be that churches trusted pastors unless something such as moral failure or spiritual abuse broke that trust. Today, though, when the average length of a pastor's ministry in some churches is less than three years, the factor that prompts to churches to become "hard to lead" is a situation of abandonment at a crucial juncture.
What is a "crucial juncture"? A wolf on the horizon (some significant event with potential negative consequences for the church) that causes the pastor to flee. It can be a conflict or a challenge to his leadership. It could be corporate anxiety caused by a drop in giving, decreased attendance, a move, or a building program.

This is an interesting diagnosis of a condition for churches. I am also interested to learn that pastor stay for less than three years in churches before moving on. I used to think it was 5 years!

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Blogger Stanley Wong said...

Hi Alex,

I followed your posted link and read the full article.

The article listed down 5 characteristics of AD Churches:

1. A time of splintering or scattering.

2. Resistance to your voice as pastor.

3. A lack of closeness—or desire to know—the pastor.
>> The pastor finds that his motives, actions, and words become strangely misconstrued. Thus he often feels profound loneliness in his role.

>> A pastor of an AD church once told me that he hated Mondays because of the letters under his door and emails in his box, almost all of them critiquing aspects of his message.

>> "What I find amazing is how often they totally miss my point!" he explained. "They hear the exact opposite of what I intended. If they knew me at all, they'd know that I couldn't possibly be saying what they think I am saying."

4. Unwillingness to follow pastoral leadership.

Churches tend to follow their shepherd when they trust him or her, but the opposite is likewise true. If they don't trust the pastor, they won't follow. The pastor may not see this until he attempts a leadership initiative that requires the congregation's trust—something like changing the style of a service or moving to a new location.

5. A spirit of confusion, helplessness, and negativity.

Looking at the 5 points listed above, I see an interesting pattern with regards to my church, New Creation Church.

Pastor Prince has been the Senior Pastor of NCC since 1990. NCC has grown from 150 members in 1990 to about 18,000 in 2008.

As the church has grown so large, maybe now there is a risk of "a time of splintering and scattering" (point 1). However, NCC is growing week by week, and the members are more united than ever probably because of "attacks" from external parties such as pastors and Christians from other churches that Pastor Prince's preaching is unsound.

Points 2 and 3 are not applicable to NCC as the church loves the pastors and their preaching which have transformed their lives.

However, the irony is that NCC's preaching has attracted criticism from pastors and Christians who do not attend the church, who have not listened to the sermons (or have not listened to many sermons), who cannot see the hearts of the pastors and cannot understand the preaching. They think that NCC members have been misled but don't know it.

NCC members love their pastors especially the senior pastor, Pastor Prince but some external critics twist this and say that NCC members worship the pastor!

Point 4 also doesn't apply to NCC. This can be seen from the huge amount of funds that NCC members have contributed to their building project at one-North (budgeted at $500 million for NCC's share of the project).

If ever there was a right time not to follow the pastoral leadership, this is it as a huge amount of money has to be raised from members (especially in this time of economic turmoil). I have heard some voices of doubt from some members over whether the church should have such an expensive building but it seems that is in the minority and they are not disruptive (eg. by protesting loudly and to the general public). However, church attendance is growing and the building fund is growing too.

The irony is that there is again criticism from external parties. Letters have appeared in the press criticizing the church's perceived extravagance and involvement in commerce.

Point 5 also doesn't apply to NCC. The members are energized by Pastor Prince's preaching every Sunday when he expounds on Christ and His finished work on the cross, and how we can face life positively because God is for us and how that helps us to live victorious lives here on earth.

The irony is again there is all this negativity from external parties. They criticize that NCC is preaching "prosperity theology", "easy believism", "cheap grace" etc.

Using the 5 characteristics listed in the article as a benchmark, NCC is obviously not an AD church.

However, it seems that this is not a good thing judging from the criticisms of external parties. They feel that NCC members are just blindly following the present leadership (some even say to the point of worshiping the pastor) whom they feel is preaching and doing wrong. Are the critics indirectly trying to tell NCC members to rebel, thus causing a church to whom they (the critics) do not belong to splinter and scatter? Is this good for the body of Christ?

11:23 AM  
Blogger Alex Tang said...

Hi Stanley Wong,
Greetings. No, I do not think the article Attachment Disorder Churches (ADC) applies to NCC. The author was trying to highlight the problems some churches face due to being let down by their pastors, with their frequent turnover, each leaving behind a trail of hurts and disappointments.

Thank you for your sharing. I can understanding your feelings as a NCC member, with a large number of criticisms (often unwarranted, I must say) directed at you. May God grant you the patience and wisdom as you deal with this.

8:11 PM  

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