Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sensitive or Stable?

At a recent wedding reception we were seated at a table of couples we never met before. They had all known each other for years, some were in business together, others attended the same church, several were Westmont graduates. When I asked the guy I sat next to what church he called home in the community, he replied "Right now we are attending ______________" I know the pastor there, a good guy, solid faith, good church. Then the guy turned to me and asked "What's with your architecture? How come you built so small? Why don't you do more for college ministries? I would think that you'd have a college ministry of hundreds. You know why we don't attend your church?..." Then he listed a number of good reasons why he and his wife do not attend MCC.
At each critique, I thought "He's right. I could be more_________, or we could improve ____________ or have a better _________." Needless to say, when the dancing began, we were glad to leave. The conversation was so withering, I have actually forgotten his name.
Then today after church, one of our members came up and related a story to me. He was at a recent meeting for the Covenant. One of the leaders on his particular committee heard that my father is Norbert Johnson. He stopped the meeting and with great emotion told the entire gathering how during his high school years, my dad led him to Christ at a camp. Now he is a leading voice in denominational finance and strategic thinking.
How do the two stories relate? My dad was never snappy, hip or cool. But he knew who he was and where he was going. He was like the boat compass above. He was fixed to the ship and knew where North was. My dad knows his Bible and he knows what is important for the long haul. And keeping demanding customers happy was never one of those things. Oh, I guess he'd listen to a guy like I was with courteously and even reflectively, but then he'd get back to preaching, teaching, and leading hungry people to Jesus. Keep me focussed North.


At 3:06 PM , Anonymous katie said...

Very fine reflection, Don. Just what I need this day. True North. I know how you were feeling in that conversation. I'm not even a pastor at our church, but I feel so deflated when people question me about the ministry of church. In our case, it usually has to do with people pointing out that they think our church is catering to consumers and not "deep enough." "No wonder you are growing, you're cheating" is the basic message. It stings, and I'm not even the leader. I'm not sure where people get off critiquing another ministry. Why? If you don't approve, don't join it or give to it. But at the very least, we're all in the same Kingdom, serving the same God. Can't we be supportive and kind? I realize you did not write the post as a prompt for this vent. My hope is that we could all celebrate one another's good work, rather than compare and critique. I'm sorry you had that experience, but oh what joy you felt when you heard witness of your father's good work. I'm glad. Have a good week, Katie

At 4:59 PM , Blogger Kalon L said...

I suppose the issue is whether the critique was delivered in love or with a sense of judgement. Critique of a church has to be fine, but only if done with empathy for those who are trying to be faithful to the Lord. If the critique is simply judgemental, that's God's business, not mine.

At 9:07 AM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

I'm not capable of judging a person's motivation for a critique, though obviously in writing the blog I "judged" that it was less-than loving and helpful. Kalon, you are right in that we must be open to scrutiny and evaluation, even when it hurts. But that can be done in a loving and constructive way.


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