Nicholas Kristof has written a helpful column combining the possible biological connections of liberalism and conservatism and an appeal for open mindedness.
I don’t like the idea of two introspective blogs in a row but, I need to put this somewhere.
At various points in my life, I’ve looked at myself and wondered how I became “that guy.” This happens to most of us who are parents when we hear our own parents coming out of our mouths. I have friends here are more intentional about not being like their own fathers. I think the only way I have surpassed my Dad is that I can truly say I’ve got better jokes. Not that my jokes are funny necessarily just better than my Dad’s. Still, I listen to myself with my kids and wonder sometimes how I became, “That guy.”
In seminary, I became obsessed with my GPA and how I was evaluated by seminary professors. I got through high school and college without being that guy–mainly because I didn’t realize I actually had the academic skills to be “that guy” until I was basically done. But I somehow became the seminary equivalent of a GPA-hoarding, class-rank obsessed wussy. Toward the end of my seminary education, I wondered how I became, “that guy.”
It’s happening again but surprisingly I’m watching it coming and not filled with the same remorse. I never wanted to be “that guy” who worried about attendance, membership and baptism numbers. I never wanted to be “that guy” who sacrificed faithfulness for the sake of effectiveness. I never wanted to be “that guy” who thought of “church growth” as a central component of ministry. I had all the noble sounding reasons for not wanting to be “that guy.” But, I think at the end of it all, I feared that if I tried to be “that guy” and failed, that the failure would mean a rejection of me. If I tried to increase average worship attendance and failed, I might have to face the reality that people just don’t want to be around me. Underneath all the high-minded, holy-sounding reasons for not emphasizing church growth, I’m really just insecure.
But the church cannot continue to decline. Something needs to be done. So, I’m becoming “that guy.” That guy who does care that our average worship attendance gets stronger. That guy who does worry about membership, new member retention, effective public face for the church, high quality communication pieces, and attractive programming. There are some things I’m trying to do alongside being “that guy” to respond to the more legitimate critiques of being “that guy.”
When people ask me about “how many joined,” I’m trying to respond with names and stories not numbers.
When we talk about the church’s decline, I’m trying to give positive reasons for First Christian Church’s existence–that we are the church the offers an open table, we are the church that encourages people to show Christ’s love in simple and tangible ways, that we are the church that calls other Christians to work toward true unity and not just cooperation to achieve a shared goal. We are the church that offers a Christianity that is neither dependent on emotional conversion story nor demanding of a systematic theology (OK that was stated as a negative). We are the church that talks about Christian faith with a simplicity modeled by the New Testament. We cannot become the church that worries about its own survival. That’s just bad Karma waiting to happen.
I’m trying to infuse all of the work with prayerful activity.
I’m admitting that when I was trying not to be “that guy” I did identify some problems that emerge in come with being “that guy.” But, I’m also admitting that my motivations may have been more self-centered and self-indulgent than I really want them to be. This is the time to faithfully pursue effectiveness.
The efforts we are trying now may still turn out to be catastrophic failures. I’m not particularly good at being “that guy” having never really tried before. It will take more than me being “that guy” it will take us becoming “that church” to truly grow and retain new members. But if we deny the blessings of our church’s fellowship, the grace of our shared ministries, and most of all the access we have to Jesus Christ, all because we don’t want to be “that guy,” then I think we may have committed bigger sins.