Larry's Blog

Is Church a Service Industry?

8/28/2008 2:37 PM

I have to confess, I do think of the Area church, at least, existing to serve the local church. But Randy Pausch, of all people, has given me a better metaphor. He writes in his best seller, The Last Lecture, about the customer service framework affecting higher education, where parents who believe they are paying top dollar for a product want that education to be valuable in a measurable way. "What will this do for my child's earning potential?" they ask.

Sadly, many worshippers approach church life the same way. They believe they are paying 'top dollar' through their offerings of time and money, and evaluate each Sunday experience by what they 'got out of it.' Ministers and church leaders respond to that pressure by trying ever harder to entertain and impress, even if it is done subconciously. The focus of worship comes off of God and is placed on pleasing the person in the pew. 

Pausch writes on pg.111 of his book, "...I think it's important to use the right industry metaphor. It's not retail. Instead, I'd compare college tuition to paying for a personal trainer at an athletic club. We professors play the role of trainers giving people access to the equipment (books, labs, our expertise) and after that, our job is to be demanding. We need to make sure our students are exerting themselves. We need to praise them when they deserve it and to tell them honestly when they have it in them to work harder.

Most importantly, we need to let them know how to judge for themselves how they are coming along...to teach students how to see their minds growing in the same way they can see their muscles grow when they look in a mirror."

Can ministers see themselves as personal trainers of the spirits and minds of those who trust themselves to ministry? Seeing someone grow spiritually deeper with God and mentally more aware of the truths of Scripture and life has always been the thrill for my soul in ministry. This approach allows the focus to be on God in worship and also demands that something more than entertainment be the criteria for reflecting upon church life. An idea worth considering!

The Frailty of Life

8/20/2008 1:10 PM

Today I am grieving the loss of a friend. She was, of all things, my barber when I was in Traverse City, Michigan, for a ten year ministry. She eventually became a member of the church, a friend to my wife, and someone whose creativity led her to decorate the hall for the wedding of one of my daughters.

She was killed in the blink of an eye when a car crossed the center line and hit her head on. She leaves two young adult daughters and a son.

Sometimes we wonder if the church and the faith really make differences in the lives of people. She was one whose spiritual growth was obvious, and who bore witness to the difference Jesus made in her life and family.

When an accident can take away that kind of friend so suddenly, how can we take life for granted?

First Area Minister Blog Entry

8/8/2008 2:35 PM

Hi! Here I am at the Regional board meeting, being held at our very own NTA Mission Center. As I enjoy this meeting, I am grateful for the gift of this campus to the area from the Western Heights Christian Church. Sometimes I wonder if we fully appreciate all the gifts we gain from others. We each are where we are today because of the prior work of others and the generosity of so many.  

We are starting our work as Regional Council with Bible study, looking at 1 Thess 5:1-18 and asking how the text informs our sense of being church. I wonder how many of our church folk understand how important Scripture is to the leadership of the Region! Many churches could learn something by watching the Regional Council beginning business with careful prayer and deep Bible study.

When I was a local church pastor, all to often our church board meetings jumped right in to business with only a token prayer. How I wish we had spent the time in Scripture and prayer that this council meeting is modeling!