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Monday, July 18, 2005

Toxins and Terminal Diseases in the Body of Christ

Whychurchesdie_1 I started reading a book last week that I loved from the start!  It's called Why Churches Die:  Diagnosing Lethal Poisons in the Body of Christ by Mac Brunson and Ergun Caner.  Chapter one is subtitled:  "Extending the Right Fist of Fellowship".  See if you can relate to how Mac and Ergun start the book...

Have you ever stood in a church parking lot and listened to a story that ended with one of these sentences?

"That church split over the color of the carpet!"

"She walked right up to the pulpit and slapped the pastor!"

"The deacon's meeting ended in an actual fist fight!"

Disturbing, isn't it? Local churches all over the world split so often that it is almost an assumed end. Pastors are fired, members storm off, staff members take a group from one church to start another just down the road. Business meetings become Christian versions of Thunderdome. Yelling, fighting, screaming. Taking sides against fellow believers. Doubting one another's salvation. Power plays, deception, and alliances that would rival any Survivor episode.

Have you ever stopped and asked yourself, "How in the world did we get here? Is this what church is supposed to be like?"

Have you ever wondered why members of the church of the living God sometimes act like nonbelievers?

Have you ever thought that church might be fun and fulfilling, were it not for the people inside the building?

Have you ever been so completed outraged by actions in the church that you swore off church completely?

Have you ever felt that going to church was a waste of your time?

Have you ever wondered why God would even save some of these folk, much less use them in leadership in a local church?

Well, so have we.

You read correctly. two men, with a combined fifty years of pastoral experience, have been frustrated often by the churches we were called to serve. In truth, so are most pastors. When we gather in conventions and meetings, ministers often speak in hushed tones and whispers, relaying stories of horrific business meetings, contentious committees, and brutal fellowships. And dear reader, if we were to be painfully honest, so can we all.

Virtually every Christian, active in a local assembly, can share stories that defy the imagination. Church is not supposed to be this way.

Does any of this resonate with you?  I know when I read this, I immediately thought, "Yeah... this is what I've thought for a long time."  You see, I may be a little naive... but I don't think that it should be that hard to get along with people... yet as both a church staff member and a layman I've found that people offend very easily (and I hope I don't offend that easily as well!)  Should getting along really be all that hard?  Why do churches have to be nastier (or at least as nasty) as the world sometimes?  I've asked these questions for a long time, and I'm hoping as I read through this book that Mac and Ergun can help give me some answers.  :)

As a matter of fact, I'd like to invite you along for the journey... here's my invitation.  Oprah has a monthly book club (I am told) that gets everyone reading the same book for discussion.  That's what I'd like to do here.  If this book sounds as interesting to you as it does to me; order a copy; and let's work through it together.  It's only around ten bucks at Amazon.com... and if you order it now, we can start our journey together starting next week.  Whadaya say?

Let's discuss these questions here at the MMI Blog today; and if you decide to order the book and join our little 'book club discussion', please leave a comment below telling us 'you're in'!

Have a great week!


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July 18, 2005 in Leadership Issues, SPECIAL: Why Churches Die | Permalink

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Hi Todd

Just ordered the book "Why Churches Die". I hope to get in a about two days. I would like to be in the discussion.

Have A Great Day.

Posted by: Derek Lazarus | Jul 18, 2005 10:05:14 AM

I paraphrase Dr.Wayne Dyer: Some people wake up looking to be offended, and they are not disappointed.

What is sad is that we in the church then cater to and coddle people in their need to be in a constant state of offense. I don't recall Jesus doing that. Patience, kindness andlove don't have to be juztaposed with honesty. And, if people sometimes get huffy and leave, so be it.

Posted by: Cory Kemp | Jul 18, 2005 10:10:15 AM

Great Derek! Way to be a 'trail-blazer'! :) Any other takers?


Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Jul 18, 2005 10:11:04 AM

I just ordered the book. I am in for the discussion!

Posted by: David Poole | Jul 18, 2005 10:15:10 AM

Great Dave! Look forward to sharing with you!


Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Jul 18, 2005 10:18:58 AM

What an interesting article to pull up right after the chief burr in my saddle just walked out of my study. He's a retired pastor who doesn't know how not to be the pastor. It makes me want to rejoin the ranks of the laity ... but if/when I ever do, I sincerely pray I won't be like him and others like him. God help us all!

Thanks for MMI -- it helps ... a lot!

Posted by: stephen | Jul 18, 2005 10:42:05 AM

Wow, this will hit a nerve. Just ordered the book, and looking forward to the discussion.

Posted by: Richard Wollard | Jul 18, 2005 10:51:53 AM

Welcome, Richard... that brings our Oprah book club up to four now! :) How many did Oprah have?


Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Jul 18, 2005 10:55:12 AM

Hey, guys... I just woke up and checked my e-mail... was SO surprised to see this blog... but have to smile inside. The last church we pastored -- my boyhood church -- could have provided all the fodder for this book. Who would have known? Fortunately, my wife and I recovered and are still in the ministry. I've often wondered if God has a special place in heaven ("if they even go there"?) for the matriarchal spirits that dominate the deacon/elder board -- ha! Blessings on all of you!

Posted by: Jeff Freeman | Jul 18, 2005 11:09:03 AM

I'm in. Ordering the book now. Sounds great!

Todd you write: Should getting along really be all that hard? Why do churches have to be nastier (or at least as nasty) as the world sometimes?

I agree. I have often wished the church would run like the pickup basketball game at my local court. You know you step inside the game, you play hard as a team and you play hard against the other team. Sure, a dispute breaks out once in a while, complaints happen about "bad calls", screaming ensues and maybe even a little "polite" shoving happens here and there. But regardless of the result, regardless of the score, we shake hands and say "good game" and move on.

Now, if it's a church basketball tournament...man are those things brutal! I would rather play pickup basketball at the local park then ever step inside a church tourney game! Geesh!

Posted by: Steve | Jul 18, 2005 11:17:44 AM

Uh oh... it just got a lot more interesting now that Steve from StupidChurchPeople.com is 'in'. :) We're up to five. Do I hear six? Wonder what a reasonable goal would be?


Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Jul 18, 2005 11:20:51 AM

I'm in. Looking forward to the insight and sharing this will ilicit.

Posted by: Dave Bentley | Jul 18, 2005 11:23:33 AM

Dave B. makes 6... welcome Dave!

Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Jul 18, 2005 11:25:52 AM

I'm ordering the book today. I'm in.

Tony Story

Posted by: Tony Story | Jul 18, 2005 11:32:57 AM

Todd and everyone else -- Good morning, again... I am now actually awake. I just ordered the book -- my first Amazon.com experience. I have now just gone through twenty minutes of memories of our pastoral experience in Indiana at a Congregational church. I'm looking forward to reading the book -- it may confirm that I was NOT totally crazy and these things DO happen at other churches. We have now returned to Southern California where we are involved with a wonderful church called "The Church On The Way" -- maybe you've heard of it. (please stop by if you're in the neighborhood!) Anyway, this will also be one of my first "blog groups" -- so be patient with me. Bottom line, may Jesus be glorified in all of this! Let's keep loving and serving people! For those of you who have Monday as a day off (I remember these days) -- have a GREAT ONE!!!

Posted by: Jeff Freeman | Jul 18, 2005 11:38:33 AM

I am about to order the book so that I can also join this discussion. I turned down the pastorship of one church because I knew I would be walking into a situation that was like some of what sounds described in the book. There were two definite 'camps' in that church, and I didn't need to get between them.

I would also add that the problem fits perfectly with how I describe Sin, and my argument that we each individually choose the exact same type of Sin, then customize it for ourselves.

Posted by: Bill | Jul 18, 2005 12:03:17 PM

I'll join in. Appreciate the opportunity to participate and listen.

Posted by: John Verburg | Jul 18, 2005 12:24:12 PM

How about input from a pastor's wife. My husband and I have just left a church that sounds pretty much like what is described in this book. I will order this book tonight; my husband and I will read it together with you. He has just taken a secular job; not sure if he's going back into the pastorate.

Posted by: Bonita H. | Jul 18, 2005 12:42:49 PM

Up to a dozen now! :)


Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Jul 18, 2005 12:54:17 PM

Count me in.

Posted by: BeHim | Jul 18, 2005 1:10:52 PM

And BeHim is lucky number 13. It keeps getting better! :)

Posted by: Todd Rhoades | Jul 18, 2005 1:13:35 PM

I am looking for the money to get the book and join in, but I am a victim of just such a church and have had some folks ask me to start a "church down the road." I was really beaten up by a church leadership that said I was a good Christian man, a man of integrity, built a great youth ministry, but did not "fit" the vision of the church. Thus, I was just fired. For doing my job...I was fired. 8 people out of a 1100 member church wanted me gone, so they got in leadership and I was fired. "Fired for the Glory of God", an article by Mike Yaconelli, really has pulled me through a lot of hurt...do you think Toxins and Terminal Diseases will as well?

Posted by: Jay | Jul 18, 2005 2:32:36 PM

Dear, Dear Bonita:

Listen to one of my more interesting eperiences (and I assre you, there are MORE, from at least 3 other pastorates in 22 years):

17 years ago, I was called (it was in writing) to pastor a chuch, but the search committee, also charged with the responsibility to settle me in, evidently wasn't happy with the church's vote. They jettisoned the process, intercepted letters I wrote to the church, and, without the courtesy of notification, led the church to call another man. After several "resignations" that man eventually left the church in shambles about 3 yrs ago. Incidentally, the first group of people who opposed his leadership and left, were...you guessed it - the search committee members!!!

Please, please tell your husband to remain open to the Lord's redirection to a new pastorate. He does need time to heal (and reading this book can be a meaningful part of the process) but he must NOT allow the goats (and even wolves!) to sic him out of tending sheep, which, I still contend, after all my experiences, outnumber the other critters! While you both are it, see if you can get your hands on a book (probably out of print by now) entitled "THEY CRY TOO" by Lucille Lavender (available on amazon.com). Be encouraged, daughter! And remind your husband that he is STILL GOd's favored son!

Posted by: Michael | Jul 18, 2005 2:35:55 PM

Hey Bill,

I took on a church that no one would touch for these reasons (and the last pastor had a couple of affairs). I've got a hundred stories. (How about a lady who left the church because someone painted the wrong room?)

I'm in.


Posted by: keith | Jul 18, 2005 3:20:58 PM

Dear Ones:

It was about four hours ago that I entered this blog (and ordered the book!)... it's so interesting to see all the comments (I'm new to blogging). Anyway, we're going to have a GREAT time reading this book together... I can tell. Todd, thanks for your insight and servant-hearted leadership. I mentioned earlier that my wife and I are now a part of (actually, we're "back again") "The Church On The Way" (Jack Hayford, Founding Pastor -- Jim Tolle -- our present Senior Pastor)... we've experienced a lot of healing being here. While serving in my boyhood Congregational church, we were essentially "voted out" by members of the Masonic Lodge. It must have been that sermon I preached on Jesus being the only way to salvation... oh well, lessons learned!
To all my fellow pastors who have been hurt by sheep: Press on! The best is yet to come! God is NOT finished with you -- there IS a call on your life. Hang in there! My wife and I are living proof that there IS life after "blood-spattering"... bless you all!
Again, please stop by The Church On The Way when you're in the neighborhood!
Much love,
Jeff Freeman

Posted by: Jeff Freeman | Jul 18, 2005 3:25:34 PM

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