The Pope needs a business meeting

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Puritan Board Doctor
This was emailed to me:

It Was Ceaper than the Carnival, Five times more Fun, and Every Mega-pastor
Needs One.

by Michael Spencer

Someone sent me this Rick Warren quote, and it's buggin' me.

When I write about Rick Warren, I'm usually not taking issue with the
content of the guy's books or the value of his accomplishments. I'm a voice
in the wilderness ranting about cookie-cutter-consumeristic idolatry in
evangelicalism, so I've had my fun with Mr. Warren's apparent elevation by
the powers that be to the level of Pope Rick I. But I've not had much
comment about what he's actually said.

But this one bothers me.

"Rick's Rules of Growth.... Third, never criticize what God is blessing,
even though it may be a style of ministry that makes you feel
uncomfortable." [PDC, page 62, bold and italics mine.]

I've thought about it for most of a day, and I've decided what the new Pope
of evangelicalism needs is one of the great traditions of the Southern
Baptist church of yore: the business meeting.

I grew up in one of those Southern Baptist churches that practiced the
extreme sport of "business meetings." Now there are a number of ways to play
this game, but we played the rodeo version. It was dangerous, and we liked
it that way. No nodding acquiescence to endless committee reports for us.
This was blood on the floor time.

A business meeting at our church was an opportunity to gripe, moan, whine,
insinuate, criticize, carp, ridicule, assassinate, threaten, lie, cry,
faint, pontificate, filibuster and commit acts of violence, all with the
best interests of God's kingdom and Christ's church at heart. People who
silently endured abuse from their employers and torment from their spouses
came to business meetings to get it all out on the table. The lions may have
eaten the Christians in the first century, but the Christians were doing the
entertainment via dismemberment in these meetings.

In some churches, the pastor was the "moderator" of this circus, but we
would have none of that. In our business meetings, the pastor was reduced to
one of the little people, and a layman- usually a deranged deacon (before
the invention of psychiatric medications)- would run the show. His goal was
simple: whip the congregation into a frenzy that would frighten the pastor
into mumbling, terrorized submission to the members of various ruling clans.
If the pastor needed to be tied to a chair, that could be arranged.

The moderator wasn't the only special person at these outings. The business
meeting crowd was a unique gathering of humanity in and of itself. This kind
of fun wasn't for everyone.

There were those folks who never missed a church meeting, even if their
child was expiring in an ER somewhere. Next to them were the big givers, who
were going to make sure that every penny of God's money ended up exactly
where they wanted it to go. You had your detail fanatics; the kind of people
who knew how much a pencil cost by the gram, how much it cost to heat the
ladies bathroom in the choir room, and last year's per capita usage of
toilet tissue by the sheet and by age group. Of course, there were folks who
just showed up to gawk and see what happened next. The same people who hang
around automobile accidents and freak shows.

What we needed were lawyers, therapist, referees and people who could give
sedatives to the unruly, but those folks never seemed to show up.

In special circumstances, you were allowed to bring in extra congregation
members, but it had to be a major occasion. Voting on the budget always
filled up a few pews IF the staff was getting a raise. Youth ministry
related votes- like permission to paint the youth room as a gigantic pizza-
brought out youth, parents and grandparents. And if you were fortunate
enough to be around for a contentious vote on firing the pastor, building a
building or- best of all- tearing down the old sanctuary, you could expect
to see everyone from new born babies to the town madam with ladies and
customers in tow.

My business meeting favorites were the fiery orators and extemporary
instigators. These were the people who loved to stand and make speeches that
sounded like we were about to vote on the dissolution of the Union. People
who would never preach, teach Sunday School or witness to their coworkers
would stand and argue with the devil over how much we were paying the kid
who cut the grass. They knew how to inflame a crowd to violence with nothing
more than last month's budget.

This was where the pastor never knew what was coming. Could the pastor
explain why we've sung the same invitation hymn on the four fifth Sundays of
this year? Could the pastor explain why his children aren't signed up for
the 24 hour prayer-a-thon? Could the pastor explain why we consistently get
out later than the Methodists, and have to wait to be seated at the local
buffet? Would the pastor mind if we rescinded all his medical benefits to
pay for a new transmission in the church van?

And who can explain the delights of the standard menu items of a business
meeting? You just have to be there.

-The Rain Man clone who has the Sunday School statistical report honed down
to an exactness far surpassing any NASA number crunchers.

-The Women's mission committee chairperson who entertains us for twenty
minutes with descriptions of the Bangla Deshi themed finger food at last
month's meeting.

-The Finance Committee chairman who seems convinced we will have to close
the doors and sell the place if we don't inherit a uranium mine.

-The Deacon Chairman who shares with us that since all this year's nominees
have declined to serve, the deacons have not only voted to install
themselves for life, but are going to dig up some of the better deacons from
past centuries from the church cemetery.

-The Youth Committee chairperson who assures us that the $25,000 the youth
want for a trip to Tahiti will all be used for evangelism.

-The Music Committee chairman who talks us through the budget requests for
this year's Christmas pageant, explaining that just going ahead and buying
five camels and ten Palestinian peasants is a lot better than renting them
every year.

-The Evangelism Committee chairperson who can't understand why weekly door
to door confrontational evangelism in a crime ridden trailer park isn't
pulling in the big numbers.....or even the pastor.

Now here's the part where I've been thinking about Pope Rick's comment: New

New business was where you got to ask questions about whatever you wanted.
The pastor had to listen. You could ask about his hot new ideas. You could
ask why we threw out the hymnals. You could ask what the skateboarding
ministry was actually doing. You could suggest that $500,000 for a neon
message board bigger than the one at Times Square was a waste of money.

You could suggest that doing the Purpose Driven Life campaign might be
something less than the next Great Awakening. And you weren't taken away and

You could criticize what was going on, and it was OK. You weren't
unsupportive or unspiritual. Even if "God was blessing," you could ask if it
was Biblical, or true to the church's purpose. You could question the pastor
right there to his face, instead of dealing with one of his underlings or
enforcers. And if the pastor said something stupid like "Don't criticize
what God is blessing....," you could laugh at him right there in front of

Heck, you could even ask if he planned to ever buy decent shoes and a shirt.

New business was our church's way of keeping the people and the leadership
on common ground. It didn't keep leaders from leading, but it didn't put
members in the position of a bobblehead doll either.

I'm totally in favor of church government by elders, but don't get rid of
some version of the business meeting. Leaders don't slip edicts out from
under a closed door. They have to listen and respond to all the nonsense.
And when they are the ones serving up the nonsense, they get to listen to
it. No special meetings. No monologues, no video presentations, no lectures
by highly compensated outside consultants that subtly let us know our actual
questions have been "dealt with in the research phase and are answered in
the printed materials."

New business lets the congregation be the people of God, and treats leaders
as if they mean to emulate Jesus in leading by serving. So what if you don't
know what's coming next? At least if it's a three legged chicken, you'll get
to ask why we need one. And if you want hymns in worship again, you can just
stand up and say so.

Pope Rick is hailed as the Southern Baptist icon of the new millennium. From
his pontifical chair, he assures us that God told him, God led him, God
blessed him, so buy the book, the CD, the tape, the video and get the live
feed. Don't wait for your turn to talk. It's not coming. Not from Pope Rick.
Not from his underlings. Not from his denominational promoters. Not from the
people making millions off Purpose-Driven products. You're supposed to sit
quietly and nod on cue. It's so wonderful. Feel the love. Take the pill. Be
assimilated. Accept the chip in your.....wait a minute. This is getting out
of hand!

I say if he can't stomach an old fashioned Southern Baptist business
meeting, he's a wimp. Face the people, including the thoughtful, reasonable
critics with tough questions, and let them say whatever they want. If they
want to criticize "what God is blessing," maybe God is telling you you're

Here's to the day when the Purpose Driven churches end the spin and hype,
quit hiding behind all this CEO bullying, and have a business meeting that
lasts all night, where plenty of obnoxious people criticize the dubious
suggestion that "what God is blessing," i.e. what the pastor wants, is
beyond criticism.

If you run a bus, I'll be there with a lunch.
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