Seven Qualities of an Inward, Ingrown Church

Yesterday at the church where I pastor, I shared one characteristic of what C. John Miller calls an ‘ingrown church.’ Below are a synopsis of all seven characteristics from his book, Outgrowing the Ingrown Church  by C. John Miller(Zondervan, 1986) pp. 27-40.

1. Tunnel Vision

Members of the ingrown church body are characterized by tunnel vision that limits potential ministries of the church to those that can be accomplished by the visible, human resources at hand. These possibilities are often further limited by recollections of past negative experiences and perceptions of present obstacles. At bottom, this is unbelief based on a secularized ignorance of the Spirit’s power—His ability to supply us with God’s goals for the church and the supernatural means to reach them.

2. Shared Sense of Group Superiority

This visionless church is often characterized by a sense of superiority to “the others.” Many smaller congregations and their leadership have become egocentric because of their fear of extinction. Struggling churches are likely to exaggerate points of superiority they actually possess as means of compensation for their limitations. . . . This assumed positive feature leads to an unconscious elitist attitude. If we are proudly clinging to an ecclesiastical tradition and making it our hope, we may have secured our status in our own eyes yet failed miserably with the Lord.

3. Extreme Sensitivity to Negative Human Opinion

The members of the ingrown church are also likely to feel inferior and shrivel up and die at the first sign of opposition. A world of disapproval from a “pillar” of the church is enough to rattle the ecclesiastical squirrel cage and send everyone running for cover. . . . The sad truth is that one negative critic with a loud voice who speaks from within the inner circle of the ingrown church usurps the role of Christ, wielding the power to make or break programs. . . . An ingrown church has given in for so long to intimidation that its fears have obscured vital contact with the promises of God.

4. Niceness in Tone

The ingrown church has the shared desire to be seen as “nice.” What is often wanted in the local church is unrelieved blandness: a “nice pastor” preaching “nice sermons” about a “nice Jesus” delivered in a “nice tone” of voice. . . . It is likely that those who are walking with Him in close fellowship will not always be nice and predictable. But the introverted church wants to secure the church doors against divine surprises and unannounced entrances by the King.

5. Christian Soap Opera in Style

In the introverted church we find that the members use their tongues a great deal—not to witness or pray or praise or to affirm one another, but to publicly review on another’s flaws, doings, and sins. We all know how easy it is for church members to go home after hearing a sermon and have “roast pastor” for lunch. Why does this happen? . . . . Unbelief and fear characterize the mental outlook in the ingrown church. The members of the church do not see themselves as living, praying, and talking in partnership with Christ and one another through His indwelling Holy Spirit. There is often a failure to cultivate among leaders and people a spirit of forgiveness, mutual forbearance, and love.

6. Confused Leadership Roles

In many churches the members of the congregation do not want officers who are trying to be pacesetters for God’s kingdom. This is especially true of the small church, where fear of change runs high. In the typical self-centered church, there is a hidden determination to eradicate enthusiasm that disturbs the comfortable routine dictated by self-trust, self-exaltation, niceness as a defense mechanism, and the rights of gossip. . . . In this system elders also lack great convictions about God and His gospel and have little active role in the daily lives of church members.

7. A Misdirected Purpose

It is clear from the foregoing that the controlling purpose in the ingrown church has to do with survival—not with growth through conversion of the lost. We can recognize this misdirected purpose by noting what goes into the church budget (and what is left out) and how visitors to the church services are welcomed. No planning is devoted to finding ways to assimilate visitors into the fellowship.

Read through Romans 1, Psalm 95, and Matthew 28:18-20 each day for a week. Ask God to show you how to prevent or to overcome being an inward, ingrown church.

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Six Ways to Use Vacations to Help Preaching, Passion, and Productivity

20140920_160118_AndroidIt’s interesting how the subject of vacation for ministers has been approached over the years.  In Charles Bridges’ classic work on ministry matters, he rejects the notion that ministers should ever have any sort of recreation, even taking a day off during the week.  Spurgeon was another workaholic, having started and headed up over 60 organizations during his ministry at the Metropolitan Tabernacle.

Now, we look at how important vacation, recreation, and even days off are for the minister.  Ministers are casualties in the landscape of evangelicalism—1500 ministers are leaving the ministry every month!  The reasons are myriad: burn out, hurt from parishioners, moral failure, etc., ad infinitum, ad nauseum.  Wayne Cordeiro and others have written books on how ministers are prone to divorces, depression, anger, fear, and numerous other maladies that affect their psyche and their close relationships.  Cordeiro’s book Leading on Empty tracks his personal trek through these severe valleys and the systems he put in place for accountability and recreation so he’s running on full potential and energy as needed.

I’ve posted before that ministers living in a perpetual state of guilt—at least every minister goes through that season.  He spends time in ministry with sermon preparation, visitation to the sick and homebound and those in the hospital—but that means time away from your family than most ‘normal’ families have (whatever ‘normal’ means).  But then he spends time with your family (day at the park, weekend in the mountains, week with grandparents), he finds himself having a hard time pulling away from church matters.  He emails, calls periodically, texts a parishioner or a member of your staff to stay on top of things.  He’s had one major event happen while he were gone on vacation or a missions trip—he just can’t handle another.

So can a minister of a church, where a love for his members accompanied with the anxieties that compile daily (2 Corinthians 11:28) truly have a vacation?  That’s something I am going to pray about and explore without Internet or e-mail, both of which help but also significantly hinder productivity and, yes, even critical thinking.

We’ll see what God shows us during this time.  I’m looking forward to it immensely.  So this is what I’m going to do next time I vacation:

  1. Trust my associate pastor, ministry staff, and deacons to handle the ministry very capably when I’m away–which I know they will do.
  2. (HT: Mark Combs) I will uninstall all my social media apps from my phone (Facebook, Hootsuite, and E-mail) in an effort to break the habit of checking my phone all too frequently when I should be with family, friends, and my Heavenly Father.
  3. I will watch what I eat–even as I know I’ll go to White Castle, Cracker Barrel, and a myriad of family functions and BBQs.
  4. I will continue to exercise. I’ve redeveloped a love for running, thanks to the C25K app.  I’m on vacation from my work, not from my health.
  5. I will attend a worship service with my family while away. I need to hear the Word, even as I preach the Word hundreds of times per year.
  6. I will bring books that may or may not have to do with my vocation as pastor.  Will I bring my Bible?  Absolutely–and I’ll read through the Psalms (yes, I’m preaching on those when I return), but I’ll do this devotionally for sure. A leadership book?  Sure!  Harper Lee’s new book?  Still debating.  A soccer book?  Inverting the Pyramid: The History of Soccer Tactics by Jonathan Wilson sounds excellent. Os Guinness’ Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion?  Well, maybe just one preaching book! (OK, OK, I may not bring all of those, but when leaders are readers, you’ll see why reading is a great way to relax and sharpen!

What a necessity there is in being intentional about your vacations!

What ways do you use your vacations to help relax and sharpen?

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