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Disconnected Church Connections – Of Speakers at Seminars, Conferences, and More

Posted by on May 9, 2013 in community, discipleship, fellowship, gathering | 15 comments

Disconnected Church Connections – Of Speakers at Seminars, Conferences, and More

In a previous post, I explained that I was starting a new series on the topic of “disconnected connections.” (See my post “Disconnected Church Connections – Introduction.”) I’ve already discussed the “disconnected connections” that we make by reading books, articles, essays, and, yes, even blog posts and the “disconnected connections” that make online. (See my posts “Disconnected Church Connections – Of Authors and Similar Personalities” and “Disconnected Church Connections – Of Online Friends and Followers” respectively.)

What do I mean by “disconnected connections”? We can often feel “connected” to other Christians without face-to-face interactions. We often feel like we “know” people who we have never met. (As I explained in the introduction, I am not condemning disconnected connections. Instead, I’m cautioning that these types of relationships should be supplemental (and secondary) to real life, face-to-face interactions.

There’s another common source of “disconnected connections” among the church: speakers. Conference speakers. Seminar speakers. TV and radio personalities. People attend a conference or listen to a radio or TV broadcast – perhaps several times – and begin to think that they know the speaker. They don’t. They can’t. The speakers can provide information, but that’s all. And, as I’ve stated before, information is not the basis of growth and maturity in Jesus Christ.

Many people would agree with what I just said, and would caution against the overemphasis on conference, seminar, radio, and TV personalities. But, there’s another group of speakers who we need to think about as well.

Preachers.

Now, don’t misunderstand me… there are some preachers among traditional churches who share their lives with other people regularly – day in and day out. But, I think these are few and far between – not necessarily because of the preachers themselves, but because of the nature of the system they are part of. (I’m using the term “preacher” to refer to a person who speaks regularly – usually weekly at least – to a church audience.)

A few years ago, a young man who became a very close friend of mine explained his own experience with this. He had been part of a very popular church organization in our area. This church is known for some very good things, including their preacher. One day, my friend told me, this preacher was talking about loving others. He realized that he had no idea what the preacher meant by “love one another,” because he had never seen the preacher living it out. There was no “teaching through life” to accompany the “teaching by words.” (By the way, I’m sure this preacher shares his life with others, but he cannot share his life with everyone he speaks to every week.)

So, among the church, we often have “disconnected connections” with preachers, pastors, elders, whatever we call them. Then, we look to them as our primary leaders and teachers among the church. This is a problem. This is not the way that God works among the church. Instead, he works through the real life, face-to-face interactions between his children.

Of all of these “disconnected connections,” the shallow (sometimes nonexistent) relationship that we have with people who claim to be our leaders (and we accept their claim all too easily) is perhaps the most harmful to the health of the church.

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Series on “Disconnected Church Connections”

  1. Introduction
  2. Of Authors and Similar Personalities
  3. Of Online Friends and Followers
  4. Of Speakers at Seminars, Conferences, and More
  5. Of the Lack of Relationships Among the Church

15 Comments

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  1. 5-9-2013

    “Preacher” isn’t a job title or description of a member of the church body. “Pastor” is. One presents information, the other relates to the flock. I’d rather have a pastor who can’t preach well than a preacher who can’t pastor well.

  2. 5-9-2013

    Andrew,

    I’m not sure that either “preacher” or “pastor” is a job title or job description in Scripture. They both refer to some action that someone is taking, i.e., a “preacher” is someone who proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ to unbelievers (primarily those with the spiritual gift of evangelizing) and a “pastor” is someone who is caring for others (primarily those with the spiritual gift of pastoring). I think both are necessary for the growth of body of Christ, although probably not the way we typically see them today.

    By the way, around here (and in the other places I’ve lived), “preacher” and “pastor” were used interchangeably to refer to the same person.

    -Alan

  3. 5-9-2013

    Alan, I appreciate and understand what you’re saying. However, Jesus went from town to town proclaiming the gospel. He even went up the mountain to teach 5000 men plus the women and children. Peter preached to thousands on the day of Pentecost. Obviously these are “disconnected connections.”

    So I’m not sure it’s fair to say, “This is not the way that God works among the church.” Perhaps that’s a bit too broad a statement.

  4. 5-9-2013

    I quote: “So, among the church, we often have “disconnected connections” with preachers, pastors, elders, whatever we call them. Then, we look to them as our primary leaders and teachers among the church. This is a problem. This is not the way that God works among the church.”

    And: “What do I mean by “disconnected connections”? We can often feel “connected” to other Christians without face-to-face interactions.”

    So, if your first statement is true according to your own definition, then there is something wrong with the way we are “doing church.”

    To backtrack a bit, all those who are part of the Body of Christ, are connected. Period. Because of the common life we share (Christ’s). I think we need to recognize and acknowledge that even though it’s beyond the scope of your definition. I think Paul makes that clear in his letter to the Ephesians, “…we have all been baptized into one body.”

    Next, we need to acknowledge and recognize that the only Scriptural mechanism by which we are to gather together (face-to-face) is through the local church. Period. Let me repeat: there is no other mechanism explained in Scripture by which and through which we are to interact.

    And that brings me to my statement that if we do experience a “disconnected connection” in our local church, then there is something wrong with our local church, either though how its organized, or because the members of the local body aren’t living up to the Scriptural principles clearly given to us in God’s Word.

    Which brings me to your point about “preachers” and your example of the young man who didn’t “connect” with the preacher. Firstly, preaching is a valid activity within the local church. The gift of teaching is a valid gift of the Holy Spirit. The leadership of the local church is chosen, not by the congregation, but by God Himself, and as such, as a member of the local church, I must recognize them and look to them as leaders. The leadership is to be made up of a plurality of elders… not one man. This is God’s design, and if we stray from that, then all sorts of problems can arise, like “disconnected connections.”

  5. 5-9-2013

    Scott,

    I think Jesus communicated with the crowds and with his disciples differently. Interestingly, even Jesus’ “sermons” were often interactive. We should be both proclaiming the gospel to the crowds, and interacting in a more intimate way with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

    Ron,

    Yes, I agree. I’m going to cover some of that in the concluding post tomorrow.

    -Alan

  6. 5-9-2013

    I’ve alluded to this in previous comments but part of the problem is that our sense of community is too often based on numbers. We’re conditioned to wanting our church(es) to grow numerically and we acknowledge having a ‘few’ good relationships but seem to believe that we need a ‘few more’ good relationships.

    I think the quest for church body growth increases our frustration with a less than commensurate growth in the numbers and quality of our close and deeper relationships.

    While straying from our topic a bit, let me say also that I would advocate for smaller ‘churches’ down to the conventional small group size. There, the relationships will be deeper, naturally. Growth would come by multiplication (which is a whole nuther topic!) I realize this is counter to what we ‘think’ should happen and places challenges on our traditional church models but nonetheless, it bears exploring.

  7. 5-9-2013

    Heartspeak,

    I hope the church grows numerically, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that there will be more people together at any certain time.

    -Alan

  8. 5-9-2013

    Alan,

    Precisely!

  9. 5-10-2013

    You make a great point with your “Disconnected Connections” … thought provoking! And very true.

    The church we attend struggles with “disconnected connections”. The shepherds aren’t intimate and personally connecting with the sheep. In general, too many pastors ‘keep a safe distance’ these days from their congregation … engaging in ‘lukewarm’ connections at best.

    As you know, God is not very fond of ‘lukewarm’.

    Your blog caught my attention on Twitter. I’ve also been working on a ‘model’ for looking at church connection and impact. In the early stages of developing it. If your curious, I’d love hear your insights … http://www.globalmensgroup.com/a-model-and-principles-for-building-church-growth-and-impact/

  10. 5-10-2013

    So true.

    My grandma, who I looked to all my life to see what it means to love Jesus, went to be with the Lord in 2007 and it was a major turning point in my relationship with the Lord.

    I prayed continually for God to bring me a mentor like her after she passed. I remember crying about it quite frequently – and even directly asking other people to let me walk alongside them. I am shocked I wasn’t picked up by one of the many people wanting followers.

    I am SO THANKUL God did not put me around people who were looking for followers or people to disciple… really!

    I had grown up (sort of) in the church system so I was thinking to be a follower, I was supposed to follow somebody….and I am so so so thankful God protected me from that.

    He knows us so intimately. He knew that I had been trained & it was now a weakness to follow others & put others on a pedestal between me & the Lord. Thinking too highly of them… yet not really even knowing them.

    I grew SO close to the Lord in the next year. I was so hungry and was just truly drinking and eating of the Lord nonstop. I really don’t remember sleeping a lot that year. I wasn’t even drinking any caffeine in those years! I would stay up to the wee hours of the night reading my Bible and was up before my alarm every day. I remember “going to Church” and just being so wide open and excited and full of life and just about to bust I was so full of His Spirit & love…if it wasn’t for the loving restraint of my husband, I probably would have stepped on stage many a day. I would look around for anybody alive in Christ…and felt no connection. No energy….like I was the only one alive.

    Because the pastor was at least on person speaking “to me” about Jesus, I used to try to talk back to Him about what I was learning and just how excited I was…..but I never got anything back. Even in person I was simply directed to get involved with the Church. For some reason, I was not chosen to be part of his inner circle. (THANK YOU Lord!! I see now it was such a blessing).

    So I figured I had to earn my way closer to the top….because I clearly was no longer meant to be a pew sitter….I just didn’t fit there anymore…. so I asked how I could be part of the family & they told me the 1st step was to volunteer in the children’s department since I had a child going there each Sunday…. and then go to class 101 to learn about our denomination :) Then I could go to 201 after I finished that to really learn about surrendering to the Lord & discipleship… and finally 301 where I could find out my spiritual gifts and really figure out how God wanted to use me and how I could serve the Church.

    Looking back, I AM SO THANKFUL that they missed the opportunity to take me under their wings & include me & properly disciple me. I am so thankful for the rejection I felt and the redirecting & turning away that continually happened…. because it really lead me straight into the Lord’s arms alone and freed me from putting others on a pedestal my whole life. I had kept my grandma in between the Lord & myself my whole life, without even realizing…and I was looking for somebody else to fill in that space.

    Perhaps those leaders were intimidated by me… overwhelmed with all their duties…wanted me to earn my way into their inner circle…. or I don’t know why….maybe on a good day I could say they were discerning and heard the Lord saying to keep their hands off of me!

    But whatever the reason… it took years for me to stop looking for others to follow. “Leaders” in that system who don’t shepherd but mostly just preach & then shepherd their small clique through marital affairs & drama & such… don’t understand the giants they themselves are building and setting themselves up to have to fight.

    I was taught to learn from a preacher, respect & lift him up (follow his teachings)…but unfortunately the very essence of looking to his words for direction is what kept me spiritually paralyzed in my relationship with the Lord…. and they wonder why ‘leaders aren’t being raised up’

    praise God He can use flawed anythings and even uses our mistakes for good…but He had to do so much extra work to help me surrender to Him alone and be fully dependent on Him.

    I am so thankful that the people I was around didn’t know what to do with somebody fired up for the Lord. It’s unusual to find in their line of business so I can understand that they wouldn’t know…

    I did find it hilarious where the preacher used some of my writings in a sermon and said, “look at how the Lord is touching people through our work here”….. I was just thankful to know that he was actually getting my letters. He never did mention my name nor the fact that everything I wrote, I learned from my studying outside of Sunday… BUT

    The truth is, when you set people up to make sure they put people on pedestals, you are really asking them to put people between the Lord & themselves… so it’s natural for people to look for validation, affirmation, confirmation, adoration from that person & not the Lord. And looking for that in other peoples, means that people will always be SELF focused because they aren’t getting what they need from the Lord. So therefore, people will always be disconnected from each other.

    There’s a direct correlation between a leader being put between people & the Lord…. and the people being disconnected from each other.

    When we are connected to the Lord… we can truly connect with others and be others-focused… not needy/needing from others 1st and foremost.

    sooo all that being said….it hurt very badly every time I tried to speak to people about the sermon and nobody would talk to me. And it hurt when I would try to pour my heart out and just explain to somebody what I was feeling and I’d get dear in headlights look. It hurt that I was so needy because I didn’t know how to get love from the Lord because of my training…

    I laugh when I look back at myself in some meetings just pouring out my heart…”YOU ALL!! Jesus is so REAL. He’s REAL people and He’s going to be coming back and He is the one who formed the mountains! and can you even believe His love!? He is so amazing, I can’t wait to see Him…. We have to tell everybody! I want everybody to know His love! I don’t want anybody to be separated from Him!!”…. and would hear crickets…

    BUT with my mangled heart that was always a great student of everything I had learned up to that point…. God used all of it to direct me back to Him and I learned so much from all of it. He really used that experience to make wide open my eyes for what was going on and what could be.

    So a final note to this whole conversation & topic….

    The *only* place I found people willing to listen to me in those years and who at least would talk to me about Jesus and were not pastors… was the internet.

    And I was soo excited to find people praising Jesus and sooo excited about Him and God very very much used that time in my life.

    Through the internet, He kept me feeling some connection to others…. He gave me hope there were others out there as passionate about Jesus…. AND I see now it was very important that I disconnected from real life people at that point because I would have continually tried to put them on a pedestal or put them where they weren’t supposed to be in my life.

    So my point? God is sovereign. God is good. He uses all things for His children’s good & His glory. And in HIS time, He will connect us to others in real life. He will do it best when we will treat His people right.. we each have our different hang ups and He knows when we are ready and how we can be used in the healing process… in my process.. I needed to be away from people in person…. I really continually reached out to people all my life even through all that… but it wasn’t until the last 2 years that God allowed those seeds to sprout and me to reap a harvest of healthy relationships.

    So, if God wants to use the internet in your life…allow Him too….and don’t beat yourself up when the reaching out isn’t successful…I actually do believe there are seasons where there is disconnection… God did that for me. I would say just have those eyes open, be reaching out always and be ready cuz you never know when there will be a fruitful reaching out!

    HE will build His Church! :)

  11. 5-10-2013

    WOW I’m so sorry that was the longest COMMENT EVER!!! :)

    I’ll be shocked if anybody has the time to read that hehe and the beautiful thing is that (I type 120+ wpm and) I don’t need anybody to read it :) cuz I’m free from that. But it sure was nice to remember those things and to process it out. Really helped me make connections I didn’t even realize before. Thnx for the space to write!

  12. 5-11-2013

    Global Men’s Group,

    Thanks for the comment. I looked at your description. I don’t understand the difference between the “church” and the “congregation” in your diagrams.

    Randi,

    Stop apologizing for long comments. :)

    -Alan

  13. 5-11-2013

    I apologize for everything, way too much :)

  14. 5-11-2013

    Randi,

    Even apologize for apologizing? ;)

    -Alan

  15. 5-11-2013

    exactly. sorry about that. :)