Tag: church (page 1 of 4)

Francis Chan, Facebook and Being a Shepherd


I know I am a little late on this, but I want to talk about Francis Chan speaking to employees at Facebook Headquarter. If you’re not familiar with whom Chan is, he was previously the Lead Pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, CA and has authored numerous books (Crazy Love, Forgotten God, and Erasing Hell). When I initially heard about his talk, I really did not think much, except, “Awesome. Good for him.”

Then on July 25th, I shared an unrelated video of him that Verge Network put out. In it he talks about doing church and asks, “What if we opened the bible, read it, and tried to do what it says?” Later, a friend commented, asking if Chan was the guy that abandoned his church. The direction of the question intrigued me, so we started talking about it. My friend admitted he unfamiliar with what happened surrounding Chan leaving his church in early 2010. He said most of what he knew came from a podcast that talked about it after Chan spoke at FB.

The 7 Minute Critique

The podcast he referenced is called CrossPolitic. To be clear, I do not listen to their show and only know what I read on their website. But, I did listen to the part of the episode that they talked about Chan speaking at FB. The conversation involved the three hosts and their guest, Ben Shapiro, and took up 7 minutes of the one-hour episode. It was pretty clear none of them were fans of him speaking at FB. At the time I listened to their podcast, I had not yet listened to Chan’s talk. It seemed that the hosts' biggest issue revolved around, as they saw it, Chan "abandoning" his church in Simi Valley.  And in doing so, he was somehow violating his call to shepherd the flock God gave him. That, in their view, is sin and requires him to repent and seek the forgiveness of the congregation.

A few minutes later, one of the hosts invited some reason back into the conversation. He acknowledged it was possible that Chan had taken the steps and time necessary to leave in a “healthy” way. Then they became angry that he “aired” the Church’s “dirty laundry” to Facebook, or as they called them, the “wolf”. They moved their issue with his talk away from him failing at being a shepherd and into the realm of… I don’t actually know. Being too open about church issues with non-church people, I think.

The Facebook Talk

Before I started writing this post I figured I should probably listen to Chan’s FB talk. So I did. It was classic Francis Chan. By that I mean, he preached the Gospel and told them that they needed Jesus. And what of his bashing of The Church and airing the dirty laundry? The speech was 48 minutes long. In those 48 minutes, he spoke about it for 2 minutes and 20 seconds. During those minutes, he was actually answering a question about how he got to the point of doing “We Are Church.” It was comical that the podcast even spent 7 minutes talking about his talk. All that, and that’s not even what I want to talk about.

Church Leaders as Shepherd

I want to talk about the stuff they said having to do with him not shepherding his church well. The reason is that most of us misunderstand what it means to call someone, Pastor (or shepherd). We want the pastor that teaches on Sunday mornings to be the guy at our bedside when we’re sick. We want to think of him or her as a shepherd who lovingly tends to the needs of his flock. At the same time, we really just want that person to stay on the platform, teach what the bible says and never really getting into our lives. Then we can pick and choose what we take from the sermon.

I get frustrated that the church has (and the pastor) has allowed that to be how we define shepherd and then gets mad when he doesn’t something like leave because he really isn’t shepherding. So I want to talk about that. I think the best way to do that is just post my reply to my friend’s comments. When he posted the link to the podcast, he said that this was what he mostly knew about Chan leaving and he thought they made some good points about shepherding.

My Response

They do make some good arguments about being a shepherd. But, they kind of misapply it. Like with Paul. They talk about how he never left the churches he was a part of. But, that couldn't be farther from the truth. There are churches he planted, stayed with for three years and then never was able to go back to. He did write them, but that isn't the same as being there to shepherd them. The best part is that these guys tried to put Paul into a shepherd role and he was clearly an Apostle/Teacher. In Chan’s case, maybe he was given to the Church as the gift of shepherd.

Unfortunately, most pastors today, especially in mega-churches, don't get to be shepherds, even if they are gifted as one. Because institutional church focuses on the weekly gathering, pastors are shoved into Teacher/Preacher roles. Some who have a genuine heart to add small groups to their church model (and not from a place of, "that's just the model") are more along the lines of Apostle. But shepherd? Based on what a shepherd should be doing, most pastors are not. If Chan is gifted as a shepherd, he's likely getting to live out that gifting better, in his current setting, than he was able to with a 5,000 person congregation.

Obviously I wasn't there when Chan left, but while it was happening I tried to follow it as closely as possible. From what I understood, there were years of conversations with elders and leaders and sermons pleading with the congregation, all to little or no avail. My hope is that he wasn't the only pastor on staff that was capable of leading that church. A congregation that size has to have more than one shepherd. Whether they realized it or not, is another thing altogether. At the end of the day, if he was trying to be obedient to God's call (whether it was to leave or simply work in his gifting), we can't know that.

As for him airing the church's "dirty laundry" to the "wolf". Maybe he did. Maybe he shouldn't have told the employees of FB. I haven't heard the speech so I don't know. But, I understood it to be about leadership and that is the context that Chan lead in. One of the things that frustrates me is the way we, in the church, aren't permitted to talk about where we miss the mark and that somehow there are topics and people (celebrity pastors) who are off limits. Lest we forget that the whole first section of Revelation is Jesus publically proclaiming the shortcomings and failures of the Church, His bride. I'd rather have that conversation and fix it, in front of the world, than hear Jesus say it.

In fact, I think it can work in the favor of the church if we, the body, are honest about where we fail and how we're trying to live that out in following Christ better. It's more honest and gets rid of the "perfect Christian" persona that pushes people away from Christ, lest they be the same hypocrites. And I'm not saying that we can't be "perfect", but that we can be more honest about our progression toward perfection involving a really messy process. I don't think he was airing dirty laundry to the wolf, more than he was just sharing where they failed to live in their calling as the bride.

Anyway, I feel like maybe the guys on the podcast tried to boil down a process that took years into a 7-minute conversation and that's difficult to do.

4 Ways I Plan to Contribute to Building Community


Over the last several years I have had three different blogs, each with decidedly different goals. My last blog, TheWholeMan.co, was focused on helping men find healing and wholeness in Christ. You can read about how TWM ended HERE. But, after a year of writing toward that purpose, I realized that God had been moving my heart toward encouraging and helping other Christians build healthy and lasting community centered on Jesus Christ. My friends and I have coined it Gospel Centered Community (GCC).

Since August, when I stopped writing on TWM, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the focus and goal of this website. Here is what I want BrucePagano.com to be focused on:

Build and help others build lasting Gospel Centered Community (GCC).

For so many being a part of a church is simply attending a Sunday event. When I read the bible I don’t see church defined as someplace the followers of Jesus go to learn about Him. Instead I read about a community of believers that have committed to following Him, together, in their daily lives. There is so much more that needs to be said about what community centered on Jesus could and should looked like, but there will be plenty of opportunity to flesh that out in future posts. In the meantime, I want to focus on building and helping others to build lasting community.

Here are four ways at this blog will promote that:

1. Sharing our journey toward building GCC.

This past November I left the church, where I was on staff, so that I could answer God’s call to build community in our neighborhood. My wife and I discussed this for months before my last Sunday on staff. Every time we talked about it there was a recurring theme of “live where you live.” So we are going to do that. Over the next couple years we plan to really live where we live. We will shop; work and build a church community all near our home. We will engage our neighbors, prayer walk our neighborhoods and really make it a point to intentionally invest in relationships with those around us. As we do that and learn, I will share it on this blog.

2. Encouraging others in their pursuit of Jesus.

I am confident that community is one of the primary vehicles in which we experience healing and wholeness in Jesus. Because of that, the focus of a lot of what I write will be on encouraging others to really go after following Jesus. My hope is that what I write challenges us, as a community, to grow deeper into our relationship with Jesus and each other.

3. Contributing to the God’s story in healthy and beneficial ways.

God continues to write the story of humanity. It is a beautiful story that we get to be a part of. Everything that we create fits into His story; some in helpful ways and some in hurtful ways. My intention is that anything I contribute to that story is both healthy and beneficial to the Christian community, who are trying to share that story with others.

4. Inviting others into the conversation about what it means to live in GCC

I don’t pretend to know everything there is to know about building community, loving God or loving and serving others. Sometime I actually do all of those rather poorly. What I do know is I want to learn to love God and my neighbors better, and the key to that is community. I also know there are others who are farther along in their journey, in some or all of those areas. Because of that, I want to invite others to join me in the conversation about what it means to live in community with others. If you have questions, ask. If you have wisdom, share. Either way, I would love for you to join me.

I am excited about this new journey and even more excited to help others build lasting community.

photo: https://hcsj.org/community

Dear Millennials, It’s time to move on

MillennialI’m not a millennial, I missed being part of that generation by about 3 to 5 years. I prefer to think of myself as a recovering Gen X-er (1965-1984), although, depending on who you ask I may be a Gen Y-er (1976ish-2004ish), which I’d totally be ok with. Regardless, I ended up sitting just outside of the group dubbed millennials. But, even though I’m not one, I’ve spent a ton of time with a bunch of them and I’m married to one, so I do have some firsthand knowledge about them and I absolutely love them as a generation. That being said, I think it’s time for them to move on.

One of the hottest topics on the church scene today is their exodus (real or perceived) from Christianity. And everyone has something to say about it. Nearly every church is clamoring to find ways to get them back in the pews (or padded chairs). Pastors are writing articles and books about why they should comeback and millennials are writing books about all of it; why they left, what would cause them to consider returning and even why they’ll never return. There’s a lot of writing on it. In fact, if you were to Google the words, “Millennials Leave Christianity” you would get about 745,000 hits. Obviously some of those will be duplicates, and if you vary the word order or use slightly different words you end up with fewer hits, but the point is, a lot people are concerned about millennials leaving Christianity.

I get it. I’m just as concerned when people leave the Church. I hate the idea of people leaving a community that’s supposed to be drawing close to Jesus because they’re angry, hurt or longing.  But I’m lost for why that concern is directed solely at millennials, love them as I do. Lots of people walk away from church. And I’m convinced that if someone can willingly turn their back on Jesus and His bride, then they were probably sold a version of Christianity, unintentionally or not, that told them that once converted, “every little thing was gonna be alright.”  A person’s ability to walk away from Christ always causes me to question whether they’ve ever actually experienced the genuine love of Jesus. I’m certain that if they had, walking away would be a near, if not completely, impossible task. But, I digress, for some reason our biggest concern is millennials leaving. And that’s fine for a season. It’s prompted some great discussion for why people leave and how to get to a place of deep community and love.

Rachel Held Evans is one of the more popular voices on the subject, writing blogs and books, her latest being Searching for Sundays (which full disclosure, I haven’t read, but I’m sure it’s on par with the high quality of her other writings). In a recent article she wrote for The Washington Post she said that all her searching has led her to the Episcopal Church and confesses that it was the sacraments that brought her back. I’ve read a number of articles, in addition to her’s, suggesting that a liturgical, sacramental focused Christianity is the best way to win millennials back. Maybe. Others, like Matthew Drake, have said that not even liturgy or sacraments will entice him back into the fold. He suggests that liturgical and sacramental church is as inauthentic, just a different kind, as the mega-church that millennials are leaving. All that to say that a lot of people have a lot of opinions, reasons and ideas about why they’re leaving, how to get them back or why it’ll never happen. But none of that matters.

I feel like it’s been given the attention that it needs. There are other demographics leaving the church and no one is writing about them. Maybe because they tend to leave quieter. Maybe because they don’t exactly know how to articulate why they’re leaving. And what about the large number of people that stay in church, because they grew up in the church or because a “good” person goes to church, but never knows the changing power of the Holy Spirit? I don’t see any articles about the guy in his 50s that has always attended church, every Sunday, but never, in 30 years, actually allowed Jesus to change his heart. Where’s those articles? Attending church doesn’t make you a Jesus follower anymore than seeing a movie makes you an actor. But this is where we’ve arrived, millennials. I think there’s two types of millennials in this whole “leaving” thing; the nominal and the seeker.

Without a deep connection to Jesus sacraments and liturgy become inauthentic.

Tweet: Without a deep connection to Jesus sacraments and liturgy become inauthentic. | #ApproachGod http://ctt.ec/UbDXV+ via @bpags2 #Millennial

The nominal millennial Christian likely came to church because someone invited them, so they went, loved the atmosphere, connected with the idea of participating in a social justice movement and bought into the buzzwords around following Jesus. Eventually they began to feel that “church” lacked depth and realized that it didn’t take church to promote social justice. So they left. But, because they were in church long enough, they feel like they have the experience and justification to offer advice on what needs to change in order to create depth. All in all, the Church might win some of them back, but most of them won’t come back. There was a significant lack of genuine connection and communion with Jesus, so they don’t know that they should be missing something or that their could be and should be more. Liturgy and sacraments won’t draw them back. If it does, it’ll be short lived. Without a deep connection to Jesus, sacraments and liturgy become, as Drake suggests, just as inauthentic. Sadly, if they already view church as inauthentic, little may change that view.

The seeker millennial Christian may have arrived at church and may be leaving for similar reasons as the nominal, but there are a few minor, but significant, differences. They’ve experienced Jesus and encountered community. They’ve tasted and seen that He is good. They’ve known His love and they know that it moves you to something deeper and so real that it is open and inviting to everyone. That’s not to say that traditional church is wrong, but the seeking millennial is being drawn to a deepness that they haven’t been able to find in the church that they’re leaving. I’m not convinced that most of them will be back either, but they want to be back, it just may not be in the way that we want them back. Frankly, I don’t want them back, not back where they came from. I want them to return to the body, but in a way that creates deep community centered on Jesus and goes to others seeking the same.

I think the best place for the millennial that’s seeking a deeper more meaningful communion with Jesus and His bride is wherever they feel like God is calling them to do that. If it’s their house with a few other believers, awesome. If it’s the Krispie Kreme with people that aren’t sure what they believe, even better. If it’s in a liturgical and sacramental focused Episcopalian church, that’s good too. The point is, I think writing about what might get them back has run it’s course; and I say that fully loving the fact that we get to have these discussions, especially in the medium of the written word. The time for action is here. The more we try to figure out how to draw them back, the more we potentially neglect those already sitting in the padded chairs. I’m sorry millennials, I love you, but it isn’t all about you. Instead, what if we helped the millennial figure out what God is calling them to rather than what the they are calling for us to change? What if we partnered with the millennial and discipled and guided them through where ever God is leading their heart? Better yet, what if millennials got together around God’s word and waited for Him to move?

To be fair, I’m sure it isn’t as simple as a right down the middle split of nominal v. seeker, but from what I’ve seen and read, those are the two biggest players. To be even more fair, I know a lot of millennials that are already doing this and it’s awesome. You can check out a few of them at Fresh Expressions or 1 Body. I think what it comes down to is that it’s probably better to focus on what God’s calling you to and witout trying to change the vision that others feel God has called them to. We’re one body with many parts. All together we’re His bride, and she’s beautiful.

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