10/25/2011 9:43 AM
I woke up this morning thinking about Shaun King and his wife.
I'm sure he was much on my mind because right before I went to bed last night, I read THIS (his story about his recent resigning as the pastor of Courageous Church in Atlanta, GA).
I have been reading Shaun's blog for over 3 years now. He planted Courageous Church in Atlanta in January of 2009. They saw very rapid growth and I was quite shocked to hear about the recent turn of events.
And I was also saddened to read Rai King (Shaun's wife)'s blog on her perspective. My heart goes out to this family and to this church.
There is no judgment on my part towards Shaun & Rai, only empathy. In the past nine years of being the senior pastor of the church I planted, I'm sure my husband and I have felt all of the raw emotions they have experienced at one time or another. Although we've not experienced the rapid growth that they did, the emotions and frustrations are not much different, no matter what size the church.
I am sure Shaun did the right thing for his family by resigning, but I'm still very sorry to hear that he did because it is a huge loss for the Kingdom of God in Atlanta. I can't help wonder if a big reason for his frustration doesn't have everything to do with expectations. I know much of my frustration early on had a lot to do with the fact that I entered into church planting with some incorrect expectations.
And sadly, I think this is the reason too many church planters throw in the towel way too soon. Although Shaun's case is much different than most I'm guessing. He actually did have rapid growth and the kind of results some church planters only dream about. The world would say he was extremely 'successful.' But Shaun saw the truth: very, very few true followers of Jesus Christ!
From the outside, the church looked like a roaring success! Attendance was increasing rapidly. The giving had never been higher. Some people would say, WOW, look how God is blessing that pastor's ministry! But again, Shaun saw the truth. People wanted to talk about serving God and changing the world, but very few were willing to step up and actually do it. He saw a church full of 'pew' sitters and very, very few real disciples.
I can't imagine any pastor in America not feeling his frustration! One of the people who had a huge impact on my ministry early on was Walt Kallestad. Walt is an ELCA Lutheran pastor who built a huge megachurch of over 12,000 people. I attended a conference led by Walt over 20 years ago that was life changing for me. I met and talked to him and his wife and even exchanged a few letters with him. Walt has the most amazing, Christ-filled heart of anyone I've ever met. His heart and vision for God has been a tremendous inspiration to me for many years.
And yet, I was very shocked not long ago to hear him publicly confess that the mega-church he is leading is a complete failure! Seriously? You built a church of over 12,000 people and you consider that a failure? YES he does!
Read his quote here:
"We were entertaining people as a substitute for leading them into the presence of God. I fell on my face before God and prayed, "God, I am so sorry for what I've done."
(Walt Kallestad, read more here.)
Walt said he realized he had produced a huge church full of 'consumers' instead of 'disciples.' Wow, what a confession! I see huge similarities between Shaun King and Walt Kallestad. And I can't help but think of Francis Chan being similar as well. Even though I've never heard Francis say things exactly like that, it's not hard to read between the lines of much of what he has said. I really believe he stepped down from his 'mega-church' for the same reasons.
I hear God speaking to me through all of these men. I remember Dan Southerland once talking about the mega-church that he and his leadership team once grew in Florida. They saw rapid growth and he said that he and his lead team were all 'high-fiving' each other on one of their first leadership retreats. But he said, then it suddenly hit them. They realized that most all of their growth was transferred growth from other churches. They weren't growing the Kingdom of God, they were simply swapping sheep.
And sadly, that is the reason some churches do see 'rapid' growth. People are fickle and always have been. Many are looking to jump on the next band wagon of what appears to be 'the winning' church. Often, it's a church that is all about having all the bells and whistles! Its churches whose main attraction is all about entertainment and putting on a dog & pony show. One can't help but wonder, is there any real discipleship happening there?
At BHCC, I am comforted and incredibly encouraged to see so many lives being transformed and disciples growing in their faith! Our church is reaching people very far from God. This past summer, we baptized 17 adults! We currently have 2 pastor apprentices in training; one of them found Christ and was baptized at our church. That's amazing!!!
And interestingly, we have very few "mature Christians" come to our church. And sadly, when they do, I often feel so judged by them. They judge us on surface value things like how many butts are in seats that day or how organized and polished they feel our children's ministry is or isn't and so forth. It boggles my mind and yet, I have to confess that I've allowed the judgment of outsiders weigh me down and become a deep discouragement to me at times. I feel the judgments and grieve over the rejections. Some of the worst judgments I've experienced is from other pastors in my area. So sad!!!
But I hear God speaking incredibly encouraging things to me and I'm not going to fall into Satan's trap anymore! And I am praying that this blog will be a HUGE encouragement to other church planters and pastors who do not pastor a 'mega-church.' Don't let the ways and viewpoint of the world cloud your vision friend! Things are not always what they may seem. Smaller churches may be making 100 times more disciples than big churches!
Thank God for incredible leaders like Shaun King, Walt Kallestad and Dan Southerland who speak the truth and are not afraid to confess their own failures so we can all learn along with them!
Ask yourself this question future church planter, "Are you willing to be a failure in the eyes of the world in order to be a success in the eyes of God?"
Peace in Christ alone!