jonathan stone's blog

. . . posts on faith and life

waste management

My mother told me that she once prayed, after having been very moved and inspired by Paul’s analogy of the church as the body of the Christ, and asked God to show her to which part of the body she belonged. She was surprised to immediately hear a voice in her head say, “You are part of the intestines.” Not really what she was expecting! But she soon felt like that made a lot of sense. As an educator, speaker, and minster she realized that she was an important part of distributing nutrients to the body. However, she also knew that she had to mostly deal with a lot of !@#$ along the way.

Nobody deals with more of that stuff than a pastor! In a lot of congregations the pastor IS the spiritual plumbing. That’s not all bad. Someone has to do it. I’ve done a good bit of it in my time. In fact, a lot of my vision for talking about problems of the church in the blogosphere is recognizing that we need to pump some of this stuff out of here so we can all breathe again and move forward! Still, no one goes into ministry with a vision for this type of waste management.

I wonder if what I perceive to be an inordinate accumulation of !@#$ in some churches is brought on by something that in fact could be fixed? I know that a lot of us have resigned to the fact that it’s just part of ministry. But I’m not sure that some of the stuff we’re bogged down in is really what our ministry is called to be. So what might be stopping up our spiritual plumbing?

I am sure there are an assortment of possibilities. However, one particular thing has piqued my interest. We have been talking about inefficiencies in both our administrative structure as well as our local churches. But I wonder how inefficient we are in utilizing our people? When I was spending a lot of time fundraising I was always amazed at the variety and giftedness of even the smallest and most obscure congregations. Most of our churches average 50 or so people in attendance. You would not believe how many occupations, talents, skills, experiences, and sets of knowledge can be found in a church of 50 people! It’s really quite unbelievable! Yet many of them spend their lives coming to church week in and week out and never do more than volunteer for a few select church functions.

I could not even begin to scratch the surface of potential ministry that lies dormant in most congregations. But here’s a couple of things to start the conversation. Do you have a teacher or two in your congregation? Then why are they not doing an after school tutoring program? Is there a mechanic in your congregation? Why is he not volunteering to work with some of the ‘at-risk’ kids at the high school, who often love cars! Is there a pet groomer in your congregation? Why has she not coordinated a pet awareness event for the community (she could throw in a free clip to the first 20 dogs that showed up)? Are there some old Rock ‘n Roll guys in your church? Why aren’t they creating a place where kids can come and jam with their friends after school? On and on it could go; the list really would be endless! The ministry strategies of a local church should be as varied as the interests of their people–and then some!

Perhaps the reason we find ourselves bogged down in waste management is because we are typically wasteful managers (hey, I’m numero uno here!). We are wasting all of the giftings that fill our churches because we cannot see beyond our own agenda (which unfortunately is often nothing more than self preservation). On top of that, we have our own individual limitations to overcome in order to release our people into the world. Personally, I found it easy to cast vision to a church member, but found it extremely difficult to resource him/her. But if we’re going to make any significant Kingdom advancement we will have to find a way to overcome such personal inabilities in order to awaken the sleeping giant of the church. So, what do we do?

7 comments on “waste management

  1. Dennis J. Adams
    April 9, 2008

    Casting a vision is the simplest task to do in a church. It is appropriating the plan and implementation of that plan that takes talent and resourcefulness. Your right, that there is a tremendous amount of mismanagement today as in history, of church talents and simply “people”. Funds are mismanaged, especially as the church grows up into what they hoped to become. The “ship” gets more expensive to take out the the harbor and so funds become the important focus instead of managing people and their talents.

    As far as involving the generation that we like to label as “kids” or whatever label we find to place, your again really on target about “plugging” them in with music, art, even functions that will bring them to realize that they are welcome in the “house”. It really comes to the size and the apparent “superstar” that becomes greater that Jesus in the church. I really hope that one day the church will begin to realize that they can do more with ten churches with one hundred in attendance that one church with a thousand. The question is will the ego allow this? There will always be !@#$ in the church because people attend them and egos tend to reign and rule at the most uncanny times.

    What can we do? We can begin to enable those in the church to use their talents and gifts without concern of loosing value in our leadership. We also, can, in a literal sense, give the church back to the Holy Spirit and submit to His leadership. There is an old and true way, mentoring and coaching. You know what I mean, Ephesians 4, it works. Lastly, but certainly not least, let us entertain the word “accountability”. The one important ingredient in trusting and building a sure foundation in relationships. The church is a relational organism and will function when there is accountability based on responsibility in reference to love and obedience to the Word and people. Just a thought from an old warrior!

  2. Jonathan Stone
    April 9, 2008

    Dennis, wisdom exudes from old warriors. You are indeed one of those! Thanks for sharing these thoughts! It settles my spirit to be around old warriors like yourself.

  3. Don
    April 9, 2008

    I will take you at your word that you aren’t looking for a job at DOLM. (It that were the case, your timing would be a little “off” as you’re probably aware!)

    I appreciate what you’ve written on this subject. Other than God, the laity is the pastor’s only resource. It’s not a perfect resource and doesn’t always come up to expectations, but then again that’s true of pastors too. Such is simply proof that Jesus Christ came to serve and ultimately to die for imperfect people.

    We spend a lot of time on this and other CoG blogs and forums talking about the relationship between the church and its ministers. But ministers need to think: they know what they see when they look up at their church. What do lay people see when they look up at them? What kind of relationship do they have? The two are inexorably linked together.

    Treat your lay people the way you want your church to treat you. (I think that’s somewhere in the Bible.) My guess is that your church will reciprocate, if for no other reason than your church will grow and be successful. If perchance it doesn’t, at least you’ll have people that have and will be loyal to you in tangible ways. And best of all God’s work will go forward.

  4. jason
    April 9, 2008


    Couldnt agree more! I think utilizing the resource of the congregation is a lot like prayer and Bible reading- you will never be able to say you adequately do any of the three. I also think we may be guilty of “over-training” in the eyes of the laity. There is such an emphasis on having a pastor (and in some cases being a pastor) who has sufficent pastoral training that we feel we must over-train the laity to do ministry. We need to bring training, but not over-training. For instance, I dont need 8 weeks of seminars and trainings sessions to play basketball with some teenagers or to have a dessert party with those in the nursing home. I do need knowledge on how to pray for people and how to lead people to Christ, but too many hoops to jump through makes some forfeit the game.

    ps tonight 6pm my house burgers/or pizza and your “lead administrator” will be present

  5. Don
    April 9, 2008

    Jason, you’ve hit on an important point: many programs and courses put out to train laity are too complicated!

    A few years ago, we cast about for a basic men’s discipleship program. One we looked at had thirty-six sessions! We ended up (with the help of the Man in the Mirror) developing one for twelve sessions, which is just about the max (the sequel is eight.) We did the same thing for Evangelism Explosion many years ago, and have developed even simpler stuff for personal evangelism since.

    It’s an occupational hazard of resource developers to come up with stuff that the laity doesn’t have time to do while trying to work for a living and raise a family. You have to get a reality check every now and then.

  6. Jonathan Stone
    April 9, 2008

    Jason, I’ll get back with you on that platinum level commitment. And I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to make it tonight…I go out of my way for burgers and pizza. Plus, I have a referendum to drop off to you and the lead administrator with 300 member signatures about selling our property and changing our name to “THE Church of God of the First Assembly of Jesus Christ and His Apostolic Bishop Jonathan Stone.”

    Don, thanks for the ‘heads-up’ on openings at the DOLM. Unfortunately, I’m all too familiar with the current cutbacks. But luckily for me I’m happy here, and it pays most of the bills. Now, if you happen to run into anyone looking for someone to do some occassional pile driver sales…shoot me an email! ; )

  7. Jonathan Stone
    April 9, 2008

    Jason and Don, I agree on the issue of over-training. I think we have over-taxed the BOC (Body of Christ) with seminars, conferences, meetings, training, etc. Simultaneously we have often failed to figure out how to truly release our people into our collective mission. I wish I had the answer on correcting this. Like I said before, I can get people excited, even mobilize them to some degree, but I have failed miserably at trying to actually release/deploy those people into action.

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This entry was posted on April 9, 2008 by in vision.
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