Is it just me, or are other pastors & church leaders getting frustrated with the way our denominational communicates with us, particularly when they ask for (expect?) us to adopt their agenda for what our church needs?
I don't mean to sound ungrateful to all the fine people doing so much for us at 2850 Kalamazoo (and elsewhere). I really do appreciate what they do, their dedication and their heart for the church. So, thank you for all you do for us!
The other day I got a packet of stuff from denominational headquarters. Before even opening it, I let out a sigh and the thought that crossed my mind was "What do they want from me now?" But I opened it anyway (honestly, I don't always). Good, an updated Church Order (Will we ever write one that doesn't need constant revision? Oh, wait, that would be another forum topic.). A bit of advertising from Faith Alive (expected, and easily ignored), an invitation to a conference almost 2000 miles away (in Grand Rapids, of course — typical), and a new DVD on racism, with a cover letter (sigh).
Now, I know that SCORR takes its share of hits from those who don't see the need (I do). And I've had this reaction to other stuff I've gotten like it, so I don't mean to pick on this particular gift. But when I saw the DVD cover, with the gradient fade (brown to white) all caps title: FACING RACISM, my thought was "Really? Do you think we need this? Have you already concluded that there is there something wrong with us?" I hate racism. I hate even the hints of it. I'm genuinely glad we're setting goals to include more people of non-european descent on our boards. And I wish we did a better job in our classis of including our Korean pastors and elders in our leadership, our discussions and our classical ministries. But when I saw this, I felt resentful. I wished I didn't, but I did.
I wasn't sure why, and so I've let it simmer a few days.
What I finally realized I was dealing with is a feeling of being treated paternalistically: the feeling that those folks, far away, who have probably never even visited this part of the country, let alone my church, presumed to know better than we do here about what's important to us, what needs to be on my and my church's agenda, and the best way for us to deal with it. When I realized that feeling, I also realized that I feel that a lot toward official denominational communication and denominational 'gifts.' The talk in my head often goes something like this "They don't know me, aren't asking me what I think I need, see the CRC world as if it's all just like it is in western Michigan, and yet they presume to know just what I should do and how I should do it. I don't think so." (I know, I'm still in need of more sanctification.)
I get a lot of 'gifts' like this from the denomination. I usually feel the same way about them: 'gifts with an agenda.' They usually remain unopened. When I make the effort, when I tell myself that maybe this 'gift' will have something useful for me, or for our church, when I look at the material, the sense of disconnect and of paternalism doesn't fade. It increases. [sigh]
I don't like feeling resentful toward a denomination I love. And with all the (intentional) "I statements" above, I take full responsibility for my feelings.
But I'll ask it anyway: Is it just me, or are other pastors & church leaders getting frustrated with the way our denominational communicates with us, particularly when they ask for (expect?) us to adopt their agenda for what our church needs?