It Looks Like a Church!
But Some Might Call It

It looks like a church. It has a steeple. It has a parking lot. It even has some people that go to it. But, is it
really a church? Or is it some kind of a club or clique? Let's see:

Churches are supposed to be welcoming to visitors, right? But, in this church, when you come to visit you are likely to find yourself sitting alone in a pew, wondering why no one seems to care that you showed up, maybe even thinking they resent the fact that you walked in!

And churches are supposed to make decisions peacefully, using trusted practices that ensure tranquility as they make changes, such as switching to a new hymnal. But, in this church, after the administrative board approved the new hymnal the chair of the board went out into the parking lot after the meeting and decided, then and there, that the board had made the wrong decision. Then, after the pastor had already started to raise money for the new hymnal, he told the pastor that the church didn't want the new hymnal, after all. When the pastor told him that in order to change what the administrative council had voted on he'd have to follow Robert's Rules of Order, he got mad. At the next administrative board meeting, he tried but failed to get the board to change their mind. Now, in church, when folks are singing hymns out of the new hymnal, he crosses his arms, and glowers from the back pew, still angry at the pastor.

Real churches figure out ways to attract youth and try to include them in their programs. But, in this church the pastor has been told by the Trustees to keep the children away from the church, during the week, when they want to do things like sit on the porch steps of the church, ride their bicycles in the empty parking lot, or play hockey. The pastor stupidly but obediently obeys their order. So, now the pastor is seen by the neighborhood kids as a big meanie and figure that the last thing they will ever want to do is go to that church. But, the church people really don't care if the kids think that way, since most of the church members don't live in the neighborhood, anyway.

Churches that are really into doing ministry well, will make sure their facilities are handicap accessible by providing restrooms, ramps and/or elevators that are easy to use. But, in this church the only thing they did was buy an elevator with a door that has a heavy-duty spring on the hinge that shuts in such a way that make it impossible for a person on crutches to get in and out without getting stuck in the door. On top of that, the elevator is always breaking down and the trustees don't think it is important enough to get it fixed in a timely way so it works like it ought to.

Good churches have appropriate ways of dealing with disagreements that may arise. They even respect the rules of their denomination when it comes to dealing with how they should treat their pastors. But, in this church, when the treasurer thinks that the pastor is getting paid too  much for the mileage required for visiting in hospitals, calling on church members in their homes, and driving to meetings, she checks with all her church friends and asks them what they think about it. She even tells the pastor that since she doesn't get her mileage paid to visit her friends' homes or hospital bedsides or meetings, the pastor shouldn't get paid for it, either!

Churches that want to do good ministry find ways of sharing their love of Jesus with everyone living in their community, especially those in the neighborhood surrounding their building. But, in this church when the time comes for the annual Christmas cookie project that raises $$$$ for the church, every year, doing ministry gets tossed out the window, like when this neighborhood kid who really wanted to help, gets evicted from the cookie decorating table by the project leader because he wasn't doing it quite up to her standards! She didn't even know the kid! He wasn't one of her kids! Never mind finding  someone (in her family, maybe?) that might have sat down with the boy and showed him how to do it! But, no! The Cookie Making Business comes well ahead of reaching out for Christ in this church!
Churches that want to do effective ministry will make sure their pastors have homes that are at least as safe and nice as the homes they would be proud to live in, themselves. But, this church has trustees that quibble when it comes to fixing or replacing things that are worn out or broken in the house they provide for the pastor to live in. In this case, the pastor tells the head trustee that the refrigerator in the parsonage kitchen isn't working very well and that it needs to be fixed or replaced before the pastor goes away for a week's family vacation. Of course, as usual, the head trustee blows him off and does nothing about it in the few days before the pastor will be gone. So . . . two weeks later, when the pastor's family comes back home they find all their food ruined and stinking because the fridge no longer works. When the pastor tells the head trustee about it, it takes a week for the church to replace the refrigerator with an old used one from a church member's home and the pastor is ridiculed for asking if the church will repay him for the $200 loss of food.

In churches that really want to reach out and share their love of the Lord, church members consider themselves to be ministers, too! As such, they work hard to creatively find ways to love and welcome people. But, in this church, the members believe it is the job of the pastor to minister to them; that they hire the pastor to serve their needs and desires in every way and treat them like they would be treated if they were paying customers at a resort or on a cruise ship. So, when a visitor comes to this church, there are members who become quite irritated when they come into the sanctuary on Sunday mornings and find these unknown persons sitting in their pew. They may even suggest those persons move to another pew, since "This is the pew Herman and I have always sat in for  the last 50 years and we're not changing that just for you! So, get out!"

A Note About These Cartoons:
 Years ago, as a pastor, I met fellow clergy who would tell me their woes as they'd sought to be faithful in their work. So, I drew these cartoons to reflect their pain in a way that was a bit humorous, but would also get the point across.

A well known church growth consultant, Bill Easum, saw the cartoons and asked if he could have them put on his web site. I agreed. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately!) for me, members of my church saw the cartoons after the church janitor intercepted a telephone message from Bill's secretary while she was in my office. Bill was out east doing a church growth workshop and had wanted to make sure he knew the url of the cartoons on his web site so he could display them at the workshop. Learning of the url, the janitor then shared it with members of the church who then became enraged when they went to the web site and assumed that the cartoons were about them! And, when my clergy-wife's church saw the cartoons they thought the cartoons were about them and became outraged at her, too, as though she had had anything to do with it!

The resulting stress put me in the hospital for several days. But, when the bishop found out what had happened, and after he had a quick chat with Easum, we were both given a three month vacation from our work while the bishop required that our salaries and all benefits had to be paid by those churches until it was time for us to be moved to other assignments. (During those three months I actually lost 15 pounds as I rode my bicycle 20 miles a day!). Mr. Easum also gave me the 3-4 hour a week honor of managing his web site for several years. I learned a lot from him and have greatly appreciated his work!

My own conclusion about this is that the same thing would have happened to us if my wife and I had been the pastors of many different churches across Christendom. I am thankful for the bishop who was wise enough to see through the foolishness of the outrage and hope that churches and church members who might see themselves in these cartoons might want to seriously reconsider how they do ministry rather than simply getting mad at me.

                                            -- Rev. Paul G. Donelson