Before I continue my analysis let me just say a couple of things. I'm getting some great feedback via email, no comments yet. That's okay. But in the feedback some people are loving it and others are maybe getting a little worried. As I told one friend today who shared some concerns, "Hold on, I'm not done yet." But her comments helped me shape this post. This piecemeal approach may lead to some wrong conclusions. So keep commenting (it helps me in future posts), but please try not to jump to conclusions until I'm done.
- Too much "go" and not enough "grow"
- Change without enough reassurances/doses of familiar: I know that a series like U2CanRocktheWorld series, just as one example, is heaven for many, but it's scary or weird or even off-base for others. If I could do it over I'd follow that series with something reassuring and familiar, like maybe the series we did on Ephesians. Please don't misunderstand, I'd do the series again in a heart-beat because I'm convinced it was the right thing to do, but I would change what follows it. This has to do with change and bringing people along with the change rather than just bulldozing forward with little regard for the congregation.
This is about being as sensitive to the Spirit in regard to "shepherding" as we are to the "prophetic" role pastors have (using these terms in a narrow sense since I know shepherds carry big sticks they sometimes use on sheep.) Pastors are prophets and shepherds. I remember one message I gave last summer on Saturday that I changed for Sunday. Same content basically and same point, but Saturday was prophetic and Sunday was shepherding. (Saturday folks are just hard hearted...No, just kidding!) I made the change because the prophetic one in this case had too much of my own frustration and emotion in it and not enough of God's Spirit shining. At other times I've shied away from being prophetic and was more shepherding in my approach for the same reason but a different emotion (e.g., fear of risking, fear of people, etc.).
An illustration I heard at the Saddleback worship conference this last summer resonated with me. Airliners can turn much sharper than they do with passengers inside, but they don't because it would be so disconcerting to the passengers. I'm one of those that would not fly in an airline that took sharp turns no matter how many reassurances I might get from my friends who work for Boeing or pilot for Northwest. That's a good word picture for pastors like me. It's also good to remember that there are times to turn sharply for airliners and churches! What I'm saying is that I think offering some more familiar (and more balanced) elements along the way maybe would have helped some stay on board.