I owe the Catalyst people a short explanation of a negative tweet I post a few days ago. My post, “Loved #catoneday grt teaching. Only I think big church pastors are out of touch with church planters and small churches.”

Like I said the One Day conference was extremely good and I gleaned much from the speakers, Andy Stanley and Craig Groeschel, and I will be applying so much to my ministry and passing it on to the leaders of Epic Life Church. It is great stuff.

The later part of my post was a bit more negative but I couldn’t help, half way through the afternoon, thinking to myself that these two, along with Mark Driscoll and Judah Smith, seemed really out of touch with the small church pastor and church planting pastors.  It seems odd because each of them started the churches they are now involved in, save Judah, and they all are in the process of starting more campuses, which really do not reflect the structure, resources and environment of the small church or church plant.

As I listened to these great men of God and equally great pastors and leaders tell all 1500 of us, sitting with willing ears and attentive souls, their schedule throughout the week I was a bit taken back. None of them said a word about interacting with the lost, or people who are currently located outside the walls of their respective Church Bodies.

Andy hinted about a relationship that he was building with a painter, but it was a very small portion of the entire day. These men shared their weekly schedules with us, divulging when their staff meetings were and when they prepared for the weekend talks and when they took time for themselves and their families, when they vacationed and Sabbathed, but not one word was mentioned, as far as I can remember, hinting towards their own personal involvement in the lives of the Christless world.

Again, I have a lot of respect for these men, as I am sure 99% of the others squished into the “for skinny people only” theater seating of the City Church’s auditorium. But, that means we, most of us who were in attendance, who lead much smaller churches or, like me, am in the first year of the new church Epic Life, we are listening and respecting and then trying hard to replicate the actions of those we look up to. Which means we would spend no time, none, on the streets ministering to the homeless, marginalize, widows and fatherless. And in essence not fulfilling the Gospel Call.

Hmmm. I am sure this is not what they wanted to get across. When I tweeted that statement at the end of the One Day event a friend of mine in Wisconsin dialogued briefly with me the virtues of big church and the need for pastors who are focused on the Flock, because of the size, they can’t be expected to be “on the ground,” and that both are needed.

To a point I agree and if it was presented in that fashion then maybe I wouldn’t be making it such a big deal. But it wasn’t presented like that. I actually began to feel bad for sitting on Aurora Ave. waiting for my pizza to cook from “Good Guys Pizza” while I prayed for the strippers sitting outside the “Dancing Bares” taking their smoke break two doors North and not being home at 5:30 but instead going from there back to a planning meeting as we pursue more ways to reach the, literally, Lost.

These men kept telling us that we need to be home by 5:30 every night, take vacations, Sabbaths, spend two days working on the weekend talks, delegate, keep things edgy and creative, blog continually, making killer videos, writing books and travel around speaking at conferences.  When I am sure at one time they too sat in my shoes and I would think the shoes of hundreds of those in attendance.

The shoes that haven’t been paid in a year, that can’t afford to record the message in a studio and then go on vacation, that has to work a job and preach, that are on the streets lifting the Lost off the streets, that are actively building relationships in their city with the secular world, that has no staff, that is actively creating a garden space in an empty lot, that frequents businesses to get a chance to share Christ, that is truly going into the world and making disciples, that have served for years and have never gotten a day off, that has no retirement fund or insurance or dental plan or college savings or any savings but gives their meager income away to anyone who comes to the “door.”

Those people are who these pastors were speaking to. Men and women who are giving more than can be written about to see one person come to Christ. There is a passage in the Word that calls us to be willing to leave our families behind for Christ’s sake. Luke 14:26. And although we might not take this literally it still has to be considered, when it is only in this country that as pastors we are taught take care of ourselves and our family first.  Pastors in countries like China actually are giving up their lives and are in hiding yet still preach, pastors in continents like Africa spend countless hours walking from village to village to preach the Word and pastors in countries in the Middle East are getting beheaded along with their family for preaching the Gospel.

But here we are in the Western church glazing over passages that tell us to give all.

Please remember the beginning of this post. I still highly respect each of these men and I have never put down “big” church, because I know they have done great things in this world to advance the Gospel to the multitudes. Far greater things than the small church could and let’s face it, often it is the smaller church that is unwilling to change, that reeks havoc on the perception of Christianity.

But…gentlemen…you are leading Catalyst! Such a great influencer of young minds and young leaders. You now have the opportunity to teach sacrifice and not make us feel that we are doing our family a disservice serving God and following after the vision he has called us to. You all have been in our shoes and those same “big” churches are big because someone sacrificed something and God blessed it and that someone was probably you. But if we allow the next generation to believe that they have to act and exist like a big church when they begin there will be no one lasting long enough to become big.

I confess, I am nothing. Just a church planter with a church that is less than a year old and just now breaking a meager 100 in attendance. What do I know. Maybe I have much to learn and discover. I just pray that when God chooses to expand our walls and we have thousands attending the Epic Life Church movement, that I will be able to remember who I was when I was no one.

Oh…I still like Catalyst and I plan on trying very hard to raise the money so I can attend the Catalyst West conference with my leadership team this coming spring. A team who I am blessed beyond belief to minister with and would benefit greatly from Catalyst, and actually has benefited from the Catalyst Groupzine just a few years ago.

  1. Larry Hehn says:

    I agree, Keith. While I’m sure much good is being done by mega-churches, we need to remember that relationships and taking care of the widows and orphans should always be more important than our concerns about marketing techniques and watching the clock. I hope and pray that we never get so caught up in the “show” that we forget the substance.

    • keithcarpenter says:

      I have been blessed to be called to start a church community here in North Seattle where the only talk about time constraints and watching the clock comes because we are running out of time on the 60 min. tape in the camera, at which point our videographer starts counting down the time with her fingers, and since we don’t tape the music and are posting the talks it is kind of a bummer to miss the last few minutes after listening for an hour. And get this, no one complains, well if they do they aren’t coming any more.
      I love what the mega-church movement has done for the Church but I am not sure if it is a sustainable church model. And, in the long run if the leaders of the church are not interacting with those outside the church why would they expect their people to?
      There is beauty in both. Good point on “Show” and “Substance.”

    • I think you said it best this past week. We need to be constantly in motion, people of action.

      • keithcarpenter says:

        Love is a verb, as is Christianity, it was never the desire of Lord that we sit back and pacify ourselves. I love that video of the vision of William Booth.

  2. Sue says:

    WHen you are leading that church of thousands may you remember that you are still no one without Him, even if everyone recognizes your name.It shouldn’t be a numbers game as much as loving His people as He does. (not accepting everything they do, but loving them despite their actions sometimes.)Don’t get discouraged.

  3. Craig says:

    I like the post Keith, pretty prophetic in a good way and a good reminder to all of us. I’m with Sue here, don’t get discouraged brother. Lean into Christ. Psalm 23 has been working me lately.

    • keithcarpenter says:

      Thanks for the thoughts Sue and Craig. I am not discouraged…if anything I am very encouraged. God is doing amazing things in North Seattle on this street called Aurora and through and in our small, new church…and…I get to learn from those who are leading the large and small. There is so much to learn…it seems that the teaching always comes from churches that have “made” it in the Christian world. Maybe that isn’t always the best place or the best teachers to learn from. hmmm.

  4. Richard dahlstrom says:

    I liked your tweet; understood it completely. I have pastored a church of 100, a house church, and more recentlua large church in Seattle. Having seen this issue from many sides over the years, it seems safe time to say that the kind of schedules those guys speak of aren’t possible in small churches, even though they might be important priorities for their context. We who lead big churches need, more than anyone, to be aware of the dangers inherent in our unique callings. The pastors I respect the most are those who are faithfully leading small churches, year after year,serving and showing up, equipping people to be God’s presence in a locale. They face uniques challenges and have much to offer the church at large. Sadly, their voices are rarely heard.

    • keithcarpenter says:

      “Sadly, their voices are rarely heard.” That is so true! I know the pastor that I grew up under never lead a church that was larger than 150 people and he is still teaching and preaching way into his 70s. Some would say this is a sign that God wasn’t blessing him, or he wasn’t a good leader. Nope not at all, he planted churches in all the little tiny towns throughout north Idaho. And, if it wasn’t for his humility and incredible witness and wisdom, I wouldn’t be sitting here now, planting a church in Seattle. His voice will never be hear in a Catalyst Conference.

      I still love the Catalyst events and teachings, maybe they could learn a few things though.

  5. Craig says:

    I think you may have summed up some feelings I have serving in a small church in MN, which is watching other churches in my city have numbers or appear successful. This jealousy creeps in on me once in a while to which I’m compelled to repent.

    Our small church has it’s own difficulties and I think for me, watching other pastors succeed (by numbers), has prompted me to be faithful to pastor the flock that God given me, raise up more leaders, be faithful until He moves me out. The beauty has been to watch this crew of people (our church) embody the Gospel to the city in a profound way. People from lower income housing come to community groups, Sundays and have sweet relationships with people in the body. The beautiful thing, people coming into CBC will experience the whole body of Christ (all ages serving Christ together). All 80 of us. It’s a beautiful thing.

  6. Joshua Dolim says:

    I visited a church plant from my old church in Vancouver just today, and was thinking something very similar. Although my perspective is regarding the worship style that the worship leader was aiming for. I felt like she was trying to have ‘big church’ worship in a small church. I don’t know if I can explain it better than that, but I know the woman, and she came to this small church plant from a pretty sizable church in Portland that I’ve been to a number of times, and something about her worship style just didn’t seem to fit. I’m not saying it was bad, because it wasn’t, it just seemed to be out of place, and I realized that she was mimicking the worship pastor at her old church, not meshing with the group that she had in front of her.

    Keith, you clearly know this, but you simply cannot have a schedule like Judah Smith’s, or Mark Driscoll’s. If you attempted that, Epic would likely fail. However, as a church grows, and a pastor/minister/evangelist/connector gains influence, there comes a point where the model does have to change, and that person has to begin delegating ministry. But to ignore direct hands-on ministry because it’s ‘unnecessary’ I think is probably a pretty big mistake. I’m not sure how to make that work, but I do know that there’s a point where, if you want to be able to be there at all to minister the way God has called you to, you’ve got to say no somewhere. Because if you give of yourself to the point of death, while that is noble, you have just robbed the future of the work God has for you in the future. I suppose that it comes back to this ever present word in my life: balance. If God is a God of order, then that suggests to me that He desires that we have a balanced life in Him. Which I think is just another way of saying ‘He wont give you anything you can’t handle.’ And sometimes, that means that you don’t go home at 5:30. Although, I also believe that there’s a time and a place to force yourself to go home at 5:30, and make sure your family is taken care of.

    • keithcarpenter says:

      Balance is so important Josh and I know that ministry must change over time and growth of a church. I have always, as many, have found balance very difficult, of course it wouldn’t be called balance unless it was a bit difficult, then there would be nothing to balance. Hmmm.
      I just hope that somewhere in the growth of Epic Life I will be able to continue to reach and touch people personally, not just from a stage. And I am sure these pastors that I have mentioned do that in their lives. I think they may just want to tell of that from the stage to a bunch of pastors and ministry leaders.

  7. John Smith says:

    I agree with you Keith. I think it’s horrible. I feel bad. This is the way & nature of the Church in America, in my humble opinion. It seems to me that most pastors (I’ve known) are more about putting on the big show, packing the seats, being edgy & creative, then about going out on the streets, discipling people, etc. North Point & Craig’s church are big, but is that the point? Is that what Jesus calls us to? How will they be judged at the end?

    One thing I wonder, is it a different set of skills, investment & priorities that either: 1) builds a church big or 2) makes disciples who love & live like Christ? If there is a difference, then it’s probably best to go w/ 2. Just sayin.

  8. […] Comments John Smith on I Owe It to Catalystkeithcarpenter on Worshiping In DiversityLarry Hehn on Worshiping […]

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