First up, Mark Galli of Christianity Today writes about the difficulty of avoiding pride in pastors, and chasing the "American Dream" of church growth. One great comment:
The modern American church is very much a product of its culture—we're an optimistic, world-reforming, busy, and ambitious lot, we Americans. … Translate that into church life, and we find that American churches exalt and isolate their leaders almost by design. Our ambitious churches lust after size—American churches don't feel good about themselves unless they are growing. We justify church growth with spiritual language—concern for the lost and so forth. But much of the time, it's American institutional self-esteem that is on the line.
Absolutely dead-on here. A church seeking growth and numbers and worldly success can easily mask its vision (and even honestly delude itself) behind spiritual language that they are just trying to reach the unchurched or lost. The big question - ask yourself how your church counts its blessings from God? Is it "God has blessed us...look how big our services our getting?" That is not necessarily bad, but it is something that must be kept in mind. If the goal is no different from a for-profit, secular company (increase customer base via marketing and retention), then the Gospel might be getting lost in the process.
Also well worth a read comes to us from Chaplain Mike at InternetMonk. He writes in response to a pastor's list of '15 Steps' to beat discouragement. Chaplain Mike argues against the self-help, 'practical based', Bible-verse-out-of-context, pop psychology of many churches today and instead for complete focus on building deep spiritual relationships:
Seriously, why do we put up with this in our churches week after week, year after year? This is like teaching people to play baseball by giving them the rules of cricket. There are certain surface similarities between the games but in the final analysis they have nothing to do with each other.
There are no “steps” to “overcoming” discouragement. There is no answer, no fix for this problem. Furthermore, the Bible was not given for the purpose of enabling us to “conquer” this or any other emotional malady. It contains no instructions to follow that will lead to an answer. ...
If you truly want to help people with discouragement, you don’t do it with a list of bullet points. You pastor them. You welcome them to worship, bless them by proclaiming the Gospel of forgiveness and peace, and provide nourishment for their lives at the Lord’s Table. You visit them personally. You learn their stories and help them integrate their personal narratives into God’s story. And you work with your brothers and sisters to build a community in which the members bear one another’s burdens daily and thus fulfill the law of Christ.
No shortcuts. No quick fixes. No “answers.”
It’s about life, not about lists.