Saturday, January 19, 2013

Close Your Church Office on Martin Luther King Day!

by Gregory A. Johnson

By Mjswisher79 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsThe senior pastor walks into the room to conduct yet another weekly staff meeting that amounts to the same questions being asked week after week; they were just worded in different ways. The basis of the questions is this: What can we do to get more people to attend our weekly service.

Many of the staff grow tired of these questions and the staff meetings. Dreading to attend, and trying to find ways to avoid them, the staff often made light of the meetings in private. It is very obvious to those close to him that the only thing driving the senior pastor is numbers; he doesn't have a heart for people. It is all about the attendance numbers he reports to the denomination's headquarters. This is how he measures the success of himself, his staff, and the church.

On a good Sunday, there may be twelve hundred mostly white, middle- to upper-class people attend the services, but he reports sometimes double that number. He even goes to the extent of having the ushers count the same choir members twice that sing in each of the two Sunday morning services. He has them count the same staff and volunteers twice who are required to attend both services. He often makes fun of the ushers' counting, saying to his staff, "They are all old, can't see good, and always count wrong." He always ups their numbers.

The facility is always spotless with nothing out of place. The furniture and carpets are the best and most comfortable that money can buy. Why wouldn't people want to attend a weekly service there? Why would a pastor exaggerate the numbers so much if that were not his focus?

It is the start of a new year and in this particular staff meeting the senior pastor asks, "What can we do to get African Americans to attend our Sunday morning service?" He concludes the question with the statement, "We need more color in our services."

A look around the room reveals seven full-time associate pastors and the administrative staff that support the pastors. All the faces are white. There is no racial diversity at all in the staff.

It seems like an eternity passes until one of the associate pastors breaks the silence saying, "In a couple of weeks our city and nation will be honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the annual national holiday. I think we should close the church office and involve ourselves in the events and activities taking place in the city on that day, encouraging our church people to do the same."

The room is filled with a dead silence—not a peep. You can hear the person next to you breathing it is so quite. After what seems like an eternity, the senior pastor finally goes on to the next subject on his agenda without another comment from anyone including himself.

The church office is open on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and the staff does not get involved in any community event or activity surrounding the day. The national holiday is never acknowledged by the church in any way or mentioned from the pulpit. No one is encouraged to observe the day. The senior pastor never brings up the question again. The staff stays white as does the majority of the church.

The church continues to have services week after week with very little racial diversity. There is no heart for the people of the city—just getting numbers in the door. Heads are counted and reported on each Sunday. The senior pastor regularly exaggerats the numbers reported to the denominational headquarters to show the district and national officials that he is making progress. Nothing changes.

This does not take place in 1950 or 1960 America. This takes place in this-century America. May God help us!

Excerpted from the book, The Kingdom According to Jesus by Gregory A. Johnson. Copyright © by Gregory A. Johnson. All rights reserved.

Know that you are loved,