There is a conversation about Professionalism that seems to cause some controversy in ministry. It is like an evil ogre lurking under a bridge, because we love Jesus, because we are evangelical Jesus loving Australians we tread carefully by the bridge of professionalism, afraid if we go too far we will find ourselves on “the other side” too concerned about the performance having forgotten about Christ. Take for example scripture, Jesus doesn’t need lighting, sound, an amphitheater, full band and holy spirit lights. Jesus just preached the word, and his disciples did the same. The idea of Jesus being a professional about preaching the gospel message is absurd, and we should have it in our Sunday services either.
Great argument, except Paul uses exceptional Roman/Jewish rhetoric when talking in the book of Romans. Paul uses a classic didactic argument for constructing his defense for Christ to both Jews and Gentiles. Paul leverages a common technique of his time, to engage his audience and communicate powerfully the message of the Gospel of Jesus, seems rather professional of him really. Not to mention his conversation in the marketplace in Acts, sensitive to the culture Paul leverages and array of God’s to speak to the ‘unknown God’ and reveal the truth about the living God, an incredible insightful move by a professional evangelist.
Jesus leverages the power of Story, a dazzling knowledge of the Old Testament and disarming attention to social justice. Removing cultural hurdles Jesus engages the community to speak the truth about himself to a lost generation, his words, actions and insights certainly make him look like a pro.
Thankfully the Old Testament doesn’t contain any professionalism right?
…except for that pesky book called Leviticus, which gave some fairly detailed instructions to the people of Israel on how to conduct themselves, kind of like a playbook for being a Professional Israelite.
That is Holy Living though! Not Professionalism!
Professionalism by Definition is;
“the competence or skill expected of a professional: the key to quality and efficiency is professionalism.
the practicing of an activity, esp. a sport, by professional rather than amateur players: the trend toward professionalism.”
As Christians we are concerned about the second definition, “practicing of a sport by professionals, rather than amateur players” and as Australians we are so passionately against anyone appearing too professional in Church we want to beat them into theological submission. So the thought of us being Professionals at Church is offensive you can’t be professional and preach Jesus…really?!
I think if you interviewed anyone who is passionate about having an amazing performance on Sunday, with an Incredible Worship band, Great Welcomers and Quality Gloria Jeans Coffee followed by an Empowering Gospel message they would still say the focus is on Jesus. They would still say that incredible, powerful and engaging performance is about Giving Glory to God. They haven’t forsaken Jesus for a performance, they haven’t substituted Gospel for a light show. What they have done is create an experience on Sunday that has removed the hurdles and allowed people to have a positive uplifting experience of Jesus.
I served in a small Presbyterian Church for 5 years, it took 2 years to get the pigeon poop cleaned off the front of the building, 3 years to get a new sign, 2 years to re-paint the youth room, it still is cluttered with relics from the 1960′s. It looked unloved, shabby and dated. It looked like a building where the people inside didn’t care much about Jesus…because they certainly didn’t care about the building. The truth is they loved Jesus but Marketing, Professionalism and Performance were all peripheral words.
Paul has a conversation about Gifting in 1 Corinthians 12, the Holy Spirit gives us unique gifting that together function to bring Glory to God. Just because someone plays piano, doesn’t mean they should on Sunday. Just because someone can sing, doesn’t mean they should.
Too many Churches have poor singing, weak overheads, unhappy welcomers and shocking lighting because they fear the professionalism Ogre. The truth is amateurism is more painful than professionalism, people spend millions on marketing and we are exposed to incredible marketing daily. The Church shouldn’t be afraid of the Professionalism Ogre, we can have engaging powerful worship experiences on Sunday that are professional and present the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Youth pastors should heed this, benching someone because they suck at singing isn’t ungodly. That person interferes with the worship experience, put them facing the stage and let them sing with the masses. Just because you feel CALLED doesn’t mean your GIFTED. We should be searching to do our very best on Sunday, we should have buildings, spaces and experiences that are exciting and engaging, we should care about how our buildings and our people look. Being professional, looking our best and constantly improving sends a message that we care about Jesus and we are his representatives.
I seek to have an engaging fun youth experience every Sunday. I bench musicians if they don’t make the mark. I bench speakers who don’t communicate effectively. If my leaders aren’t well dressed, excited and pumped about our ministry I bench them. I am looking for people who passionately care about Jesus and care enough to wear that skin deep. I dedicate my entire week to being a Pastor, working on communication, studying Jesus, thinking about ministry and developing leadership. I do it to be the best, I want to make Jesus known in my community. I want people to say we have the best Youth Ministry in the City, not because of Professionalism, but because Jesus deserves the best.
People who attend our Church publicly say they go to the best Church in town, people say our Youth Ministry go on the best Camps in Town. If we represent the best, why wouldn’t we want to be, do and show our best. I’d prefer to be guilty of professionalism and have a growing Church that encounters Jesus every week, than an amateur Church that drives people away because the experience is so painfully poor.