‘And lead us not into dysfunction’- Reverend uncovers why churches are failing
Are we living a religious and spiritual lie? Do we see our shortcomings, but have not yet found the solutions, or have we become comfortable in the deprived state of our Christian lives?
Former chaplain of the Area 3 Police and international pastor, the Reverend Dr Michael Friday, having assessed the state of churches locally and abroad, has written a book, Lead Us Not into Dysfunction - The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Church Organizations and Their Leaders, which offers insight into what has gone wrong in the church and, quite possibly, what to do for restoration as a leader.
"Jamaica's greatest need is not money or resources - though it needs that. Jamaica's most desperate need is leadership. In our churches, if we are not intentionally led and called back to the community to which we belong, then we will each want our own pursuits: our responsibilities exceed the four walls of the church and the people therein."
Speaking at the recent launch of his book at the Manchester Parish Library's 80th anniversary celebrations, Friday stated: "The Guinness Book of Records says we have the most churches per square mile, but how is it that we are not making the kind of impact that we should?"
He later mentioned, "We have to be wise about those theories that have leapt into the way we believe and function, and be judicious about the ones that are not working for us; the ones from which we can draw some knowledge ..."
Reverend Clinton Chisholm, who was in attendance and made an address, believes 90 per cent of churches are operating in dysfunction and will benefit from a book written by a man with requisite knowledge to offer help.
"He is meticulous, an extremely thorough thinker who thinks more methodically and carefully, and he is very analytical and a pastor at heart. I read a first draft of the book and it I think it should have a double title. Church, if you buy this book, you will not only be blocked from going into dysfunction, (but) if you are already there, you could be led out of it."
Superintendent Minister of the Manchester and St Elizabeth Baptist Churches, Reverend Karl Henlin, sang praises of Reverend Friday, whom he believes has provided a handbook for leaders.
"I have never met a more 'studios' (person); a person who has a studied approach to every aspect of his life; and the book we have here today not only reflects Michael's intense reflection upon the aspect of leadership in which he has been engaged; but also upon life and every engagement that he undertakes."
Keynote speaker and president of the Jamaica Theological Seminary, the Reverend Dr Garnett Roper, made some hard-hitting points on the impact of the church in its current state.
"I regard this as a text that will be widely used over time. The work by Friday causes us to reflect on the state of the church elsewhere and here. As rich as the academic value of this work (book) is for the study of the church administration, Christian education and practical theology, the real value of the work is the opportunity it offers for us to engage critically on whether or not the church is apostate, lost its way, stuck in a rut or abstracted from its context ..."
Roper, in his address, questioned whether the Church has been subject to ideological capture both in its polity, life and the morals it follows.
There are a few things, he believes, that are causing churches to go into dysfunction, such as the idea of church abstract from its community and the notion that the church operates in a bubble, rather than existing for the community.
"How else do you explain the massive upsurge of murder in places like St James, without at the same time, being able to account in a collective way (for) our own analysis of cause and solution? We, like everybody else, are glad for the State of Emergency - as if that has ever solved anything - and we like everybody else treat the scammers like they are chickens coming home to roost."
He says the church has taken on an individualistic approach that is stifling its true service.
"The entire logic of gospel preaching, blessing theology and church ministry is founded nowadays on notion of individual happiness and that individuality is what has caused the church to find itself in dysfunction."
The reverend says based on the church attendance, the ageing congregation, and the fact that young people are led to gatherings with a two-hour services that has no real ministry, he knows majority of the churches are in dysfunction.
"The question now is: how do we get out," Roper ended.