Dogs, Cats, and Congregations

There are so many different leadership models and so many different congregational dynamics in the Church. On the way home from work today I saw a slogan on the license plate of a car:

“Dogs have owners, but cats have staff”

I had the usual response, ‘that so true!’, and then somehow this got me thinking about church, and how the dynamics experienced between people and these pets reflect some of the ways congregations relate to their leaders.

There are congregations who are like cats — the leaders are there to serve them on the their terms. Some congregations can be very controlling, setting very specific expectations for the leadership, effectively becoming the real leaders themselves and those with the official title become simply the puppets. They then provide no real leadership at all.

And then there are congregations who are more like dogs — they are made to serve the vision of the leader(s), who sets very specific expectations for them. In these churches, the congregation can be under very tight control, control which is maintained through almost every aspect of ‘church life’.

Neither of these scenarios is helpful but both are all too real. What then is the role(s) of “leaders” within a church? I leave you with this to ponder…


‘Evangelism in a total church model’ by Tim Chester

Evangelism in a total church model by Tim Chester

In this article Tim Chester presents a three-fold understanding of evangelism (building relationships, sharing the gospel, introducing to community) in which the christian community takes on an importance it hasn’t often had in thinking about evangelism. I found it really helpful and recommend you have a read…

Here are some tasty quotes:

“Christian community is a vital part of Christian mission. Mission takes place as people see our love for one another. We all know that the gospel is communicated both through the words that we say and the lives we live. What Jesus says is that it is the life we live together that counts.”

“We need to be communities of love. And we need to be seen to be communities of love. People need to encounter the church as a network of relationships rather than a meeting you attend or a place you enter. Mission must involve not only contact between unbelievers and individual Christians, but between unbelievers and the Christian community. We want to build relationships with unbelievers. But we also need to introduce people to the network of relationships that make up that believing community so that they see Christian community in action.”

“It is our cross-love for each other that proclaims the truth of the gospel to a watching and sceptical world. Our love for one another, to the extent that it imitates and conforms to the cross-love of Jesus for us, is evangelistic.”

“If evangelism is a community project, our different gifts and personalities can complement one another. Some people are good at building relationships with new people. Some people are socialites – they are the ones who will organise a trip to the cinema. Some people are great at hospitality. Some people are good at initiating gospel conversations. Some people are good at confronting heart issues.”

Pressing Concerns for the Church

My interest in the topic of money and possessions was sparked in the last three or so months by discussions with a new found friend with whom I work. The man has some serious concerns about the effects of some of the teachings and practices surrounding money that he has heard, seen, and experienced within some of the churches in New Zealand (where we live) and at seminars he has attended. I have been shocked and dismayed by some of the things that are being taught, the weakness of the supposed “biblical basis” of many of them, and the way the they conflict with what I thought were the clear teachings on money and possessions in the New Testament. These issues concern me so much because I believe they are holding people back from aspects of the transformation GOD intends to bring about in us, and because of the perception of the Church and hence the gospel that they leave those outside the faith with. So here I am to engage these concerns, please join me.

We will be exploring some of the following big questions:

  • Is it GOD’s intention for us to possess and enjoy financial wealth and/or material abundance in this life?
  • Does what we do with our money hold back or release GOD’s blessing in our lives?
  • Does GOD instruct us to “tithe” to a church?
  • Are those experiencing extreme poverty throughout the world our concern?

Each of these immediately raises many more questions as we examine the terms used, what the questions presuppose, and what the typical answers necessarily require us to do. We will explore these things in coming posts.