The Rubber Band Church

Houston08282013by Robert Earl Houston

One of the greatest frustrations of newly called pastors is what I have termed is the Rubber Band Church.

Often times Pastors come in with different expectations and anticipations than the congregation that has called them. After pastoring over 25 years, I have discovered that churches will adapt to the vision of the Lord through the Pastor with great success or they will snap back and return to their original form which is the Rubber Band Church.

Recently a young pastor reached out to me. He has been at his church 18 months and the church and is frustrated that “they haven’t changed.” He ranted and raved for 30 minutes and then I said to him that churches have a center core. They have certain practices and belief systems that are at their core. You can stretch them or try to stretch them or suggest that they stretch – but at the end of the day (and this is non-denominational), a church will return to it’s center.

That is applicable even during a pastoral change of leadership. How well I remember leaving my former congregation in San Diego. For months, I sat in the audience with my deacons because I was tired of being the focus of attention. I am primarily a worshiper. I wanted  to worship without every eye of support, criticism or ambivalence staring at me. I resigned on a Sunday morning, came down to the office to clear my office on a Monday and peeked into the sanctuary, and those chairs that I had removed miraculously and mysteriously reappeared. Chairs in a pulpit were a part of that church’s center core.

I’m not suggesting it’s always a bad thing because all churches need to have core beliefs. The Word of God should never be compromised; Preaching and Teaching the Gospel should never be rebuked; Serving each other and the community should be resident within a congregation. However, brother and sister pastor, they are some things that will always bounce back to center and become part of the lore of that congregation.

Whether it’s a name change or location change or change of worship or change of structure – some churches will eradicate change made by a leader to “get us back where we belong.” It’s akin to the GOP mantra of “taking back our country.”

Three things to be careful of:

1.  Make sure that you are stretching the congregation because of the Lord and not because of an agenda. Keeping up with the Joneses is a poor excuse for stretching a congregation.

2.  Make sure that you have a firm grip on the process. One of the most painful experiences can occur when you stretch a congregation (rubber band) and then it slips and you get with the force of the rubber band.

3.  Make sure that when you stretch make sure that the vision for it is compatible with the amount of effort you’ll be exercising. Never put out great energy for minute projects.

I pray for that pastors and leaders who are challenging their congregations to go beyond boxes, limits and paradigms. And may the church follow and not grudgingly stay in place like a rubber band that will not yield.


4 responses

  1. Minister John Smith | Reply

    I do fully agree with you on this subject. I too have been in this sort of situation.I am also right now believing God for guidance to lead me to a New church home,with believers who need a young pastor like myself,with Godly minds and hearts.We (pastors) and churches face certain difficulties today that churches of yesteryear did not man of God,its snapback time for the church and leaders to adheed to Gods word,,amen

  2. I am not a preacher/pastor but have been a musician in several churches, Dir. of Christian Education, Superintendent of Sunday School, Adult SS teacher, President of Mission…At one time I played for two different churches during a month, quite similar to Pastors in the South who went from one church to another during the month to pastor. It was important that I learned the culture, climate, etc. of the church. Often I would teach the same song but while one choir would be very upbeat, the next choir would sing according to that church’s ‘taste.’ I don’t know if that gives me what I need to comment on your post, but I do know Pastors who have come from one denomination to pastor a ‘larger’ congregation, not able to be called to a large church in their present denomination. As soon as they are called to the larger church, their main focus becomes making that church of their previous denomination. I’ve seen several make the change and the church did not snap back. Rather, when the Pastor left them for yet another church, the church simply dissolved, disintegrated, leaving members perplexed, bewildered, unprepared to continue in the new teachings, etc.

  3. Pastor,
    What a powerful insight to what so many pastors are dealing with in silence. Not many will admit they experience this. I thank you for this and listening to the Spirit and posting this for it has blessed my soul. Having information such as this will help in the next assignment of God.

  4. Doc Houston, This is a great article that needs to be shared globally. Thanks for sharing and I wished I would have received this about 12 years ago. Blessings, DG

    Date: Wed, 5 Nov 2014 19:38:05 +0000 To:

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by Pastor Robert Earl Houston

H.B. Charles Jr.

About life, preaching, church, books, and other stuff.

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