A Church’s Hoarding Heart

By Chase Smith

In Part 1 of this blog post, I wrote about how churches hoard stuff. In this second part, I want to talk about how churches can have hoarding hearts.

Hoarding in the church is not just about the physical stuff we find in closets or hanging as decoration. People can keep ideas or ways of thinking that are just as cluttering and dogmatic as someone who keeps every newspaper since 1968.

No matter how the mess may look to outsiders, they like their stuff and want it to stay the same. And just as you have to walk carefully around their house to make sure you do not disturb the stuff, you also have to conversationally tip toe with those who unapologetically keep ideas the way they like them.

As a pastor, you know the catch phrases of a hoarding heart: “I was here when you got here, and I’ll be here when you leave.” “We don’t do that.” “That’s the way we’ve always done it.” “My family has been members here for generations.”

I’ve walked in hoarders’ homes, and they are OK with their stuff. They may offer an empty platitude like, “Excuse the mess,” but they like their stuff the way it is. To them it’s organized! To an outsider, however, walking into a hoarder’s home makes you feel uncomfortable — and the chances of a guest coming back to the house is pretty low.

The same is true of a guest at a hoarding heart church.

When a church has a hoarding heart, they don’t want anything to mess with their way of doing things. That may even include the Bible or the Holy Spirit. They value things remaining the same more than they value the work of the Holy Spirit or the conviction that comes with reading the Bible and examining their heart. A church with a hoarding heart is OK with the church remaining small, because it’s easier for them to control things that way. It feels comfortable.

A church with a hoarding heart may be OK with few or no baptisms in the church in the past five years. A church with a hoarding heart may be OK with no young families — and may even actively drive out those families from the church because they brought new ideas and change. A church with a hoarding heart may tell the pastor what he should do, rather than letting him lead as the Lord wills.

So, what can be done about a church that hoards ideas? You might be surprised to know that it’s actually the same thing that needs to be done with a church that hoards things: The pastor needs to lead biblically based discussions with his church about what they value. He needs to lead his church to have a kingdom mindset, rather than a worldly one.

Will this be easy? No. Will this be quick? Nope. But instead of changing one or two people’s minds, he could disciple generations to seek the Lord, rather than hoarding their ideas.

I hope those discussions will result in real change in people. But let’s be realistic, more than likely there will be a contingency of people who will leave the church. You are leading them to declutter their lives and let the Spirit in to lead them. They may not want to declutter. They may not want to examine what needs to go or stay. They may like things just fine the way they are.

Spiritually decluttering is a long road. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. There will be days where you’ll be encouraged — and days when you may want to walk away and not deal with the mess.

But be encouraged pastor: It’s always worth it to ask what we value and to reconsider the things that take up space and time in our lives and in our churches.

Published July 16, 2020

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Chase Smith

Chase and his wife Rebecca have six kids. He currently is serving families and individuals as a hospice chaplain. If you’d like to connect with Chase on Twitter you can find him @ChaseMSmith.