We have been talking a lot recently about steps we need to take as Christ followers and the church. Change is hard but with it comes renewal and life. I came across this article by Kevin Ford recently and it made a big impact on my thinking.
Would the neighbors around your church say, "We're glad this church is here," even if they don't attend? If your church relocated, would anyone care? Are your members actively reaching out to their friends, neighbors, and co-workers? Do your members show genuine concern for those who don't know Christ?
If you answered "no" to any of these questions, your church has an inward focus that needs urgent attention.
Throughout church history, we have tended to take great moments and movements and then sicken them by institutionalizing them. A dead-end, unhealthy church is one that exists primarily for those on the inside-a cloister. Like the culture it is called to transform, it gives an unhealthy amount of attention to meeting individual needs. When the understood role of church members is to consume the best "products," the focus, whether intended or not, moves to excluding others.
By contrast, a transforming church is one that has a shared focus of mission beyond its walls, regardless of its size, personality, or worship style. These courageous churches help transform people into God's image. They transform the communities in which they minister. And, as organizations, they are continually transforming how they lead, operate, and minister. They are missional, or outwardly focused, in nature.
Dead-end, unhealthy churches tend to focus on and define ministry as what happens inside the church (ushers, committee members, Sunday school teachers, and greeters). Transforming churches define ministry in broader terms-ministering in the name of God in their neighborhoods, workplaces, social circles, and schools. So what does it take to become a transforming church?
If your church wants to navigate toward a transformational focus, your leadership team will need to implement these steps:
- Redefine your mission statement to target people outside the walls of the church building.
- Focus your evangelism and mission efforts largely on your own local community.
- Help people connect to your outreach efforts.
- Resist the temptation to be all things to all people.
- Take time to develop a strategic plan that bridges your church's passions and strengths with the needs of people in your community.
- Engage a large percentage of your membership in the process of discovering your community and developing your strategic plan.
Along the way, avoid institutionalizing the great ministries that your lay people launch. If you give them a budget, or a committee, or a staff person to lead it-you're likely to kill it. The paradox of focus is simple. It would seem as though a narrow focus would yield minimal results. In fact, the opposite is true. As the church focuses its resources on doing a few things well, it provides a permission-giving culture for members to follow their calling. Ministry then moves from the few on the inside of church bureaucracy to those on the front lines.