Comments about the Church on the net……I wonder if, generally speaking, often people speak up when things are not so good. Case in point…church members meetings. When things are going well, people don’t turn up, or if they do, they don’t have questions, lets just get to the coffee! When tension is simmering below the surface, sometimes the ‘uglies’ rear up at the members meeting.
There are some serious questions the church needs to ask. How is a congregation of 10 people sitting on a property of 3 million honouring to God? I know of a church with 3 full time staff, caring for a congregation of 20 people, all over the age of 60. They pay their staff through rent on some of their properties. That is hard to justify.
Other smaller churches have significant property, but are cash poor, yet still want a full time paid pastor. Their life time looks grim.
Which brings me to the church, what is its future? Here are some thoughts I have.
The Way Forward
A church needs to be a visible and effective presence. By visible I mean that the community at large notices that the church exists. If I was going to suggest one good way to spend $1000, I would say…get a bigger sign. Its that niave or what? But so many churches make a clear statement about themself by how they present themself to a passer by. Today I discussed with some of my leaders how one mid size local Baptist Church is hidden, but everyone knows where the local Catholic Church is. Why? Because the Catholics pick the most visible spot. They are a strategic bunch. Go to any country church and the Catholic Church is normally on top of whatever hill there is in town, or on the main street. Its the same in the suburbs.
By visible I dont just refer to its physical attributes, but also to the fact that people know what it does in the community. Of course the church is the people, what are the people of the church doing in the community that is indispensible, under the banner of the church?
By effective I mean people becoming Christians. I unapologetically believe that if we do everything right, but people are not moving along on their faith journey, we are just moving chairs on the Titanics deck. Whatever your definition of a Christless eternity is, we don’t want people going there. Effective means growth, yes in numbers, just like the early church, we count what is important, people calling upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
So how can churches be both visible and effective?
Some churches are big. Mega big. People know where the building is, they know what the people do in the community. They are a visible expression of Christ’s body on earth. Being big means they can do big things, change large aspects of communities ills. The power of combined resources means they can see God do influential things in their community. They can also be effective. All those people being built up, sent out and being Jesus where they live has to have an effect. People are attracted to people. There is less of the ‘cringe’ factor. Things are done well, often better than secular organisations. If someone is looking for a church, they know where the big church is. There are few issues with resourcing effective ministries, things can just get done…good things. A single vision of reaching the unchurches can be effectively dispensed. People are a part of an effective functioning Body of Christ.
Some churches can never be big. But be careful with this. There are plenty of examples of decent sized churches even in areas previously thought to be impossible or very hard to reach. But for some churches, at least in the interim, boutique is the best option. Accept who you will never be, and go for what you can be. Focus on one aspect of ministry and do it well. Steven Furtick started a small church and focused on just two things, the Sunday service and small groups. They don’t do anything else. Of course, now you might say they are big….but their original vision was focused…boutique.
I know of other effective churches who focus on one or two demographics, particular to either the ‘gift mix’ available to them, or the obvious community need. These churches become known for what they are doing in the community. People say, “that is the church that does such and such’.
So often the issue with this approach, particularly in a church in transition, is that it requires some serious decisions. What do you choose to focus on? And by focusing on that, something else is going to be neglected (or perhaps if we are really being effective) dropped all together. This means some who are used to their needs being met, will have to accept the focus of the church, and the implications for them. It may mean the pastor will be misunderstood. He might be seen as a callous leader, unconcerned with the people that are there. But this needs to be done. It takes love, skill, leadership and firm conviction in what is being done, particularly when the criticism comes.
I believe in the church. I believe we will find ways. I believe in Christians who are prayefully and positively seeking to implement the great commission.