Have you ever noticed when you see churches become larger their communities in which they serve don’t seem to change much. Why is this?!?! What is the difference between being focused on church growth and being dedicated to influencing community. Well here are a few things to look at.
You grow a church with talent and leadership Vs. You impact a community with compassion Churches that are blessed with talent (musical or otherwise) and great leadership are likely to grow. Most of these churches are considered good churches and in many ways they are. But that doesn’t mean the community has been changed – which for me is the mark of a great church. In my thinking, it is impact that matters. This does not discount the huge significance and eternal value of growing churches that are big because of new things. I’m talking about a kind of impact that not only wins people to Christ, but that does so with such impact that the community takes notice and is changed. I’m all about people coming to Christ. But there is a corporate force that will enable us to ultimately win more to Christ if we have better served our communities. This means we must get involved in things that the community values, not just what we care about. I believe this all begins with compassion. Churches who reach out with servant oriented efforts that will not ultimately result in anyone coming to their church demonstrate compassion that has true impact. I believe that the best way to do this is to prayerfully think through the various services in your community that did not originate from your church, and choose to serve and be a resource to them.
You grow a church on your terms Vs. You reach a community on their terms
Who sets the “terms” matters. If your church insists that everyone you connect with must do so on your terms, you may grow your church, but you won’t impact the community. This is not about sloppy theology, going “liberal”, or abusing grace. It’s about a willingness to adapt your church’s attitudes and behaviors, including receptivity to people who aren’t like you, in order that more unchurched people may be willing to try you out and even come back.
You grow a church by offering good “programs” Vs. You reach a community by offering good relationships
Good programs are important. Especially, a strong children’s, and Student program. But if programs are the focus, people will come and people will go. You can test if you are program oriented or relationship oriented by the decisions you make and the actions you take. When you emphassize relationships and extend yourself to the community, you have potential to change the community. I like to see churches not about programs but steps. This is something I have talked about many times in the past.
You can grow a church on history and tradition Vs. You must become relevant to impact a community
Let me close with a few thoughts on relevance versus history and tradition. We know history and tradition can be good. Some of the church’s most sacred elements come from the richess of history and tradition. The point is not to throw them out, but first be relevant in order to reach the community. I don’t mean to pick on any churches her (okay may I do), but some of the sermon titles I see on church signs out front of churches are just embarrassing. We are not connecting with people when we communicate in church “code” about things that don’t matter to peoples lives. Then when some churches do get people in the doors they hear sermons about Paul’s missionary journeys and some obscure law in Leviticus. These people have gotten out of bed, fought to get the kids ready, sat in an unfamiliar setting, and we give them stuff that has nothing to do with their life. (Not to say that learning about Paul’s journey would be a great small group or bible study to have elsewhere in the church) That is what I call a perfect description of “irrelevant.” speak on a relevant topic. We must be relevant to reach and impact our community. A side note on this: people don’t always want to hear over and over again each Sunday how sinful we are and how everything ends in Hell if one is not driven to the front of the church to “repent” each Sunday. Bring a message of hope and grace. As well as how to grow in our walk for those who have accepted Christ. Have a healthy bounce for both.
In His Grip,