What’s Your Church’s True Purpose?

Love2020Coaching Corner

Our Purpose is helping you align with Your Purpose.

For a church, it’s easy to slip into building a comfortable environment where complacency is acceptable.  Pastors regularly challenge members to connect, volunteer and give – building the institution.  Yet pastors are more reluctant to challenge them to the level of life change required to effectively minister, serve and witness to those around them – in other words, building disciples.

The purpose of a church is not to attract and retain people to worship and do life together.  Attraction and retention are business principles.  Businesses advertise, innovate and serve customers.  They don’t dare ask customers to step out of their comfort zones.  However, churches are called to do exactly that:

  • Transform vs. Attract – Lead people to love and look a whole lot like Jesus, whereby they feel compelled to disrupt “life as they know it” for the sake of bringing people to Christ – the Great Commandment
  • Release vs. Retain – Prepare and equip them for ministry in their sphere of influence, their city and the world – the Great Commission

The basis upon which most pastors make decisions today is whether it will attract or retain.  Yet ironically, Transforming lives and Releasing into ministry in the community do a far better job of attracting and retaining (and growing a healthy church) than America’s prevailing Attraction and Retention strategy – Invite, Involve and Invest.

Yes, inviting friends to church and getting them plugged in socially and financially within the church is “sticky”.  The Bible says some will be attracted to groups of believers by their love for one another.  But in an era where there is so much skepticism about churches and Christianity, it’s far less likely that a non-Christian is going to venture into a church building just because they are invited by a friend or looking for new friends.

In other words, chances are they’ll be more attracted to a Christian than to Christianity – to an individual than to a church.  Church members are called not just to love each other but to love their neighbors too (which we will discuss more next week).  As they do so, those who are not Christians will become more receptive to Christianity.  Churchgoers need to be the first encounter for non-Christians with “church” – and need to be much better trained by their churches to become more powerful embodiments of church between Sundays.  Yet churches have pulled back on discipleship and ratcheted up requests to simply invite neighbors and leave ministry to the professionals.

 

What is Your Church’s Purpose?

To see if your church’s purpose is more aligned with Attract and Retain or Transform and Release, let’s go back to the blog post before Meet The Need’s launch.  We were looking at how some pastors respond to books or articles about increasing their churches’ engagement and impact in the community (i.e. Transform and Release):

  • “Oh, that’s the Social Gospel – but we’re about evangelizing.”
  • “We teach salvation by grace alone, not by works.”
  • “How is that going to grow my church?”
  • “Maybe we’ll get a few good ideas for community outreach.”
  • “The Bible tells us to take care of our Christian brothers first.”
  • “We’ve got too many issues right now to focus on external ministry.”
  • “We don’t have enough budget for projects in the community.”
  • “How big of a difference can we really make?”
  • “Things are going pretty well right now. Why rock the boat?”

We discussed the first two responses in our two posts on the Social Gospel.  We challenged the Perception of many pastors that Caring and Sharing is an either-or decision.   The next two bullets touch on our topic today – Purpose.

Reaching a community for Christ is not the sole purpose of church – but it’s certainly up there somewhere.  Therefore, it’s concerning that so many pastors respond to articles about local missions with “How would addressing social issues in our community grow our church?” or “Maybe doing a couple service events will be a good way to build awareness of our church.”

Jesus acted out of a genuine concern for the welfare of those impoverished or ill.  He knew that His witness would be more powerful if He demonstrated His love and compassion before telling them who He is.  Yet churches rely primarily on occasional events in their local missions efforts.  Events make a big splash yet don’t convey a sincere heart for those who are still hurting and hopeless long after the event is over. 

In those cases, community outreach becomes more of a tool for Attraction (brand awareness) and Retention (checking the box to make members feel better about having done something).   In fact, the very word “outreach” has been redefined in recent years generally to mean church advertising rather than personal caring and sharing.  Churches will see local missions primarily as an attraction and retention strategy unless they:

  • Truly define members as the church and the community (not members) as the “customer”
  • Believe all hands should be on deck pursuing that “customer” (the hurting and lost)
  • Understand that loving their city to Christ is integral to its operations, e.g.:
    • Assign a staff person to lead local missions (a material portion of their job)
    • Give that person a meaningful voice in the direction of the church
  • Prepare, equip and challenge members to effectively carry out the Great Commission – i.e. Transform and Release

 

Getting Back on the Path to Purpose

Aligning with your purpose requires an honest review of what the Bible says about the purpose of church and not what conventional wisdom, seminaries and church growth consultants are telling you.  It also requires an openness to change (despite certain resistance) and possibly an entirely new way of thinking in three areas:

  1. your role in leadership
  2. the role of members
  3. the church’s role with those outside the “4 walls”

Meet The Need provides extensive advice in those areas – putting churches on a path to health, not just growth.  The importance of reversing the decline of the Church in America is why we give away all that content for free:

Meet The Need also provides personal coaching to churches that aren’t growing or having a great deal of impact in their communities.

And we don’t stop there…

Meet The Need provides tools to back up our coaching.  Many church consultants identify issues but don’t provide an effective, Biblical means to get churches back on the path to health.  However, Meet The Need spent over a decade and millions of dollars developing systems to help churches equip and mobilize their members to pursue their intended “customer”.  The consequences of churches continuing to ignore their “customers” are so serious that we give all of those systems away!