After nearly 30 years in the pastorate and in various leadership positions in ministry, I have had the opportunity to learn many different things that either enable a church to flourish, or prevent it. These often have to do with organizational, pastoral and leadership issues; however, there is one critical aspect that rests with the congregation herself: what the congregation wants. The impact of this one factor on the kingdom fruit produced by the church is enormous.
There is a big difference between leading a church filled with people who want to be modern, fruit-bearing disciples of Jesus, and leading a church filled with people who simply want to be served. The former group approaches church life with expectancy and a desire to grow. The latter approaches church life with set expectations and a desire for consistency. One brings life; the other doesn’t.
Here is a list of my observations. Because of space limitations in the table below, some of these are a bit generalized, but you’ll get the idea:
|Modern Disciples||The “Served”|
|View of Church||Organic; Real People on a Transformational Journey||Organizational; Members of a Group|
|View of the Bible||Instruction for Life & Ministry||Rules for Life & Ministry|
|View of Pastorate||A Rabbi To Train Us in Righteous Living||A Shepherd To Take Care of Us|
|View of Ministry||Mainly Outreach; Meeting Needs and Introducing More People to Jesus||Mainly “Inreach”; Meeting the Needs of Those Already in the Church Family|
|View of Church Finances||Investment in Souls (Primarily Outside the Church)||Provision for the Church (Primarily Inside the Church)|
|View of the Building||A Tool for Ministry to be Used as Much as Possible||A Place of Beauty to be Honored and Protected|
|View on “Change”||Resistant to Complacency||Resistant to Change|
|View on Ministry Quality||Excellence (Give God Your Best)||Perfection (This is the Way To Do It Right)|
|View on Missions||Direct Participation (Local and Abroad)||Financial Support Only|
|View on Leadership||Seek Competencies||Seek Credentials|
|View on Leadership Development||Celebrated; Recruiting, Intentionality and Mentoring are Normal||Jealous; Recruiting, Intentionality and Mentoring are Suspect|
|View on Church Discipline||Instructional and Redemptive; Embrace It||Disruptive and Punitive; Avoid It|
|View on Biblical Teaching & Discipleship||“Equip Me”; Transformational||“Feed Me”; A Devotional|
|View on Time||Vision (Looks to the Future)||Memory (Looks to the Past)|
|Primary Goal||To Increase the Kingdom (Rule & Reign of King Jesus)||To Increase Church Attendance|
|Hearts Tend to Be||Other-centered; The Immanuel Agenda||Self-centered; Multiple Human Agendas that Often Compete|
While it’s true that every local congregation will be a mixture of these facets, it should be a wake-up call if a church finds itself residing more along the right column of this chart. It is the church’s task before our Jesus to walk with people in the power of the Holy Spirit, helping each to steadily become more like Jesus through active discipleship. A church simply cannot see people change and remain stagnant itself. There is no doubt that what a congregation wants tells volumes about its ability to flourish for Christ’s kingdom.
How does your church family fare?