I’ve had some interesting conversations over the last few days, one was with Michael Nations who leads the ‘Vital Initiative’ for The Church of God (Cleveland). This fantastic ministry focuses on encouraging small church Pastors with the message that their work is vital for the kingdom of God.
Michael told me that many small church pastors believe that they are failures, because the only message they ever hear from the media, conferences and their own denomination is that ‘bigger is better’. They constantly battle discouragement and depression and can even find themselves wanting to give up in the face of the difficulties they encounter. Very rarely do they hear the alternative truth that being bigger is only better, if being bigger makes us better.
Every week you hope to have new people at your church.
But there’s a world of difference between reaching the unchurched and attracting serial church shoppers.
I’m fortunate to be part of a church where we’ve had first-time guests every single weekend since we launched eight years ago.
While it’s easy to think of a visitor as simply a ‘visitor,’ not all visitors are the same.
Like many of you, our goal is to reach the unchurched. And in nearly every community, there’s a growing number of unchurched people to reach.
But there’s another group entirely that shows up at your church regularly: church shoppers.
If you take five minutes to scan through your facebook feed or even the headlines of the news, it sure does seem like there are good reasons to start freaking out.
Easter day bombings in Pakistan, ISIS terrorist attacks in Brussels, Global Climate Change. Mass Migration. Growing Inequality. Nations constantly at war. Societies perpetually distressed.
Oh, and, Um…Donald Trump.
I became a pastor when I was twenty-two. (In reality I had been doing the work of a pastor since I was seventeen, but by the time I was twenty-two I had been ordained and embarked upon the fulltime vocation of being a pastor.) As I look back upon this, it does appear somewhat ridiculous. A twenty-two-year-old founding pastor! Do I regret it? Yes and no. I admit that it’s probably not the best way to go about planting a church and making disciples, but it’s what happened. It was part of the phenomenon of the Jesus Movement. Young would-be followers of Jesus were looking to me for leadership. It’s the cards that were dealt me. So I did my best. I learned on the job. And the Lord was with us.
Every church has a culture. Yours does. Mine does.
If the culture is healthy, amazing things happen.
People love being there.
Great leaders come and stay.
Your church becomes attractive to the community and more fully accomplishes its mission
But sadly, for many churches, the culture isn’t healthy.
Culture is invisible but determinative. You can’t see it, but it defines so much.
A bad culture will consistently undermine an amazing mission, vision and strategy.
As Peter Drucker is quoted as saying, culture eats strategy for breakfast.
Think about it:
The main problem I have with making disciples, is that it’s impossible.
I mean, literally, it’s not possible. God wants us to move people towards:
But we aren’t super psyched about the weak thing because it’s desperately uncomfortable. So instead, we reduce discipleship to something we feel like we can control.