A few weeks ago, we dedicated a blog post to showing how Jesus, His disciples, and the church throughout history viewed the community as its target audience – its “customer”. The church is the living, breathing body of Christ. The members make up that body. Each of us is an important body part. If each of those members hadn’t fulfilled their roles as the body, commissioned by Jesus – to GO and make disciples – would the church have seen such explosive growth during its first 1900 years? What if the early church members had stayed among themselves – not venturing out into Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria? Would Christianity have spread as quickly if the early church hadn’t followed Jesus’ model of demonstrating His love and compassion before telling them who He was?
How many fewer would be in heaven today if those members had seen church as a place to fellowship with other believers and to worship on Sunday mornings? Yet my fear is that’s how most members and attenders view church today.
Church is not a what – a place. It’s a who – us. The church’s power is in the vast number and diverse giftings in the body – fueled by the Holy Spirit. For centuries those countless parts of the body of Christ – each recognizing their individual roles in expanding the Kingdom – created an unstoppable, irresistible movement.
So why isn’t Christianity still growing in America today? The explanation we’ve put forward in this blog post series is that most members/attenders no longer see:
- themselves as a critical body part
- how they weaken the overall body if they don’t carry out their intended functions
- the need to carefully evaluate their giftings and apply them adequately to ministry inside and outside of the church
- the Great Commission as an obligation, but as an option
- the same sense of urgency around their role in bringing the lost to Christ
- their position in the church as important as the pastor’s
- church or themselves as servants to the community, as Jesus did
Step #3 to revitalize your church…
In the past couple weeks we’ve discussed the first two steps:
Step #1: A change of heart and mind – Confess we’ve largely ignored the community – our intended “customer” – and been too careful and cautious with members/attenders, concerned that they may not come back
Step #2: Take ground – Occupy a larger footprint by empowering members to BE the church to those around them, putting less emphasis on keeping them in and more on equipping and sending them out
Now let’s look closer at…
Step #3: The entire church working together to pursue the real “customer”
All hands on deck…
In management consulting, we saw countless examples of departments not working in a company’s best interests:
- Sales – not aggressive in converting new customers
- Marketing – targeting the wrong (i.e. unprofitable) customers
- Operations – processes designed around needs of internal departments
- R&D – product innovation not keeping up with evolving customer needs
- Finance – not investing adequately in the optimal customers or products
No company can succeed unless all the departments are adequately staffed, aligned around the interests of the target customers and perform their distinct functions well. What the Bible says about the church is no different. The entire church – pastors, staff, members, elders, deacons, facilities, etc. – should work together seamlessly to prepare and equip themselves to reach the lost. In this analogy, members are essentially employees, insiders being trained and sent to bring help and hope to a community (outsiders) desperately in need of both.
How should each part of the church body be utilized in this “members are the church, not the customer” framework?
- Members/Regular Attenders – Like Sales, evangelize and serve the church’s true target “customers”, not simply by inviting them to Sunday morning services but by living out the Great Commission
- Deacons/Elders – Like Marketing, lead everyone in the church into a deeper relationship with Christ so they can have a greater impact in the community
- Staff/Administration – Like Operations, yet geared toward equipping and sending, not just keeping the machine running
- Pastors – Like R&D, cast vision for how to leverage the body to reach more people for Christ
- Finance/Facilities – Like Finance in a company, allocate limited resources to the uses that maximize the return on investment – in terms of the number of people who come to know Jesus as their Lord and Savior
Have some body parts atrophied?
1 Corinthians 12:27-28 (TLB); “All of you together are the one body of Christ, and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it. Here is a list of some of the parts He has placed in his Church, which is His body:
- Prophets—those who preach God’s Word,
- Those who do miracles,
- Those who have the gift of healing,
- Those who can help others,
- Those who can get others to work together,
- Those who speak in languages they have never learned.”
As for those first three, it’s clear that pastors occupy the lead role within the church. However, the remaining parts of the body listed could be any one of us – inside or outside the building. We are the hands and feet of Christ, yet far too few people are stretching and working out our muscles – so they’ve atrophied. Unless we exercise the body part we represent, both in how we serve others at church and in the community, the overall body becomes weaker. Unless pastors are willing to risk rocking the boat by challenging members to be stronger body parts, the church body will continue to atrophy in size, impact and influence.
It’s your turn…
In looking at how the Bible says all parts of the church should work together to reach those who don’t know Christ, what body parts are being underutilized? Are there any parts we are overusing? Have we invented some body parts that God did not intend for the church to have? If you’re a pastor, what “part” does your church play in the overall body of Christ within your community or city?