Part 4 of 4
We’ve spent the past three weeks recommending organizational changes to reorient your church toward the Biblical definition of its “customer”. What we haven’t discussed yet are organizational changes necessary to align the larger body of Christ in a city around that new “customer” definition. It turns out those same organizational strategies and structures that revitalize a church (small “c”) will also revitalize the Church (capital “C”) in a community.
Why churches SHOULD work together…
The Path to Revitalization we recommended for a single church in our last blog post also applies to the larger “body” in a city:
- Take “Ground” – Other churches live on your footprint. They occupy adjacent “ground” in your community. If an established, growing church bought the property next door, how would you feel? Is that an opportunity or a threat? It all depends on whether your church sees the member or the community as its “customer”. Would cooperating or acting separately take more ground for the Kingdom? Is the whole greater than the sum of its parts (of the “body”)?
- Develop Genuine Relationships – Relationships aren’t genuine if they’re not cooperative, pointed toward shared objectives. How many pastors are good friends with several other local pastors from other denominations in their city? What if rather than isolating from one another, more churches explored ways to collaborate to increase their impact exponentially?
- Fuel a Positive Perception – Because churches don’t often combine forces, not much noteworthy is getting done by the “body” in communities. So how can churches combat the popular view that they’re more about taking care of their own than others? One church forming neighborhood groups, local ministry teams, or semi-autonomous subgroups isn’t as powerful as multiple churches banding together to bring the love of Jesus Christ to bear on pressing issues in the city. No one church can do it all.
Why churches RARELY work together…
The Church should act and look like a unified body to the world around it, but it doesn’t. When someone asks what religion you are, they’re not looking for “I’m a Christian” – they are asking about your denominational affiliation. They see churches as distinct buildings and pastors trying to build their individual institutions. When society lumps churches together and speaks of the capital “C”, it’s not usually to say something positive. They generally view churches as more competitive than cooperative.
For 25 weeks, this blog has laid out how the mis-definition of the Church’s “customer” is the root cause behind nearly every tendency and decision that has led to the Church’s decline in America. If the community were the “customer” and members were truly the “Church” then churches would have no fear of working together to love, serve and reach the lost. However, most churches today treat members as “customers”, making them reluctant to partner with other churches even though it would mean multiplying the Church’s impact in the community. The resulting trends we’ve observed are:
- Controlling versus unleashing – Rather than releasing members year-round to serve (like through Meet The Need), more and more churches are controlling their local missions and outreach activities, increasingly putting staff members in charge (versus empowering lay leaders) and branding their own events (versus partnering with local ministries)
- Protecting “turf” versus expanding “turf” – Taking more “ground” through city-wide collaboration isn’t widely viewed as worth the risk of potentially losing members (as they interact with members of other churches)
- Catering versus challenging – Fear of losing members makes pastors and staff hesitate to push members to:
- be all they can be in Christ through discipleship
- love all they can through engaging in local causes
- interact with as many as they can in the community, even with other ministries or churches
These trends are symptomatic and tell-tale signs of treating members as “customers” rather than viewing them as the “Church” to be equipped and deployed to reach the true “customer”. They explain why most churches today operate independently from one another, at least across denominations. Although each initially looks at where other churches are located to see if there’s a place for them, once planted few consider how their strengths map into the larger “body” in the city. Consequently, the Church overall in America is losing ground. Its footprint is shrinking, at a seemingly accelerating pace. With 93% of churches now not growing, when is it finally worth taking the risk of collaborating to become a more formidable body of Christ in your community?
How churches COULD work together…
God only has one plan for your city. His will is not split. No doubt he uses different churches to reach different people to accomplish His plan, but it’s one plan. Churches should therefore be working toward that same outcome, to see everyone in that city come to Him. Jesus’ method for bringing people to Himself was to heal and feed, to demonstrate His love and power, before telling them who He is. He gave the disciples the power and mandate to do the same, and the early Church followed His example. Churches could have a tremendous impact for Christ if they would collectively:
- Consider how each church is equipped for prayer, care and share in the local community. The Bible speaks of parts of the body each playing a key role, all toward the same mission. Is the “body” the scriptures refer to a small “c” (an individual church) or capital “C” (the Church united)?
- Map how the Church overall is laid out in a city and whether it has adequate resources in the right places to serve local needs and reach everyone with the gospel.
- Evaluate how the strengths and skills of each church could be combined with those of other local churches to collaboratively accomplish the Lord’s will for the city.
- Speak with city leaders to identify key causes to address, with the goal of eradicating or making significant dents in the name of Jesus Christ. Depth often creates greater impact than breadth, particularly if issues are large and resources are limited.
It’s your turn…
Where have you seen churches uniting year-round to demonstrate God’s love within a community, choosing shared Kingdom goals over any impediments to collaboration?