Friday, August 27, 2010

Are We Abiding in the Truth?

As you are reading this, I am in Chicago with our denomination’s leadership discussing elements that create vibrancy in local congregations. In America, 3500–4000 churches close their doors each year (from the Barna Study, Sit in that sad reality and do the math…Almost 10 churches every day close their doors. I am grateful for God’s grace at PCC and the life and growth that we are experiencing as a body. Growth isn’t easy, nor is it pain free. But growth is Biblical, and isn’t that the point of the church—to be a Biblically functioning community?

In preparation for my meetings in Chicago, I was given a study by Eddie Hammett of the Columbia Partnership1 outlining Nine Lies Most Churches Abide By. As I sat in the study, I felt prompted to give you the nine lies. Please examine these lies and wrestle with them. I believe there is some great truth here for us. Truth always brings freedom.

1. Returning to the good old days is the way forward for our church. Many from the builder generation and some boomers long for the good old days in life and church. In a day of rapid change going back is not likely to be a forward step for the new generations.

2. Ministry is the primary responsibility of the pastor and staff. So many believe that ‘hiring pastor and staff’ is the way to grow a church and insure ministry happens. As best I understand scripture, all believers are ministers and responsible unto God for impacting the world we live and work in daily. (Eph 4:11-13)

3. Ministry is for the church members to support and pray for, but not something they are to do. The mobilization of all believers is critical to church rebuilding our reputation in the world and touching the vast array of human need. A few professional clergy can no longer be expected to carry the weight of ministry in the church or world.

4. Care-giving for the membership is the primary mission of the church. Most members believe the church exist to care for them. When in reality the church was never created for those on the inside but rather to reach and impact those on the outside of the church walls. When care-giving of membership dominates church impact fades.

5. The budget of the church is for those who give, not for those who do not give or do not come to church. The purpose of most church budgets by design is to provide facilities, programs and services for the membership. While this is understandable, the mission of the church is not self-care but missional experiences. Missional experiences will likely focus on building bridges between the churched and the unchurched.

6. Church meetings, ministries and programs are primarily to accommodate the needs and preferences of church members rather than those inactive or beyond the membership. So often our church meetings, meeting agendas, desired outcomes of programs are evaluated on how they were received by the membership or attendees. Maybe a better evaluation is what happened in the meeting or program that connected with the unchurched and those seeking.

7. Those who are not like us should not be invited or encouraged be among us or part of us. In an age of growing diversity, pluralism and differences of lifestyle, rituals and faith practices how does the church function in less judgmental ways and more inclusive and embracing ways? What value is there in preserving one’s ethnic or personal preferences and how can churches manifest this in programming?

8. Judging others is essential if the church is to stay pure and faithful. Homogeneity of doctrine, beliefs, behaviors, lifestyles and practices seems to be the driver and standard for evaluating ‘what’s in’ and ‘what’s out’ in terms of the church. How this aligns with scripture and with an increasingly diverse culture is a key path for exploring.

9. Funding for ministry for our church comes only from the tithes and offerings of membership and guests. Creative avenues for funding ministry have come to the forefront in days of a destabilized economy. Global issues impact local availability of funds. Traditional churches have basically depended on the tithes and offerings of the members for funding of ministry. Today, the net is being cast broader to invite community partnerships, global partnerships and local sponsors into the funding and planning streams.

1 The Columbia Partnership is a non-profit Christian ministry organization focused on transforming the capacity of the North American Church to pursue and sustain Christ-centered ministry. For more information, go to Click here to retrieve the complete article by Eddie Hammett.