I have now spent 35 years in church work and will celebrate the 30th anniversary of my ordination this coming January. I heard someone say once that when you get older, you become more reflective and that's certainly true in my life. I guess you simply have more things to reflect on when you have more life experience and many of those topics for reflection are your own mistakes!
In my workshop The Purpose Craze, I outline seven steps that I believe churches must take if they are to recover from the malaise and "funk" that many are in. I maintain that we know how to do "church" -- and I can feel some of my blogger friends cringing when I say "do church." I know we are to "be church" but please permit me to use this phrase to indicate more of a shift in how we think than what we do. If our thinking changes, our actions will change, so I want to address the need for a mind renewal in the body of Christ the world over.
At any rate, we know how to do church on Sunday. We have that down pat. We can lift an offering, sing five songs, take care of the kids, deliver the message and be out in time for the Sunday football kickoff. We can do that whether or not God "shows up." But do we really understand how to equip the saints for ministry, as Paul described in Ephesians 4?
So permit me to share those seven steps one step at a time over the next few weeks. The first step is:
There is a lot in this first step, so let's quickly unpack the contents. Notice that I said purpose-led, not purpose-driven as the title of Rick Warren's phenomenal book indicated. When I think of someone being "driven," I think of someone behind them with a whip or stick driving them on as they both run -- one to escape and one to catch the escapee. I rather think of purpose as something that leads from the front rather than pushes from the rear.
Too often in church we are content to watch the faith of someone else in action. It's often easier and less risky to judge the job that person is doing rather than try to do something. That is why it is critical that you be challenged to find a faith project that is beyond your ability to accomplish and apply your faith to see it come to pass. Notice also that I said "men and women." The Church is the only army in the universe that insists on fighting its battles with half its army inactive and one hand tied behind its back. We need women to be fully engaged in the purpose revolution.
Then there's the strong pressure in many church settings for you to be who you are not. We make it a matter of "common sense" and willpower to work in the nursery, be an usher or count money. And really, we don't offer very many opportunities for work and ministry beyond the basics of ushers, choir, children and hospitality. If your gifts fit into those areas, you will do well. If not, there is subtle pressure for you to adapt your gifts to work in those areas.
What's more, churches need to improve their ability to release people and make room for new people. If you have been sitting in church for 20 years, what are you doing with what you have learned? Have you become spiritually fat and sassy, sitting in judgment of what is or is not going on, while you are responsible for absolutely nothing? Are you content as a pastor to have people sit for 20 years or be an usher for 17 years and that be the sum total of their Christian experience?
Millions of people and 30,000 churches went through the Purpose-Driven Life program. Are we the better for it? Is the church more purposeful? Has there been a groundswell of creative ministry that has swept the world? It may be out there, but I haven't seen it. Yet that is what it will take -- a purpose revolution of the masses -- to change the way we do church. Until that happens, we will have business as usual and, unfortunately, we will conduct that business for less and less people.