February 20, 2013

By Phil Maynard

Some version of the statement “you can’t keep doing things the same way you have been and expect to get different results” (notice how tactful I was here!) seems to be worth pondering by churches Ffrom a wide variety of denominational tribes.  We all know it just doesn’t work.

If, from a personal standpoint, we are trying to lose weight we probably can’t keep eating like we have been and not exercising and expect to get healthier.

If we’re trying to get out of debt, balance our budget, and live within healthy financial margins, we will probably have to make some shifts in the way we utilize our resources.

I think the same is true for congregations.  If health, effectiveness, and vitality is the goal some shifts may be in order.

I’d like to suggest 5 shifts for consideration:


Fellowship to Hospitality

Christianity is a relational faith.  We are invited to be in a relationship with God, a relationship with each other, and a relationship with the world that God has created and loves.  For the most part, congregations do fairly well with the first two dimensions of this relational faith.  We enjoy fellowship with God and each other, gathering with people who are like us, who love each other and care for each other and enjoy each other.  We have fellowship times in worship, fellowship dinners, and even fellowship halls in which to gather.  What is less of a focus, and sometimes even absent, is the call to be in relationship with the world around us.  A shift needs to take place – from fellowship to hospitality – that welcomes the stranger, makes room for others, and discovers the gift of ‘being a blessing’.


Worship Event to Worship as a Lifestyle

Worship is about giving honor and glory to God.  At a corporate level, worship is the gathering of the community of faith to praise God, learn the ways of God, and be challenged to take the next steps in our commitment as disciples.  At a personal level, worship is about living life in a way that honors God in all that we are and do.  There is great value to the corporate worship experience.  Yet, at the heart of worship, as songwriter Matt Redmon puts it, is a life where every single breath is God’s, where its all about Jesus.  Great worship prepares worshipers to live this kind of worshipful life.   It moves us from worship as an event to worship as a lifestyle.


Membership to Discipleship

Our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  This clearly points us in a direction away from ourselves.  That is very different from the idea of making members, where the focus is on what we get out of the deal, (“what’s in it for us?”), and how will you meet my needs?  The Shift of Membership to Discipleship invites congregations to refocus our energies on our mission.  The goal is the development of maturing disciples who are increasing in love of God and neighbor – growing in obedience to God and in service to others.


‘Serve Us’ to Service (Internal to External focus)

Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson made the questions “if your church vanished, would your community weep?  Would anyone notice?  Would anyone care?” a catch phrase for congregations all across the country.  The message is clear:  the church doesn’t exist to serve us, it exists to serve the world – to transform the world.  This shift from ‘serve us’ to service invites the church to consider how this dimension of discipleship is supported by the congregation – from helping disciples explore giftedness and passions to providing opportunities for engaging in various levels of service.


Survival to Generosity

Ultimately the level of our generosity is a spiritual issue.  We may have little and contribute much or have much and contribute little to the Kingdom work.  What is clear is that just having an annual stewardship drive isn’t working to change hearts or support ministries for most of our congregations.  People need to be supported in changing lifestyles, not just told what the Bible says about being good stewards.  This shift from survival to generosity focuses on the role of the church in helping that lifestyle change to take place.


What shift do you or your congregation need to make to more fully live into God’s calling?