I’ve been thinking about the things that churches, our and all churches, have to do, and do well.
Churches needs to gather and worship- to sing, to pray, to preach, and to celebrate the sacraments. Churches need do outreach that make new Christians. This has to happen both locally and globally. Locally, it can include everything from fun or service events that just build relationships and have a long term goal of getting people to move into each other’s spheres, to events with deep and strong gospel presentations where we actively seek to see people trust Christ with their life. It also may include individual outreach, church outreach, and even the support of local missionaries. Obviously, it encompasses a great deal. Globally, it can include everything from mission’s trips to the funding of missions organizations and missionaries to something else entirely.
Beyond this, Churches need to teach and equip the saints so that they grow as followers of Christ. This is true for both adult and children. For a Church to be healthy there has to be some kind Christian education happening, so that people of all ages can connect their faith and their life. That can be done through small groups, Sunday school, youth group, new member’s classes, adult or children’s catechism, or other things. The key is that we have to be teaching people of all ages the truths of gospel and the implications of the gospel, and how to apply the truth of the gospel apply to every area of their life so that they are whole life disciples.
Furthermore, they need to care for the congregation in times of need. The sick need to get visited, people have to be met with and spiritual condition checked on. The grieving need to be ministered to, etc. Moreover, they need to develop and train leaders. Without good leadership, a church will struggle, at best. Along with this, there needs to be real fostering of healthy community. Finally, they need to have some sort of an administrative system so that they can care for the infrastructure and the property that are owned (if it owns property), manage the finances, pay the bills, and the like.
This is a big list. There are other things that are important. But these are the most important. But while this is a big list of things, I want you to notice something. None of these are programs. Programs are forms and structures. These are functions; things that need to be done and ends that result in the great end, the glorification of God.
The distinction is important. Often, we think of programs and structures as the ends, but programs and structure serve these things, not the other way around. Programs and structures and activities come and go. They can be picked up, used, and laid aside, as long as they accomplish their ends. While we sometimes fret over the forms, they are ultimately not the thing that is primary. Sometimes we have a beloved program that we feel really strongly about. But if it doesn’t accomplish its function, it’s time has passed.
Why am I bringing this up? Because one of the things we need to understand is that as a church overhauls, it has look at everything, and do it with a baseline assumption. No committee, program, or structure is totally sacred. When a church makes a program sacred, the end is in sight, because we lose sight of what is truly important.
We can’t make that mistake. We may love a program or structure, we may have strong attachments to it, but if its outlived its usefulness, it will be replaced with something that will accomplish the function. So for instance, for the last several years at my church, we have had separate Bible studies for men and women. This developed organically and worked for awhile. This year, it floundered. What should my church do? We may need to examine another option, because in the end, the aim is the education and development is followers of Christ. The form isn’t important, the function is. As a church seeks to be effective for the glory of God, it has to keep its eyes on what is truly important, release what needs to be released, implement what needs to be implemented, and do the things that it needs to do so that it may see God glorified and lives transformed by the gospel.