Many in church leadership today are asking if they are doing church right. This healthy questioning is necessary as culture changes quickly and the perceptions of non-Christians regarding Christians have shifted. Let me share three questions that I think all those in church leadership should be asking as we seek to be communities that love Jesus and love others.
#1: “How are we going to engage our community now in a way we didn’t engage our community before?”
If we look at statistics, we see that the fastest growing churches are those that are non-denominational and are contemporary in nature. This is not to say that denominational or more traditional churches aren’t growing, or that non-denominational or contemporary is better, but statistics tell us this is where we are seeing the most growth.
Beyond just being ‘non-denominational’ or ‘contemporary’, however, is this: churches that are growing look to their surrounding environment and ask how they can best engage their particular communities. We must stay engaged and be culturally relevant to those around us in order to meet their needs and have good opportunities to share the gospel.
Without eyes to see that which is happening around us, we become obsolete. Not the gospel, but our culture-driven church practices (not derived from Scripture) divides us from the culture. We must look at cultural currents in our communities and neighborhoods, not at successes elsewhere. Do people in my area appreciate liturgy, for example? Are there specific ways they might receive the gospel with more openness?
Ask the cultural engagement questions.
#2: “How do we partner with our people to be most effective in evangelism and outreach?
Effective leaders look at those around them and their gifts and talents, their strengths and weaknesses. We must have eyes to see our individual congregations and how God wired them in order to help them flourish in their gospel sharing. Too many leaders look to other models that have seen great growth and work to emulate them in an inappropriate way. This is not only unhelpful, but can actually be harmful to the spread of the gospel if we push our people to work in places of weakness.
Each of us has a unique way that God wired us to share the gospel. Effective churches look at their congregations and find ways to play to people’s strengths when it comes to witnessing. Where are the introverts in the church, and how do we equip them to best share the gospel? What about the evangelists? The person who is unchurched and new to the faith?
Ask the missional engagement questions.
#3: How can we innovate better?
This is the entrepreneurial question. It is future-facing and vision-casting. It moves beyond the here and now and wonders what the community and church can look like in 5, 10, or 20 years and then works backwards. Innovation in the Church has given us, for example, multisite churches and new approaches to services and the use of media and technology. It has led us into great ways of telling our stories and the Story of God.
As the Church all we do should be done with excellence and for the Lord. And we have been told to keep our eyes on the prize of the upward calling of God in Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:14). What both of these commands do is they lead us to places of asking not only what our present looks like, but also our future.
We innovate so that our community will come to know Jesus. It might be today, or it might be three years from now. But our goal as leaders entrusted with the greatest message on earth is that we would lead with courage and clarity
Better cultural engagement, missional engagement, and innovation don’t wisely and through a biblical filter will take us down the path of more and more people making much of Jesus in our generation.