The church is a monster. No, I do not mean an ugly, hairy and scary animal with ferocious teeth that hides in little children’s closets. I mean that the church is a living organism – the church is alive! Recently, I had the opportunity to visit about a dozen or more different churches in the Atlanta, Georgia area. The trip was organized and led by Maina Mwaura, the Youth Evangelism Director from our Maryland/Delaware Baptist convention (BTW – Maina is not only an outstanding youth ministry expert, he’s also a phenomenal restaurant connoisseur) . The purpose of the trip was to explore churches that are excelling at reaching people (especially students) and maturing them in the faith. Above all, I came away encouraged seeing churches and people who are serious about living the authentic Christian life and engaging their culture with the gospel of Christ.
Here are some more specific principles I learned:
Churches that excel have a clearly communicated and unifying vision.
These churches do not wander with aimless direction; nor do they allow individual members or subgroups to create their own agendas. Their vision is well defined and permeates throughout every member and ministry. The vision and mission of the church is stated often from the pastor, printed visually on banners and brochures and engrained the hearts of the people. In fact, the leadership maintains their vision by recruiting and training based upon agreement with their vision. (i.e. see Simple Church by Rainer & Geiger, 7 practices of effective ministry by Stanley)
Churches that excel genuinely care about the people in their community.
These churches value biblical fellowship. They involve themselves in others lives and live out the “one another” passages of Scripture. Small group community life is the DNA of these churches. This is not to say that small group ministries are more biblical or superior to other ministries (traditional Sunday School or Bible Classes) but it is saying that these churches genuinely know and support each other through group life. In addition, they reach out to their community by being a gospel witness along with participation in various social ministries.
Churches that excel value excellence & creativity in ministry.
These churches aim for excellence in everything; from buildings to brochures to discipling believers. They have a “whatever it takes attitude”; they dream big and they live in the details of ministry. This does not mean every excelling church has the biggest building or unlimited resources at their fingertips. But it does mean they value excellence and creativity because they both flow from the character of God. God is worth every bit of energy that we pour into ministry, and so these churches use what they have but with excellence & creativity.
Churches that excel utilize their best marketing tool – people.
When the leaders of these churches were asked, “what are you doing to reach your community?”, the response was unexpectedly the same – people reaching people. Some said, “word of mouth” or “members repeating the gospel story” but the principle was the same. It is not advertising or special marketing but changed lives that were the supreme influence for reaching others. The church that takes its mission to reach the world for Christ seriously is the church that is receiving blessing from God and is thriving! Acts 1:8 is being lived out in these churches.
Churches that excel have a vested interest in reaching the next generation.
If you can excuse the phrase, these churches are putting their money where their mouth is. They do not just talk about valuing children and youth but they prove it in both the budget and in adult participation. An entire generation of young people is not being reached because churches are either apathetic or tied to traditionalism (Note: there is a difference between tradition and traditionalism. Tradition is the living faith of the dead whereas traditionalism is the dead faith of the living). Volunteers keep coming back year after year not only because they see the need but because they receive more through investing in the lives of young people than they ever would by sitting in a class amassing information about the Christian life.
ABOVE ALL, my prayer is personally that I would not settle for a status-quo relationship with Jesus Christ or mediocre ministry. I want to passionately pursue Jesus every day, I cannot live or be the husband or future father that God wants me to be without him in my life (John 15:5). Nor can I serve and do ministry without the Holy Spirit breathing life in my efforts. I pray that, as I continue to grow in these principles, SCBC will likewise grow and multiply into the type of church that excels for the glory of God.