Thursday, May 25, 2017

Why Some Great Churches Never Impact Their Community

Your church has the world’s greatest treasure. Don’t hide it behind layers of misdirection and insider lingo, daring people to find it.

Several years ago I had the privilege of being in a great church service on a trip away from home.

The worship was dynamic, the people were friendly, the message was biblical and engaging, the sense of the presence of God was genuine.

As I drove away, I thought, “What a great church! I feel filled-up and ready to take on the week! It’s a shame they won’t have any impact on their community – not if they keep doing things the way they're currently doing them."

Why would I think that if the church was as great as I described?

Because everything the church did was inward-looking not outward-reaching. Read More
This article brought to mind an Episcopal church with which I was acquainted in the 1980s and 1990s. The church was located at the other end of the county in which I lived. The area was enjoying explosive growth as was the area where I lived. The two Episcopal churches in my area were growing with the area. Both churches would eventually go to three services on Sunday mornings. Despite the growth of the area in which it was located, the Episcopal church at the other end of the county was not growing with the area. Other area churches were. A number of successful church plants were also launched in the area.

When the new bishop announced a new church planting initiative for the diocese, the church’s leaders would plead with him not to authorize a new church plant in the area, fearing that it would attract not only newcomers to the area but also its own parishioners. 

I attended a meeting at the church on one occasion and from the difficulty that I had in finding the church gained some insight into why it was not benefiting from the area’s growth. The church was located on a side street that itself was not easy to find. There were no signs on any of the streets leading to the church providing directions to the church. The only church sign was a small one in the front of the building itself. 

Except for one small entry in the telephone directory the church I would learn did not advertise its presence in the community. The attitude of the church’s leaders was if someone new to the area wished to attend an Episcopal church in the community, they could look in the telephone directory. They did not see any need to run ads in the newspaper drawing attention to the church’s presence or put up signs directing people to the church. They did not see the need to build bridges to the community. 

A number of the church’s leaders had originally been members of a local Unitarian Universalist church which had suffered from declining attendance, forcing it to cut back on the frequency of its gatherings and eventually to close its doors. They placed no value on being outward-reaching. My own church would benefit from their attitude of indifference. It would attract newcomers to their end of the county as well as to my own.

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