Posted on : Thursday September 10, 2020

Church Shift #4: Remember Your Calling

By Kevin Freeman

This is the fourth in a six-part series which explores how God may be calling the church to shift her practices and focus as a result of the pandemic. What feels like a shift may be more of a realignment toward her calling. Previous topics have argued that God is using the pandemic to refine His church and is calling believers to embrace peculiarity as a people committed to authentic faith above all else.

A few months ago, we conducted “The Great Toy Purge.” Parents, you know what I’m talking about. We brought our kids’ excessive level of toys down to a more manageable level. We threw out the toys that were broken or had missing pieces. We donated the ones that were no longer used. Curiously, the ones that made the most noise mysteriously disappeared! At the end of it all, we had a neat, organized playroom with just the right amount of useful and wanted toys.

For about twelve minutes.

Maybe the movies are right and toys do get up and run around when we are out of the room. If so, the toys in our home must invite other toys over for a party – a rather messy one. I went into the playroom the other day and confronted anew a chaotic landscape strewn with unfamiliar toys whose various parts had scattered and commingled with other sets. Every night now, I fill a grocery bag to quietly remove what is no longer used. The fact is that kids don’t play with toys that are missing several pieces. Each piece simply becomes another junk item that blocks other toys or game pieces.

Churches with their various ministries can be a lot like children’s playrooms. That simple church that was started five, ten, or fifty years ago has developed multiple ministry programs that have taken on a character of their own. People who visit your church look for opportunities in which they can engage. Although many churches seek a wide variety of programs, excessive or disorganized offerings contribute to clutter that prevents people from engaging.

Moreover, some programs inadvertently distract from the mission of the church rather than furthering it. Untended, programs will develop growth goals – however good they may be – that run counter to the church’s mission. Pastors, church leaders, and members alike would be wise to begin evaluating each program according to how it contributes to the mission of the church.

What are some signs that your church may have programmatic clutter? Here are three.

  1. Program leaders give different reasons for the purpose of the program. Ask four of your wonderful ministry volunteers why a program exists, and you may receive five different answers. One way to assess the leadership’s understanding of the program is the tweet test. If it cannot be stated clearly within a Twitter tweet, the program probably needs some mission clarity. The number of words spent explaining a program’s purpose is inversely proportional to the level of the speaker’s understanding of it.
  2. Programs have equal weight and airtime. However your church announces opportunities for involvement in a program, each opportunity appears to be equally viable. Robby Gallaty, pastor of Long Hollow Baptist Church, has said churches offer a menu when they should offer a map. If a new attendee without a faith background were to begin attending one gathering beyond regular worship, would you want that to be a small group or adult basketball night? A menu offers programs as equal selections, while a map shows the next step in the destination of becoming like Christ.
  3. People do not talk with a singular mission focus. If the pastor is not clearly and regularly emphasizing the church’s mission, people will make up their own. If ministries and programs do not clearly show how they are connected to the church’s mission, people will create their own connections. This will cause people to move in slightly different directions and largely immobilize mission movement.

We now find ourselves clawing out of a pandemic, and your church might discover that God has provided you with a unique foothold. As programs begin to come back in an online format, organizers can modify them to better reflect the mission of the church. Some how-to suggestions will come in the next installment. For now, remember that people are now more willing to consider changes to church programs than ever before. And remember our calling: to make disciples. That means the church must organize all her efforts toward that mission. As that happens, Christians will better understand their own calling in Christ.