Confession: I am a dreamer, planner, and organizer. (Some would add instigator and troublemaker to the list.) Fifteen, or so years ago, when my church was experiencing an amazing renewal after most of the old guard had bowed out, I was in a little zone of personal paradise. There was a fresh slate before me, and I had some agreeable people to help me determine what the church was going to look like going forward.
We redesigned everything. It really needed it, but we went all the way back to the fresh slate. The building took on a new look. The ministry schedule, and the very content of what we did was all new. We looked at basic purposes for the church, and then “redreamed the dream.”
Nowhere was that more apparent than in the guiding documents of the church. We were radical, thoughtful, and ahead of our time in designing these. The Table of Contents of our Participating Members Manual is broken down into: Foundations, Statement of Beliefs, Membership, and Governance. The Foundations section included: Mission, Values, Ministry, 10 Core Beliefs, 10 Core Virtues, and 10 Core Practices. Here is a little sampling.
To help people reach their full potential in a relationship with God and each other
o Real. Accepting people as they are
o Relevant. Relating biblical teaching in a compelling manner.
o Relational. Encouraging relationships as the context for all we do.
o Rousing. Helping people awake to an intimate relationship with God.
o Reaching. Assisting people in moving toward their God-given potential
o (And, apparently, above all, being alliterative at all costs!)
We also had a “six-step process that helps guide a person from pre-Christian to a living a redeemed life of following Christ in responsibility and service.”
Today’s church is infatuated with mission statements, defined processes, programs, classes, small groups, and services. It’s hung up in the mechanics of discipleship. It’s like a machine. You need to believe these things. You need to go to these classes. You need to serve in this way.
The messages of the average church to a new person who happens to find their way to a service and break into the sub-culture of the church are something like this.
- We are so glad you are here. (We need a lot people to staff the church’s programs and support it financially.)
- You need to get saved. (We won’t really accept you until you have declared your faith in Christ in a way that fits with our understanding and uses our terminology.)
- You need to get discipled. (We want to run you through a series of classes, or groups, that outline what we believe. When you sign off on all of that, we will accept you a little more completely.)
- You need to serve. (What we really mean is, support this church organization. We need a lot of volunteer staffers and money to keep the thing afloat.)