Is there anything worse than an ineffective church?
I am using the word ‘church’ to mean the Christian Church and its traditions, throughout its myriad and varied history, but I will be speaking from a Protestant perspective as I have never been Catholic. There are two excellent polls that show the breakdown of all religious affiliations in America; The Pew Research Report says that 78% of Americans identify as Christian, and it also gives additional information on how people in America practice their faith. The ABC News Poll claims that 83% of Americans identify as Christian, while giving a denominational breakdown as well.
So if this country is over 3/4 Christian, why is it going to Hell in a hand basket?
I submit that it is because we are ineffective as a church. And we are ineffective because we are not listening to the Lord.
I am defining ‘effectiveness’ based on Revelation 2 and 3 because the Lord gives us His criteria of judgement there. Ineffectiveness then, for the purposes of this article is defined as a clear ignoring of what the Lord says is important.
Which brings me to Pillar 1:
Pillar One is Vision
First up: an effective church has vision. Vision can also be defined as ‘purpose.’ Proverbs 29:18a (KJV)says, Where there is no vision, the people perish. The Orthodox Jewish translation reads thusly: Where there is no chazon (prophetic vision), the people cast off restraint [i.e., perish ungovernable]. Any church, organization, or body, has to understand why it’s there. For what reason is your building, storefront, temple, or cathedral located in the specific neighborhood that it’s in? What is the reason you have the unique congregational mix that you do?
Secondly, can that purpose be readily and easily articulated by both the leadership and the lay people? Does everyone understand your local group’s purpose? If any one of you are cut, would you all bleed the same thing? Are you all walking in agreement with one unified vision?
Thirdly, whose vision is it? If there’s no divinely revealed vision behind the weekly gatherings, then the focus has by default become one of ‘Churchianity.’ It is equivalent to a Religious Culture Club. A club whose only goal is to go through whatever level of methodological and (quasi)orthodox standards are required to conduct a service, and then go home. Vision is what drives any localized body. It drives it the same way your eyes help the rest of the systems of your body figure out which way to go. If there is deadness, boredom, frustration, and quite frankly, no clear reason other than common socialization present, that’s a clear indicator that you are either not aware of, or not actively pursuing God’s vision for that church.
Revelation 3: 14-18 (KJV)
14 And unto the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write; These things saith the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of the creation of God;
15 I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
17 Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:
18 I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.
The Lord makes it clear there that it is possible to be outwardly prosperous, yet spiritually bankrupt. And His counsel? It’s to anoint our eyes with salve, so we can see. In other words, get your vision healed.
My challenge to all church leaders reading this is to ask yourself three questions:
- Do you have a clear vision for your church?
- Is everyone in your congregation aware of, and on board with it?
- Is it God’s vision, or someone else’s?
The scripture makes it clear that we need vision to function. The Lord then further clarifies that only His vision counts unto life eternal. So we don’t want to waste our time building something that is only man’s vision. The Lord warns us that that can leave us outwardly prosperous and yet poor and naked before Him.
Get God’s Vision. Get your people on board with it. Get busy building.