In too many places, we, the leaders, have turned the church into a store. Believers have a consumer mentality when they should have a missionary stance. The question we face, then, is how to move them from:
- From window shoppers to community
- From gym membership to covenant
- From consumer-shaped bazaar to mission-shaped community
One way is to help the church change its formation. All groups, athletic teams, and armed forces use formations. To get a new result, you must often change the formation of your people. Thomas Bandy once wrote, “Repentance and realignment leads to closer self-awareness and heightened compassion.” As leaders, it is the place to test ourselves on what the end-result of our ministry style will be. I suspect that we would prefer mission over consumption.
In the movie “The Patriot,” Mel Gibson’s character was leading the American militia against the British army. The militia was destined to lose every traditional battle because they were poorly trained, lacked discipline, and were simply outgunned. So they changed formations. Rather than standing in straight lines on the other side of a field awaiting the British to fire at them, they chose a new tactic. The American militia hid in the woods in ambush, out flanked the British on the fields, or would advance and then suddenly retreat in order to draw their enemies into a trap. Oftentimes, if you want a different outcome, you must choose a different formation for the mission.
We have bought into a catering model of ministry. In one city I once ministered, a local church put up a billboard near the interstate. Not uncommon to advertise your church. The statement on the ad was, however, striking. It read: “Now offering 127 ministries for you and your family!” Really?!? 127. It was a blatant sales job of “come and we’ll take care of you.” There is a danger to this mentality. Catering to people’s needs allows for a small formation of highly, skilled professionals on a platform and in the church office.
The mission of God requires that we move out of a catering mentality and into an equipping formation. I would suggest a couple of actions to get mission moving out of the consumer mentality.
Honest evaluations. The first step to finding a new path is to clearly see the one you currently travel is taking you in the wrong direction. Set your church family against the plumb line of the Scriptures.
Involve key leaders in the church. If you truly want to move away from a platform-centric church, then involves the membership from the outset in the evaluation. You know who the key leaders are already. They are the men and women who, when speaking in business session, everyone nods their heads in agreement. It is the Bible study teacher who chooses a curriculum and all the other leaders want to follow suit.
Tell a better story. Church members are living out the story they have been told. Likely, they are not maliciously avoiding the mission of God. Often, they think that they or someone or all of us are doing it. Preach, teach, train, and privately talk about the “what could be” story of engaging in God’s mission.
Strip away everything that doesn’t facilitate God’s mission. As a leader, you must come to grips with this fact: it is okay to do less stuff. Effective leaders do not generate activity for the sake of everyone being busy. Effective missional leaders focus people’s attention on the few things that point to God and His kingdom. It will be different for every church family but you must learn how to help people stop doing activities that are unproductive.
Stop catering and start training! People do what you train them to do. Have you trained people to wait for you to cater to their every need, want, and whim? If so, change formations. It may begin slow and small but, nevertheless, begin. Move a few willing people into a training mode and let the fun begin. You will see the change when the church family hear the stories of what happens when willingness and training meet up with the mission of God.
image credit: John-Pa