I know I'm late to the John Crist party, but I'm glad I made it!
Describe your “dream” church. What would it be like?
Brett McCracken conducted his own thought-experiment to come up with his dream church. It contained the following:
This isn’t all McCracken listed in his “dream church.” It’s actually only a drop in the bucket. His list covers multiple pages from his book Uncomfortable. After completing his profile of his ideal church, he says this...
"I am a bit disgusted with how easy it is to describe in such detail my hypothetical 'dream church.’ It’s easy because this is how we’ve been conditioned to think. 'Have it your way' consumerism is the air we breathe.”
So the title to this blog is a bit misleading. It’s not a blog on how to find your “dream church.” It’s a plea for you to give up your search for one… at least in this life.
Let’s say you’re looking for five things in a church: expositional preaching, corporate worship done with musical excellence and a sense of transcendence, children’s programming that both teaches kids the Bible and gives them an “experience” they want to have again next week, Jr. and Sr. high ministry that grounds students in the Word of God, makes them feel loved, and prepares them for life in the world, and a care ministry that meticulously keeps track of every physical and emotional need each person in the church has. All you’re looking for are these five things…
You can have three of them.
Realistically, a church may be able to excel at three of those five. But it’s unlikely to be better than mediocre at the other two. Why? Because we live in this world and it’s filled with limitations. Church leaders, like me, are limited by our sin. We are limited by our weaknesses. We are limited by gifting. Every church is limited by its location, history, size, facility, and finances. Every church has people in it who are limited by maturity, availability, and giftedness.
So how will you handle your church’s limitations and imperfections?
This is a call for all of us. Let’s work on loving the church we have not the one we wish we had.
Why do pastors and churches say “no” to your great ministry ideas?
Here’s the bottom line: churches can’t do everything. The hard reality is: your passion may not be your church’s passion. Here are some legitimate reasons churches say “no.”
Finite people + finite resources = limited ministry. Sometimes it really is a great idea, but the timing is off. There are other “irons in the fire” that make it challenging to launch your idea at this time.
2. It’s not the mission of the church
For many churches, the primary mission is the Great Commission which means there will be all sorts of things the church will not pursue such as reducing unemployment or ecological efforts or promoting political movements.
3. Different strategies
Often times, we all want the same thing, but the way in which we want to accomplish that thing is different. Probably all Christians agree that caring for one another in the church is essential. But how ought that to be done? Counseling? Support groups? One on one? Small groups? Saying “no” to a means is not saying “no” to the end. Differentiating the difference between “means” and “end” is critical.
4. Limited time
I have served on staff in three churches during my 15 years in ministry. I have yet to find myself with spare time. I have NEVER been bored in ministry. It is not exaggeration to point out that saying “yes” to another ministry will inevitably mean saying “no” to my wife, kids, sleep, prayer, Scripture reading, exercise, etc. A “yes” is simultaneously a “no” - that applies to everyone. (It’s at this point some well-meaning parishioners will say, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of all of it!” I’m sorry. That’s not possible. If you need space in the building, you are using staff time. If you need it in the bulletin, you are using staff time. If you need it posted on social media, you are using staff time. If you need it communicated in some way, you are using staff time. Small asks create tasks that add up quickly).
5. No thank you, I’m not interested
This is the hardest one for me, but sometimes being candid is best. “Pastor, I’m really hoping the church will get behind a therapy dog ministry. It brings hope and healing to those who are down and out.” The honest answer is: “I hope it goes very well, but it’s not something I’m interested in.”
This might be a bummer to read, so I’ll close with one encouragement. Lots of amazing ministry takes place that is never an official ministry of the church, or on the church budget, or announced in the church service, or printed in the bulletin or newsletter. Real ministry doesn’t have to show up on the church’s website to be considered real ministry.