I am a big fan of church. And I would like to see every church reach its full potential. The following are challenges, not just to church leaders and pastors, but also to church members. They are challenges to push your church to excel in these areas in order to be a better ambassador of the Gospel to the world.
1. Working Face to Face with the Poor
A lot of churches give money to the poor, but few choose to be directly involved in their lives. It’s not enough for a church to give to the poor. A church has to know the poor.
Many churches today are building their buildings out in the suburbs where they are surrounded by the rich. And sure, rich people need Jesus as much as anyone, but if churches want to follow in Christ’s example then they must be involved in the lives of the poor.
I’m not saying that every church should move to the inner city. But every church should mobilize their congregations to serve there.
2. Building Relationships with Other Churches
Unity has always been an important mark of the Christian Church. But so many churches try to take on their missions independently. Here’s what ends up happening: several (sometimes hundreds) of like-minded churches in a city all try to reach their city with their own ideas and their own recourses. This creates some challenges.
What often happens is churches end up competing for the same people. Church populations fluctuate every time a church becomes the hot new thing. But unfortunately, it’s often the same group of people just moving from one church to the other.
Churches working together probably won’t put an end to “church hopping.” But think about how much a joint outreach program could do to reach the unchurched in a city. Churches should work together to reach their city united under Christ.
3. Putting Effort Toward Diversity
There aren’t many churches today that would turn someone away because they are “different.” But that doesn’t mean churches are working to achieve diversity. Most are apathetic to the idea.
And now churches are some of the least diverse institutions there are. Not only are congregations made up of people of the same color, but they are also monotone in age, socio-economic status, and even interests (there seems to be church for everybody with a hobby). Young people go to church with young people. Wealthy people go to church with other wealthy people.
Look, I get it. It is comfortable to go to church with people my age who look like me, live like me and think like me. But a lack of diversity in the church is dangerous.
For one, it limits the amount of personal growth a church can facilitate for its individual members. A young person surrounded by young people will find community easily, but he/she will be starved for the wisdom of someone more experienced.
It also limits a church’s potential to reach people. How can a church expect to reach multiple people groups if it is made up of just one?
Jesus Himself sought diversity in His group of disciples. One was a zealot and another was a tax collector (those two types of people came from two very different walks of life).
4. Chasing a Vision, not a Quota
Growth in numbers is biblical. Churches should want to reach as many people as they possibly can. But they shouldn’t fall in love with numbers.
One of the biggest struggles for me is checking my desire to see our ministry grow in numbers so I can focus on growing the people who are already there.
We should want more people to show up, but we must be good stewards of the people God has already given us.
5. Building a Missions Department that Goes Beyond the Offering Plate
A lot of churches give a lot of money toward missions. Some have it fixed in their budget while others take up special offerings.
But missions shouldn’t be limited to giving away money. Churches must be eager to send people out.
Not every church can afford to fund full-time missionaries. But every church that has people can make a personal impact in their communities and around the world.
6. Equipping Their Members, not Just Entertaining Them
For many, church is little more than a show. It’s a sing-along concert with a speech shoved in the middle. Sure, people might be spiritually moved, but that is often the extent of it.
Churches should see themselves as equippers, not entertainers. Providing members with the tools they need to live out their faith on a daily basis is essential. So is providing members with multiple opportunities. Churches should delight themselves in preparing their members to be Christ’s representatives in the world.
My prayer is that you will be encouraged to challenge your church to strive for these goals. If your church is missing one or more of these, the answer is not to leave. Instead, my hope is that you will personally work to create an environment in your church where these things are true.
Justin Smith is a husband, coffee drinker, disc golfer and Associate College Minister at Columbus Avenue Baptist Church in Waco, Texas. You can check out his blog at livingresurrected.blogspot.com or follow him on Twitter @MrJustinHSmith.