By Ed Stetzer
Having a missional culture established through instilling it, repeating it, and celebrating it will provoke members to love and good deeds.
Why is it that churches often get stuck and turn inward, and what can be done to reverse this inwardly-focused approach?
Often times, as a church grows larger (or even just older) it tends to focus on maintaining and servicing what is already there. Internal ministries overwhelm outward mission. Any church can be overwhelmed with by this temptation.
Yet, many places in Scripture point to the church as a body of servants—being used by God to minister to one another and to a hurting world. For example, 1 Peter 4:10 says, “Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God” (HCSB).
The key phrase here is “each one.” Each and every church member is to serve others. Most of the time we see verses like this it is to serve one another inside the body, but there are so many verses about the poor and hurting that we know many are called to serve beyond the body. (I like to say that we can serve “in, through, or beyond” our local church.)
But unfortunately, there is a huge chasm between this passage and our practice.
According to the research from the book I co-authored with Thom Rainer, Transformational Church, the majority of people in the majority of churches are unengaged in meaningful ministry and mission. They come for the show—and that might be a contemporary church, traditional, liturgical, etc. since the numbers did not show a difference—but they don’t stay for the service.
So, how can we avoid having a church full of customers rather than a church full of co-laborers in the Gospel? We develop a culture and implement a structure.
Churches need a culture that encourages and a structure that enables people to move from passivity to activity, from being passive spectators to active participants in the mission of God.
Today, I want to focus on developing the culture. Here are three steps to develop a service mindset culture: instill it, repeat it, and celebrate it.
A pastor I know put it in a way I thought was really helpful. He said they see four categories of people that come to their church—three categories that they want and one they do not.
- Category one: The visitor or seeker
- Category two: The growing disciple beginning to take steps
- Category three: The mature disciple serving others
- Category four: The person who thinks they’re mature but is unengaged and serving no one.
And here’s what he said to those in the last category: “We need your seat for some of the other three categories.”
With a few exceptions (someone in transition, some personal issues, etc.), I think that mentality is helpful. The sooner you place such an approach into the DNA of your church the better, because as you reach new individuals you want to bring them into a place where service is the norm. A person will become what the majority of your people already are.
You can help develop this within your church. As Mike Dodson and I found in our book Comeback Churches, the primary factor for the revitalization of a church is the leadership. The same is true of developing a serving culture. The leaders, including, but not limited to the pastor and staff, must work to intentionally engraft the right mindset in the body. How can they do that? By repeating the values of the culture you want to instill.
Preach them regularly. Explain why they matter. Call out the idea that you can be mature and not serve others. Teach service.
This article will continue in the next post.