No matter what church you work at, there is a good chance that you often get compared and contrasted to “that” church in your community. There is almost always a “bigger and better” church somewhere. Over the past decade or so it seems that most of our churches make it our goal to be as much like the local megachurches as we can. It is frustrating. It can make us feel inferior when leaders at conferences, people in the community, our own church members, or even our fellow staff question why we aren’t doing things that fill-in-the-blank church does. There is often great pressure to be like everyone else – use the same curriculum, copy the design of the space, use the same systems, preach, teach, walk and look like all the “in-crowd”.
However, the reality, according to Thom Rainer, is that 90% of American churches have 350 or fewer people. How’s that for perspective? If your church has more than 350 people, you are part of the 10%. The point is, the majority of us don’t serve in super megachurches.
We get caught in a trap of trying to be who we are not which then leads to a loss of focus. Whether you are “that” church or any other, what matters most is what your ministry is centered around. No matter the size, budget, building or methodology, our calling is to lead gospel-centered ministry. Our calling is to teach the truth of the Bible. Our calling is to tell a dying world of the hope of Jesus Christ. Our calling is not to seek to be the most popular church in town. Our calling is not to sacrifice the gospel for being cool and relevant. Our calling is to keep the gospel at center, whatever that takes and however that looks.
- Check your own heart. Matthew 15:8 shares that Jesus said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” Am I just saying words about honoring Jesus and putting His truth first or am I living that out in my life and in how I structure my ministry?
- Determine who your church is. It was refreshing to me to hear my pastor say recently that we can’t make our vision and goal to become a megachurch. It is not in the DNA of our church. It doesn’t even make physical sense with the location and building structure we have. We will reach people, we will send them out, we will help revitalize and plant other churches or sites, but our goal is not to have a million people on our campus. Until I heard him say that, I didn’t even realize that was in my head as a goal. I think over the past decade or so that is what has been ingrained in us as as success. Success is being whoever God has called you to be, proclaiming the gospel, and sharing Jesus with people.
- Determine what God is calling your ministry to uniquely be. Forget what all of the cool kids are doing, unless what they are doing is a perfect match for the congregation and community in which God has placed you. Pray and seek God’s unique vision for your church and your ministry. Instead of focusing so much on the latest church growth trend, focus first on Scripture and second on learning who your people in your community are. Design your ministry based on those core components. It may look different. I hope it does!
- Just be you. Somehow God makes all people so different, yet in His image. It is not surprising that His bride, the church, looks different in different contexts. Different churches reach different people. There are enough lost people to go around. Let’s be faithful to share the gospel exactly how God leads us. Let’s be confident in our identity in Christ and not try to find our identity in imitating others.
- Remember that it is not a competition. Our struggle is not with other churches. Our struggle according to Ephesians 6:12 is against the “powers of this dark world”. Let’s give up trying to out-do and out-shine each other. In the light of eternity it absolutely doesn’t matter who had the biggest VBS or the most extreme egg hunt. Let’s just share the truth of Jesus with a lost and dying world.
- Honor other churches. Whether we do it out of jealousy or arrogance, talking about other churches in a snarky way is just useless. Calling out heresy or incorrect theology is one thing. Judging another church because of their large size, small size, bright lights, no lights, or whatever they do that is different than you… there is nothing godly about that. Look for ways to build each other up and speak kindly of the other churches in your area every opportunity you get.
God, help us center on the gospel. Help us celebrate your work in churches all around us, but help us to only seek to be who You have called us to be. Let us lay aside every hindrance that directs our focus away from You.