What can be done to encourage more members of the faith community
to live out the compassion of the Gospels in their daily lives?
Why do members of the faith community limit their involvement in the
civic arena to the abortion and marriage issues?
Why are the un-churched in America cynical about the church?
Why are American Christians stingy givers through the church and to community?
These aren’t new questions, but they are important—and finding answers to them is vital if the church, and the Kingdom of God, is to make an impact here and now, “on earth as it is in heaven.”
Unfortunately, in recent decades the church in America has struggled with engaging her members in the community, particularly the communities outside the church walls. This is not to say that great and heroic efforts aren’t being made by the faith community to
serve others -- they are!!! But examining successful efforts reveals that the “80/20” rule is strongly at work. The great majority of church members are not living lives of service to others.
Why is this? We believe it’s because there has not been a commitment to an effective process for driving home the responsibility for the full-range of gospel living through the church and to her members. In short, what we’ve been doing isn’t working.
The solution isn't just saying we love the "least of these," it is turning those words into actions that help usher in the kingdom of God on earth, right here and right now.
Why is this happening?
Denominational churches in America are losing members at an alarming rate – more than 2 million since 2006. Research shows that people have many more church options, that denomination means less, and that people are seeking fulfillment from the church for their lives in the ‘here and now,’ not just ‘then and forever.’
What’s the solution?
For decades, American protestant denominations have emphasized a ‘salvation-only’
gospel at the risk of devaluing, even denying, the ‘service-to-others’ gospel. And by
not engaging participants in routinely serving the ‘least of these’ as an expectation of
the ‘full gospel,’ members have become detached from the essence of Christ’s
examples in word and deed – “I came to serve and not be served.”
The solution isn’t just saying we love the ‘least of these,’ it is turning those words into
actions that help usher in the kingdom of God on earth here and now. This will require
a change in culture beginning with the senior pastor and extending throughout every
aspect of the church.
How long will it take?
One year is needed after the pastoral and lay leadership embrace service-to-others as a vital part of the full gospel. Full implementation will take at least three years.
What are non-denominational churches doing right?
Non-denominational Christian churches are rapidly growing – gaining 6 million members since 2006, and the rate is continuing to climb. Many attribute this growth to offering a better worship experience – contemporary music, casual dress, friendly welcome. Research shows, however, that these churches are offering ‘full gospel engagement’ – combining the salvation gospel with the service-to-others gospel.
What will change cost?
No more than obeying Jesus’ command to “take up my cross and follow me” – that is to say, everything. Specifically it will cost pride, prestige, power. Yet, while there are many aspects to incorporating a service-to-others ethos into the church’s culture, the cost in money to the church is low, likely no new costs incurred, just a refocusing of existing resources toward serving others.
Where to begin?
Pray. Ask God for an open mind and heart to the possibility that something radical might be needed to change the trajectory of church...before it’s too late.
Convene. Gather the pastoral leadership and staff, along with key leaders from various aspects of the church’s life, for a time of ‘what if’ thinking to envision what might be possible and how it would be done.
Commit. If there is a sense of God’s hand in this process, then church leadership will be asked to commit time, energy & resources for at least one year to making the necessary changes in minds, hearts, programs and infrastructure.
Work. Make no mistake, this will be hard work. Changing an institution’s culture is hard and is only possible with top-down leadership commitment, hard work and time.