Transforming churches exist for those on the outside. We’d all agree that one of God’s primary purposes for the church is reaching those not yet aligned with God’s purposes in the church. All organizations, however, tend to become inwardly focused over time. We all tend to take a great thing and institutionalize it.
An unhealthy church exists for those on the inside – behind the walls. Like the culture it is called to transform, such a church devotes an unhealthy amount of attention to meeting individual needs. When the understood role of church members is to consume the best spiritual “products” the focus, intended or not, excludes outsiders.
Some churches “wall out” those who are unfamiliar with their traditions, rituals, or dogma. Other churches offer attractive programs to meet the needs of others but then never mobilize those people for ministry, instead keeping them safe and happy behind the walls. Other churches are intentionally focused on creating a safe haven from the outside world – wall-building is seen as a positive, even necessary virtue.
By contrast, a transforming church has a clear, compelling, and focused sense of mission beyond its walls. This has nothing to do with theology or worship style. Unhealthy churches, by contrast, define ministry as what happens within the walls of the church – committees, positions, roles and responsibilities which maintain and support the infrastructure of the church, including its physical plant.
Transforming churches define ministry in much broader terms – what takes place to glorify God and extend God’s mission in the neighborhoods, communities, workplaces, schools, and social circles of their members.
What about your church? Are you about tearing down walls or building them up? Would the members of your surrounding community view the property lines of your church as including barriers or rather broad, incoming highways?
A great way to find out – objectively – is by having your congregation tell you the truth! The Transforming Church Insight (TCI), our comprehensive congregational survey, can do just that. You’ll find out whether your church is open and welcoming or whether you need to grab a sledgehammer and some friends and start tearing down some walls!
To find out more about the TCI, click here.