The story is well known in many churches across America. Churches that were once large and effective are in decline. Attendance is down. Money is down. People have circled the wagons for survival to stave off the congregation’s demise. The goal is survival: more people in the pews, more money in the bank account, and maybe young people who will step up and take over. Saving the congregation is the goal. The problem with this is that God calls us into missional communities not into institutions. People outside the institution and most inside the institution really won’t give of themselves to save the church. Congregational survival is not a compelling reason for people to go beyond themselves. If survival was compelling them, the declining churches would soon thrive again. If survival was compelling them, the remaining few leaders would not be tired and worn out trying to save the congregation.
People will connect with and give of themselves to something that is compelling, something that is bigger than they are. Even in our consumer driven culture of entitlement, people can go beyond self for a greater mission that is compelling. Every church has a unique Code–a unique DNA that God has brought together for a compelling purpose. Rediscovering that compelling missional reason for existence is the first step in turning a church from an ingrown fellowship to an outwardly focused mission. Rediscovering the compelling purpose for a congregation will be the key to connecting people to God in big and bold ways.
When a congregation knows their unique code, their compelling reason to exist, then three things happen:
1. A Compelling Purpose Stimulates Excitement for the Present and Future:
When was the last time the members of your congregation invited their friends and neighbors to church? Many people are not excited about their church, which means they don’t have a reason to invite others to worship or to a ministry event. But when the purpose of the church is clear and compelling, then the members are connected, and excited, and they naturally want to tell others. A Compelling Purpose increases evangelistic outreach.
2. A Compelling Purpose Stimulates Commitment:
When a congregation has a compelling mission that is bigger than self, people are more motivated to give of themselves in service to the mission. People want to be a part of something that is making a difference for God in their community. People want to know that they are giving of themselves in a significant way. A Compelling Purpose increases the amount and depth of service in the community.
3. A Compelling Purpose Stimulates Generosity:
We know all too well that people hold very tightly to their money. If the church’s budgetary needs were all that was needed to motivate generous giving, then churches would simple share a need and the money would flow in abundance. We know this does not happen. What we do know is that people will become generous if the mission/ministry they are giving to is truly making a difference in the lives of others. A Compelling Purpose increases giving.
It is counterintuitive, but it is true that the church that focuses on survival will die, and the church that puts a compelling mission in front of all else will grow more effective as they make a difference for God in their community. Rediscovering the unique missional code of a church and then inviting people to connect to and align with that mission must be at the center of any transformation for a declining church. It is then that the call to love God, to love neighbor, and make disciples will thrive. And the local church may just thrive too.