If you ask chemists about how things work, you’ll likely get an answer with analogies relating to chemical processes, bonds, and interactions. If you ask biologists, they may answer with systems working together and building blocks from instructions. Ask physicists and they will talk about various forces governing how things play out. Sociologists, theologians, poets; each will use their frame of reference to construct their answer because that is what logically and easily clicks for them.
This certainly isn’t surprising. I think it brings with it a fascination of the item(s) in question and the more who can answer from one perspective can help fill in gaps others may have.
I believe this is part of the reason the Lord created us so uniquely.
But all is not always rosy here.
There have been countless times I hear good-intentioned believers put forth their good and helpful perspective as the way the Church or congregation should be done. Not just a some of the principals or parts, but the functioning of most church matters.
I have heard this from many different professional perspectives, but the one I, personally, have heard the most is that of “business.” Of course, that is a huge area encompassing many facets of function and philosophy. Those functions and processes are usually inherently neutral (as is the case in any profession), and understanding the church and congregation within this frame is beneficial and useful. Indeed, there are many, many practical and even necessary things we can learn and use from business models and mindsets.
But we must understand the limitations of each profession (including theology).
A congregation and the Church must certainly know and use some business principles and practices, just as it benefits from some aspects of psychology, medicine, and even trash collection. But when anyone tries to guide or run the congregation as other professions are run, problems will arise.
One of those problems deals with the pastors, themselves, either being told to be more professional, skilled, etc. as in these other professions or they are not doing something beneficial, or pleasing, or counted as the right process within another profession.
Here’s “the thing” – the Church is not a business, a doctor’s office, a scientist’s lab, or a poets journal. The congregation is not a place where the leaders are suppose to espouse the “right” or “newest” paradigm. The Church is the whole of believers in Jesus Christ for His glory and praise!
Pastor John Piper addresses some of this to pastors; and he is correct.
The danger in all of this lies in the one, simple truth: the Church is God’s and we must view it, care for it, promote and defend it, be good stewards of it, and live in it from God’s perspective, not our own.
This is not to minimize the unique and blessed perspectives given by the Lord through His people in the Church. We see God’s love for perspective in His choice of prophets, kings, and apostles throughout Scripture. We see Him use foreign rulers, prostitutes, and even animals to have His Church sustained and Him glorified.
So why do we continually look to the world as our template instead of the Word? I believe the simple answer is: “because that’s what we know. That’s what is easy.”
God does not call us to easy, nor His Church to our patterns and understanding. In fact, much of the time He calls us to carry on with out understanding. He asks us to carry on in faith (Hebrews 11:1, 2 Corinthians 5:7).
What does this have to do with mission? Everything! If we are doing missions, outreach, service – anything in the Church according just to our understanding, we will not do the things He desires within His revelation. When we make decisions and strategies for mission from our perspective, we will not be doing His Mission.
We’ve all seen the consequences of this. Sometimes it shows itself in reaching out in mission, but to those who are similar to ourselves under the oft un-verbalized mantra “this is how God made us in this congregation, therefore this must be what He wants here” or the flip-side, “God has let the community change around us, so we should move to another area so this new community can do ministry in their context and we can with people like us.”
Both, of course, are dangerous and un-Biblical fallacies. The approach may be easier and more comfortable – even more efficient in whom we reach and serve, but that limiting of a congregation to certain, specific limbs of the Body of Christ leave us, by very nature, disconnected and disjointed in His Mission.
As we begin our community outreach in earnest, let us take a step back in our approach to missions, outreach, community, and the Church, and make sure that our vision, philosophy, and approach carry the unique views the Lord has blessed us with, but the fullness of vision that is the Lord’s
in all things!
That’s not just a good plan for missions and outreach; it’s a good plan for life.
His vision – in everything!
In the Lord’s Vision and Joyful Service,