I can’t tell you how many articles I’ve read lately with advice on how improve your church or make it “better.” I find most of these articles are the author’s own preferences in worship style, building style, liturgical style, doctrine preferences, etc. In other words – follow me because I think I’m right and have the one size fits all answer for every Christian church, regardless of denomination, context, history, culture, etc. I guess part of this is because we in the west are obsessed with what the “experts” have to say, as if they are somehow enlightened with special knowledge about what is best for your church. This happens in other areas too – ie government, careers, finances, etc. Or it probably goes back further than that. I’m not here to explore this subject today.
I’m guess that since there are so many articles on how to improve your church, there must be a lot of people seeking the answer. So, in light of that, I’ll offer my own answer to the question
Be authentic. That’s it.
This has nothing to do with all the do’s and don’ts that everyone else out there will tell you. “Do this,” “Don’t do that,” and so many other rules and guidelines out there. Stop listening to all of that.
If you want a list of things that you “have to” do, then I’m going to ask you why? Why are you seeking the answers for your churches’ challenges somewhere out there from someone who doesn’t know your church? Stop trying to be some other church.
A church is a community of believers in a certain geographical location. It’s made of people and those people bring a unique set of experiences, beliefs (or rather, variations on common beliefs), culture, history, finances, desires, goals, etc.
That means your church is unique because of the people who are a part of the church and make up the church.
Yes, there are some great resources for churches that can be helpful when it comes to stimulating ideas and doing some things that have worked. But be careful – they may not be the right answer for your context. Generally, I have found that these things are great starting points. You take them and adapt them to fit the context.
Be authentic. It’s a good standard for your church, yourself, any other organization you are a part of.
What does it mean to be authentic? My definition is that being authentic is about being honest about who you are, where you’ve been and where you are headed at the moment. It’s about being honest with your failings and faults and deciding to live with them. It’s about being honest about your beliefs and your uncertainties and acknowledging that you don’t have all the answers and that’s ok. Being authentic is about living in integrity – doing what you say you’ll do and attempting to follow what you say believe and when you screw up, you try again and maybe you re-examine your beliefs as to why things aren’t working out. Maybe it’s the belief, or maybe it’s the person/people, or maybe it’s a combination of both.
So here’s a few questions to get you started. Why does your church exist at all? I don’t mean the history of when it was started. I mean right now. Why does this church exist?
Another question – would anyone outside of the church know our values and what we stand for by our actions? ie. if we claim to be a church that welcomes people, is that visible to an outsider? How so?
The answers to these questions can’t come from out there somewhere, but internally – within the church. That’s hard work and sometimes painful too. Which is why it’s so much easier and less painful to seek an answer out there. Yet, until we look internally – to within the church, to within Scripture, to within our life of prayer with God, to within ourselves – we won’t find the “answer.” Then again, recognize that the “answer” many shift and change as time goes on. That’s because change is the only constant in life. Change means life. Only things that are alive change. Things that are dead are static.
For those willing to take the challenge, I pray that you are very blessed with wisdom, patience, persistence, and love.