A few years ago my wife and I found ourselves “between ministry assignments” and endeavored to find a new church home. We visited about sixteen congregations before we found one we committed to, however briefly.
Granted, I was, and still are, a hard sell when it comes to the local church. I’ve been around too long simply to “go to church” because that’s what Christians are supposed to do. Besides, I’m beyond going to a church so it can “meet my needs.” If I don’t have a place to invest the gifts God has given me, then I don’t feel I have a place in that congregation.
Knowing of my situation when I wasn’t a pastor, a friend on Facebook said to me, “So, curiosity begs to know what it is you are looking for in a church. It’s tough to find a “fit” when you don’t match any of the standard molds. I’m just wondering what blend would be “your” chosen church?”
That got me thinking, so here is a partial list of what I would like to see in my “chosen church.” And before you think I’m dreaming, I know that everything I’ve listed is already taking place in some form in churches across America, with possible exception of number 6.
1. Ephesians. 4:10-13 Leadership – After Jesus ascended He gave gifts to the Church, including Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher. I would like to be part of a church that has all five of these gifts working together in a leadership capacity “to prepare God’s people for works of service” (vs. 12). In this model, the “pastor” would only be one part of the leadership model. The pastor would pastor people, the teacher would be the primary speaker, and the evangelist wouldn’t even be in church on Sunday. He or she would be out evangelizing people who aren’t in church on Sunday. What a novel idea!
2. 80/20 Reversal – Most of us know that 80% of the work is usually done by 20% of the people. I would like to see that reversed. I know there will never be 100% of the people who will work for the Kingdom, but it is possible to see a higher percentage using their gifts for God’s glory.
3. Intentional Equipping of the Saints – And I mean INTENTIONAL. The vision statement for my first church was to see people caught, taught, increased and released. This means we actively look for ways to catch people by the love of God and see them saved, teach them the Word, increase their effectiveness as a person and minister by understanding their gifts and giftedness, and then release them to use those gifts for the Kingdom. This also means we must be creative in finding ways for those gifts to be used. Naturally, most of these gifts will be used outside the four walls of the church, and that is as it should be. Too often, leadership implies that if we are not working in the church, we’re not working for the Kingdom. Fortunately, that idea is starting to fade.
4. Staff Performance Based on Leaders Equipped Versus People Accumulated – Most often, churches evaluate a staff member on how well they do their job. The music minister is evaluated on how well he or she leads worship, and the youth pastor is evaluated on how many kids are in the youth group. I’d like to see performance evaluations based upon the people who are equipped to use their gifts for the Kingdom. Numbers are not as necessary as proper training and mentoring. Jesus only had a base of twelve, but they were properly and intentionally discipled to continue His work after the resurrection. This leads me to my next point.
5. Leaders Who Lead To Replace Themselves – Jesus knew He was training His replacements, and since that time, every Christian is working to see the original mandate of Christ fulfilled in their generation. Leading to replace yourself is obvious in every part of our lives. Parents raise children who will replace them on earth. Teachers teach students who will one day replace them as teachers. Electricians, plumbers, carpenters and roofers all take on apprentices to teach them the fine points of their trade. Why is this such a foreign concept in most churches? I recently read that the purpose of an apple tree is not to produce apples, but to produce more apple trees. I want to be part of a church where the leadership culture is intentional about training the next generation of leaders.
6. Musical Worship That Is God Centered, Not Performance Centered – I recently went to a church where the worship leader had great talent but little ability to lead people in worship. His was mostly a performance, and as such, it was very hard to follow. Even those songs I was familiar with were hard to follow because he sang them in his own unique style. Worship leaders have the responsibility to use their talents to bring people into the presence of God through music. They are not to use their time to show the world just how talented they are. I would like to see a church where only the musicians are on stage and the lead singers are standing in the audience with wireless microphones. My ultimate dream would be to have a church in the round. This would help eliminate the feeling that we are watching a performance on stage. Furthermore, everybody in the congregation would be able to see one another and not just that backs of people’s heads and the faces of the worship team.
These are just a few of my ideas for the ideal church. Naturally, many people will disagree with me or will have other ideas. If so, I’d be delighted to hear them.