It is time to have a discussion…”What makes a GREAT Church?”

I was just driving around town running some errands and thinking…how about a discussion with some of my friends and fellow bloggers about what makes a local church "great".  I was listening to a guy on the radio talk about "great people"…he had his own criteria:  successful, wealthy, popular, "pulled self up by own bootstraps" type of person, etc. In other words, to borrow some of the input going on in some of my favorite blogs currently, "greatness" defined in our culture is primarily defined from a consumeristic/economic perspective.  Obviously, that makes "local church" greatness equal to what many of us have "lovingly" critiqued:  big buildings, big budgets, published pastors, conferences held to tell others "the secrets" to their success, etc.  If we walk away from that paradigm and have an honest discussion, what might a great local church look like without the consumeristic lens?  Part of this comes from a desire to have the community group that I am a part of realize the potential that God has in mind for us.  Is that potential ONLY have to do with size, money, buildings and cultural popularity?  I have met many Christ-followers who long to be part of a church-plant but have as their "goal" or objective to get to a place where they get recognition, speaking invitations, and the opportunity to do seminars on how they "did it".  What is a great ministry?  How can we define it without falling into a capitalistic framework?  You have any ideas?  I’d love to talk to you about it!

2 thoughts on “It is time to have a discussion…”What makes a GREAT Church?”

  1. Robin I have been thinking through this a bit as I was considering what church I would seek employment from. What does the local church offer that I would want to work for them? How would my gifts and talents be utilized? How can I grow in the local church? What do they offer? I hate this next question, how are they marketable? Maybe a better question is what do they do well and what is their niche?

    I think that we run into some interesting questions when we try to figure out what evangelism and discipleship are to us and to others. Is evangelism filling a church building with people from all walks of life and accepting them as they are? Is evangelism building incarnational relationships with others in the community we live in? I think for some there is a sense of comfort that just filling a building is enough. We do not want to be accountable to where they might have come from, i.e. the church down the street. And how does the church respond to someone “different” coming in and are we going out to invite “them” in (Matthew 22:1-10). I think it is becomes like the old model of doing youth ministry: fill it with cool events and programs and they will come and reach the popular kids and they will bring their friends.

    And where does discipleship fit into this? What really is discipleship? Is it just learning to be like Jesus? Or is there something deeper here? Where does discipline come in? Are we teaching a body how to be disciplined in their study of God and His Word? Are we teaching a body how to be disciplined in the way we live with all of creation, especially one another—believer or not? And if Jesus only had 12 disciples should we only have a church of 12? And wasn’t His small group 3 or 4 guys?

    We can also look at church as a family. There becomes a sense of belonging and acceptance. There are times of discipline in a family and there can be times of discipline in a church (is that why Catholic Churches call their priests “Father”). Safety, trust and love are the accepted norm in a family and this should be reflective in the church (churches are called sanctuaries). In our culture, a family is protective of who it allows in. Has this happened in our churches? An entire topic can be written on what happened to hospitality.

    Success is the drive that each individual measures themselves. It is not what the collective calls successful. Rather it is what a group of people, gathered together deciding how they will measure success. For some this will be just about being big. Others will measure success by how many prayed the prayer. Many will consider success the size of their youth programs. For some it will have nothing to do about being big but may be measured just by relationships.

    So what then is success? Is it achieving a goal? “I succeeded in losing 30 pounds.” Is success then just an end result? Albert Einstein said, “Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value.” Imagine a church of values instead of a church of successes.

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  2. I really like what you said Rick…I like the end especially…if only we can have value despite what “outcomes” might come from our ministries…when we measure outcomes, we always fall into the trap of “consumeristic” paradigms of success.

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