Every church is different. And so every conversation I have with churches has its own flavour. That being said, there are a few things that I seem to say to a lot of churches as we talk about becoming healthier. So I thought I should write them down and reflect on them a bit.
There is a problem the minute we start to see new people in the church as potential giving units or serving units we have lost. Sometimes folks will say, “Well, if just a couple more families showed up and started giving we could…” or “If we could just get a couple more young people we could staff…”
This is a problem. Our priorities are backwards. This sounds like making disciples or evangelism, but it is not. Yes, we should be praying for folks outside the walls of the church to discover who Jesus is and join His family. And yes, we should build meaningful relationships with people so that we can love and serve them in Jesus’ name and hopefully share our story and Jesus’ story with them. All of that should be an ongoing priority for all of us who call ourselves Christ followers.
But we need to do that because people (made in the image of God) need life with Jesus. Our motivation can’t be because we need more money or workers to run our stuff. Because then we aren’t being led and motivated by God’s amazing love. We are being led and motivated by our selfishness. And people are not targets. That’s not how God sees them and that’s not how we should treat them.
The other, more subtle problem with this line of thinking is that it slows us down in taking part in God’s mission in our communities. If we keep saying we can’t do this until we have this or that, we avoid stepping out in faith. Now, I am a fan of wise stewardship. But I am a bigger fan in relentless obedience to God’s voice. So if He has called us to do something, we need to step up and do it. Trust the God who has promised to provide all we need to do what He asks. Be as creative and generous as you can instead of making excuses and turning people into targets.
If we keep saying we can’t do this until we have this or that, we might actually stop doing anything or thinking new thoughts, dreaming new dreams and planning new plans. What if God is calling us to something else while we wait for His provision? What if He is calling us to more than one thing? Do we have those conversations? We should. (By the way, if you need a hand starting a conversation about connecting what God has already provided with the needs around us, my friend Sandy Crozier has a process called Asset Mapping that is very helpful. Get hold of her).
So please reach out and love and serve the people around you and do all you can to point them towards the love, grace, healing and forgiveness found in Christ. But do it for the right reasons. Do it because of the love of God compels you, not because you need another giving or serving unit. Because motive matters. If we don’t have love, we are nothing more than a clanging cymbal. And that’s not healthy.
Marc McAlister, Director of Church Health, Free Methodist Church in Canada