I take some comfort in knowing that the apostle Paul liked sports. I’m a bit of a sports fan myself (baseball and football primarily) and I see a lot of parallel themes between sports and faith. One of “my teams” has had nearly a 20 year problem building a winner. Over the last 17 years, they’ve had only two winning seasons. Their solution over that time is to bring in players and staff that have a name, regardless of whether they actually fit what they’re trying to build. In other words, I don’t think they have a big picture vision for the team and they are simply adding more people who they think will make them better. After 17 years, you’d think they would see this doesn’t work.
As we look to build God’s church, we can take a similar and equally ineffective approach. We can find ourselves believing that if we could just do more, add more ministries to reach people that we’d see growth in our church. There are two problems with this: 1) It’s not our job to build God’s church. Jesus said he would do that. And 2) adding more in the hopes of seeing growth will only burn out your core people and burn up your limited resources. If we want to see the kingdom grow through our community of faith (our church), we need to be wise in regard to what we do and why.
In his book It, pastor Craig Groeschel does a great job of challenging this mindset. He admonishes church leaders to identify what they are great at and to do that. Every fellowship is great at something. How has God shaped your fellowship? What seems to come naturally to them? More is not better, excellence is. That doesn’t mean a professionally polished worship team, it means a fully invested corporate heart. Imperfection can be part of excellence (note: imperfection is not he same as “poor”). Pastor Craig also challenges us not to lament over things we think we can’t do because of what we feel we lack, but to innovate ways to do the few things we can with what we do have. For example, maybe you can’t live stream your sermons on a website (or afford a website for that matter), but you can now “stream” Facebook Live for your church’s Facebook page for free!
“Building a winner” simply means identifying what God is calling you to do, finding a way to do it, and going for it with confidence and passion. We also need to remember that success is not measured in numbers, it’s measured by faithfulness. God has uniquely shaped your church fellowship to reach the world around them with the Gospel of Christ. We cannot try to operate outside that shape in order to duplicate someone else’s success. Their success is born out of their faithfulness. Your success, likewise, will be born out of your faithfulness to your own calling. Adding more ministries in the hopes of reaching more people may sound like a logical idea, but that will most likely mean doing things that don’t fit your fellowship’s personality, resources, desire, passions, and gifting. You’ll be pounding a square peg into a round hole. Do a few things, do them well, and do them with all your heart … which means you will have to believe that whatever that is, is the heartbeat of your ministry.
In order to narrow your field of view, identify the one thing to which God has called you and your fellowship. Ultimately, it’s all the same: Love God, love your neighbor, make disciples. Within that mission, there may be one single thing that seems to resonate with the power of God when you do it. For Craig Groeschel, he shares that one thing was reading the Bible and doing what it says. As they met, read the word and applied it to their lives, their fellowship continued to grow — both deep and wide. Once they began to “do more,” things that “churches should do,” the power and effect seemed to diffuse and they became much less effective. For our church, we are encouraging them to “Reach 1” with the love and truth of Christ, not to feel the burden of “evangelism,” but rather to be witnesses — showing people what the Bible says through their actions, attitudes and counsel and speaking the truth as God provides opportunity. We want our people to take the great love they have for one another and to turn it loose on their family, friends and neighbors — building bridges of relationship over which Christ can be shared. This is not a grand campaign, but an encouragement to simply invest in the person God has placed in front of you. Our strength is hospitality, and we want to use that strength to grow the kingdom and reach people with the love and truth of Jesus.
Maybe you need to pump the brakes, evaluate where you’re at, and stop some things. Maybe you need a whole direction shift. Maybe you simply need to communicate (or over-communicate) what that corporate vision is so that everyone understands, gets it, loves it, and wants to contribute. Simplify, and watch God work through your faithfulness.