Lois and I have had the privilege of visiting several different churches recently that are not part of Christian Union. They range in size from 30 to 300 and have a statement of faith that is very comparable to what we are familiar with. Some are in buildings they’ve occupied for generations and some are in very new, modern buildings and others are renting facilities.
One church in particular was planted three years ago in a suburb of a major metropolitan area. When the church began they identified some core values – none of which includes owning a building. They rent space and have now moved to their third location within three years.
Their mission statement says they “. . . exist to allow people to come to know God through Jesus Christ…to guide people in their knowledge, growth and obedience to Him…and to give people an opportunity to use their gifts and talents to bring glory to God through worship and service to Him and others.”
Their Core Values begin with Prayer and include Worship, Missions, Preaching & Teaching, and ministry to Children and Youth. Woven into the fabric of this household of faith is a commitment to families. They state: “The home is the institution ordained by God, even before the church and we strive not to do things to take away from the home and family time together but to keep our calendar as free as possible.”
On Sunday mornings they have two worship services and childcare is offered for both with a full children’s church program during the second service. There are no Sunday School classes and they don’t have a regular Sunday evening service although they do plan special events on Sunday evenings about four times each year. Small groups for Junior High and High School meet at the church but the small groups for adults meet in homes at various times during the week.
This church has four staff members: A senior pastor, a worship pastor, a youth pastor and a Children’s ministry coordinator. All of them are “tent-makers” who have jobs outside the church which have structured hours. At this point the church isn’t providing any insurance or benefits but each staff member is receiving adequate compensation. The 2008 budget for staff salaries is $87,000.00. Each staff member also has a church credit card to use for approved expenses.
This congregation is growing and having an impact in their community. Christ is being lifted up. When I step back and look at what is taking place in this church and others I find some principles that could be applied to any and every church:
1 – Function as a household of faith. In a healthy household the focus is always on the whole not a particular individual or event.
2 – Worship is the chief goal. This is not relegated to singing a few songs, announcements and taking up an offering. The worship of God is something that permeates Christian Education, missions, youth ministry, small groups and Sunday services.
3 – Silence and prayer is a high priority. Every gathering begins with a time of silence in order to help move worshipers from the noise and commotion of busy schedules into an attitude of heart that allows God to speak and lead.
All this combines in such a way that people have an understanding of how the Word and Worship are integrated into every aspect of life for a Christ-follower. We are called to help people have a practical grasp of how the Christian life is worked out at home, at work and on the softball field.
What would happen in the church you are part of if these principles became a priority? I can hear the reactions! But before you dismiss these ideas as impractical or even impossible allow me to point out that these are things individuals can begin to practice. You could choose to make these a priority for yourself.