Sunday, January 11, 2009

Two types of churches

This one is a bit controversial but consider it a challenging thought to the way we think about stewardship in most churches.

You probably cringe when people begin a statement with, “There are only two types of (your topic here) in the world…” Two types of people, two types of politicians, two types of donuts, or, in this case, churches. Sure it’s a generalization, but sometimes these kinds of comparisons are humorous and sometimes they are dead wrong and sometimes they are spot on.

So here we go: There are two types of churches in North America right now: Those who wait for what their members will give them to see what kind of ministry they can do and; Those who have a vision from the Lord about the kind of ministry they are called to do and do whatever it takes to be obedient to His vision.

Harsh? I don’t mean to be. I think it’s just a reality and there certainly isn’t any harm in discussing it. After all, it’s just a theory.

Here’s how it plays out: The first type of church (call it Type One Church) which is dependant on what people will do, donate, or give builds a new building as follows: “Let’s see how much our members will commit to and then once we know that we’ll know how much building we can afford to build.” The second type of church (call it Type Two Church?) says this: “This is the space we need to do the ministry that God is calling us to do. The price tag is $X. Will you pray and challenge yourself to give to see this godly vision become a reality?” The outcome: Type Two Churches accomplish wonderful things in Jesus and thrive. Type One Churches survive.

Here’s another example: In this day and age it is very important to be in contact with your congregation and volunteers and church staff via e-mail, have an appealing and informative website, and be able to reach out to the world and your congregation through other web based applications whether they be software or something like a blog or Facebook. So how do you organize yourself for this mission? Do you take whatever leftover (usually woefully out of date) computers or equipment people give you or do you go to your congregation, board, or donors and say, “This is the network/website/computer that we need to do our work in this day and age and the cost is $X.”

Type One Congregations frequently have to MacGyverize equipment and hold it together with chewing gum and duct tape. That means the equipment is frequently on the fritz and needs a lot of maintenance and isn’t reliable. Type Two Churches realize they are in the communication business and need to stay current in order to keep getting “The Old, Old Story” to a new generation and are willing to invest in current equipment and make their needs known to their congregation.

These are only poor examples of how the two different churches do things.

Here is what is really at the heart of my analysis: If Jesus is really alive and really wants us to make disciples for him in our ministries, doesn’t that mean he (through the church) ought to be entitled to the very best that we can possibly afford, the very latest and most reliable not just what we can piece together? Because isn’t the mission of the church the most important mission in the world? If we really believe in him and think that what he is calling us to is the most important thing in our lives, shouldn’t he be entitled to the first and best of everything and not just whatever is left over?

And what about the people who come to experience Christ in our services? Is the experience the best we can bring or whatever it is we decided to phone in?

In fact, the question can be asked about far more than money, equipment, technology, buildings, etc. The question has to be asked of our preaching and teaching, our programming, our welcoming, our hospitality, everything. Because everything about us and what we do is a witness to what we think about Christ and his kingdom.

So, if we profess that Jesus is alive and active in our world today and that he has sent his church on a mission, as a church, shouldn’t we cast the visions that God gives us for the congregation? And, instead of relying on what people usually give, challenge them with a vision of what God wants to do?

What is interesting to me is to see that in the two different types of churches there are also very different leadership structures, very different views on staffing, and sometimes even views on Scripture which leads me to wonder if one of these types of churches is better suited for mission than the other…. For instance, are Type Two Churches more likely to believe that the Lord would give a vision to their church leadership? Are Type One Churches less likely to challenge their members to look at ministry a different way? The implications to how we decide to do church are enormous.


  1. PREACH this. this changes perspectives. Some are hungry for this sort of inspiring, they just need to hear it from someone they trust and hold in authority (which is most, even if it is not spoken).

    Straight up. Say it, brother.

  2. Very interesting and thought provoking Blog. I’m looking forward to keeping up with your thoughts – assuming I have the capacity to do so.

    Ah, the age old questions of Stewardship. Should we educate the members on “their need to give” or on “giving to the need”? Both seem to have their place, so maybe it isn’t one or the other. Later you propose that since the ministry is so important, shouldn’t we have the very best. I think that is what God indicated when he said we should give of our “first fruits”. He wants the best and the first. If every member followed God’s commands on this matter and gave a tithe (10% the last time I looked it up), I doubt there would be much “just getting by” in the church. There would be such and abundance of resources available, that the leadership would need to spend significant time seeking God’s will for exactly how the church should use all of these resources. Today, I’m guessing most churches spend time determining how they will use the limited resources to accomplish all the things they feel called to do.

    However, there certainly can be an outpouring of gifts when a specific need is expressed and it touches the hearts of the members. Maybe this is what is meant by tithes and offerings. Tithes are what we are instructed to give for the work of the church and offerings are where we give “extra” because the ministry or need touches in a special way and motivates us to give sacrificially.