Justin Hiebert

Catalyzing Change

Excuses, Excuses

Posted on 04 Dec 2013 in Christianity, Church, Discipleship, Ministry | 1 comment

English: Four hands holding.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is, for all of us I think, the delicate and not always achievable nature of linking prayer with action. For some, prayer comes easy but they never act on their times of prayer or direction from God. For others, doing and responding to oppression comes easily, while prayer is a harder activity to engage in. Alex Absalom recently blogged on this tension, and his post is definitely worth a read.

I’ve noticed a similar dilemma with doing things in and for the church.

For some, and I’ve heard the argument before, it is the church’s job to engage in actions of social justice, and they are devoid of personal responsibility. Even worse, it’s often used as an excuse to not be engaged in local mission. The ‘church’ (I think they mean the representation of the building) is to handle the homeless, the need for food, exploitation, or whatever the local issue is and they not only don’t have to do anything, but they get to claim it when the church does do something. People claim responsibility for the successful ministry of ‘their church’ without ever engaging or involving themselves in it.

On the flip side, I’ve also known those who have sworn off the church because of religious traditions, personal preferences, or general disgust with corporate worship. They engage in a solo brand of Christianity but do so without the surrounding love and support of a biblically transformative community.

And I think we get it wrong on both accounts. The church is at her best when she not only invites and creates a place to worship and encounter the resurrected Jesus, but engages and transforms local communities and neighborhoods with the love of the Gospel.

It’s what I find so entertainingly beautiful about the working of the early church. People, despite previous religious, economic, or social backgrounds now found themselves living, working, and worshipping together across all spheres.

Here are three keys to a healthy church that shows where it’s true heart lies.

  1. Church Finances – It’s a delicate balance on how much money to spend in house (church maintenance) and on mission (outreach, evangelism, and discipleship) but a general rule of thumb is that the more the local church cares about living faithfully on mission, the more these two numbers will be close together. Unhealthy churches spend more on maintenance than on mission, and unhealthy Christians spend more on mission than on community investment.
  2. Time together outside of worship – How much time does the local body spend together doing non-church related activities? Unhealthy churches spend almost no time together outside of the ‘sanctioned time’ and do little to meet and encourage other believers. Often they claim that they love each other, but they never see each other. Short rule of thumb: a church that can play together can live, thrive, and mission together. [pullquote]The church is at her best when she not only invites and creates a place to worship and encounter the resurrected Jesus, but engages and transforms local communities and neighborhoods with the love of the Gospel.[/pullquote]
  3. Percent of people involved in mission together – Seems obvious right…but how many people are actually involved in mission together? If programs or ministries are staffed by a few faithful people, chances are the church isn’t healthy enough to support whole-life transformation. A greater buy-in from the community shows that they are willing to set aside personal differences and barriers to bring the Gospel to people. Churches that do mission together rarely (if ever) agree on everything, but what they do agree on is that following Jesus faithfully is more important than anything else.

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What do you think? How effective is your church in mission? What could the church do to be more faithful to the mission of God?

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Justin Hiebert

Leadership Catalyst - Entrepreneur - Coach at JSHiebert Leadership Coaching
I am a Business and Life Coach in both non-profit and for profit settings. I coach leaders, executives, and pastors in areas of vision, clarity, and values. In relationship coaching I focus on healthy and sustainable relationships, and in leadership development roles I catalyze change for individuals and groups to thrive. I also consult churches and organizations on how to train new leaders and create a healthy culture. In addition to that, I am an Anabaptist pastor in the Denver metro area. I specialize on topics that include: missional theology, discipleship, culture and the church in today’s society. I am married to my wonderful wife Elise and we have three kids. I grew up and now work in the United States Mennonite Brethren Church (USMB) and love the people and history of the Mennonite Brethren faith. I am a graduate of Tabor College with a dual degree in Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership, a graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary with a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctoral Student and Bethel Seminary. I also teach college classes in areas of Bible, Communication, and Business.

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