We’re working our way through Patrick Lencioni’s The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business.
Lencioni consults with businesses, nonprofits, and churches, and he frequently explains how the lessons apply especially to churches, because the work churches do is so much more important than the work done by anyone else.
Lencioni spends very little time on this one, but I suspect it’s because he mainly works with businesses.
He suggests that the organization should, in plain, simple terms, state what it does. A car maker might say, “We design, build, and sell motor vehicles.” Simple, right? Except for many churches.
He lists as an example from a Catholic church —
“We provide Sacraments, outreach services, counseling, and religious education for people in our parish.”
How many Churches of Christ would say, “We provide sacraments” or “We provide baptism and communion” as a definition of what it does? Well, not many. It would be true, but that’s not quite how we see ourselves.
Most would follow the mainstream, evangelical answer, “We offer worship services, classes, and services to the community.” But how many would say, “We work within God’s mission to bring the Kingdom in its fullness”? Or even “We introduce the lost to Jesus”?
Maybe we should say, “We affirm our members in ways that avoid stepping on toes and keep them attending and giving.”
I don’t know. Maybe that was a bit cynical. I just don’t see many churches who would define what they do as “working with the Spirit to transform believers into the very image of God.” Like most other denominations, we’re more about providing a range of services. We’re selling rather than compelling.
Therefore, to me, this may be the hardest step of all, because it’s just so very difficult to escape our American consumer culture and define what we do in terms that sound different from Wal-Mart.
Ask some members of your church — leaders included — what it is that your church does. Ask them to answer simply — just as simple as Ford saying “We make and sell cars.” I’ll bet 95% of the answers come back in terms of what services we offer to the members — rather than what we do for God.
And that’s problem.