Is the church different than it was just three years ago?
Life is different, so people are different, and we see life through different and changing lenses. That clearly impacts the church.
As culture changes, people see the church differently; they are asking questions and making decisions about church. As leaders, we need to rise above the distractions, love people, and keep Jesus as the unapologetic focus.
The truth and centrality of the gospel of Jesus Christ should never change, but it continues to be challenged, questioned, and doubted. That isn’t new. What is new is that other topics are trying to take center stage.
Sadly, sometimes Jesus is dismissed not because of who He is but because of how the church is perceived.
The church is still the hope of the world, but we have work to do. Of course, we do; we’ve had stuff to work on since the early New Testament Church!
Those who lead think about things like preaching the gospel, strategic focus, meeting needs, the power of the Holy Spirit, reaching the lost, and budgets.
Those who attend think about things like, are you friendly, do they fit in, do you care about what they care about, do their kids like to attend, and are you clear about your convictions and beliefs?
The point… those who lead the church think about it and therefore evaluate it differently than those who attend. We need to understand the lens through which people view the church and lead accordingly without sacrificing the mission.
This reality can make church leadership feel like a daunting responsibility.
So I’m writing today with some practical help and guidelines.
I’m writing with a healthy hesitation about making a list to describe something as deeply spiritual and humanly complex as the local church.
- I will unquestionably leave off something really important to you.
- Every church is unique in its expression of the grace of God.
- I’ve written several such lists over the years. Here’s one from a couple of years ago.
So why again?
I sense a prompt to write something fresh for today, and I hope you find it helpful.
5 Indicators of a Strong and Spiritually Healthy Church
1) A sense of how to move forward in a culture that resists singular truth.
Cancel culture is a real thing, but we can’t become paralyzed by it. Instead, we must continue to lead forward.
It is true that it’s difficult to lead without saying the wrong thing, or saying it the wrong way, or saying it right but not enough, but this is not likely to go away soon.
Don’t let that neutralize your leadership.
Now more than ever, it’s important to know where you are going and have a deep conviction that allows you to be bold and courageous yet still loving and kind.
When your vision is clear, your focus is strategic, and your conviction is deep, you can move forward even in a culture that prefers to construct its own individual truth.
This bold conviction does not mean without grace, kindness, love, and treating all persons with respect. In fact, it requires more, plus a good measure of patience.
Churches that focus their primary message to be about Jesus in a way that meets people’s deepest needs will make far more progress in the long run than those who get caught up in so many distractions.
2) A clear definition of the role of the church.
It seems like current culture may be, even unintentionally, redefining the church, what it stands for, its purpose, and its level of importance.
Cultural awareness and sensitivity to real problems is essential. The church (the body of Christ) was designed to be out in the community, involved in people’s lives, and making a difference in our schools, local businesses, and neighborhoods.
But the central purpose of the church has not changed. It is to make disciples of Jesus. That’s it.
- Are you clear about your vision?
- Do you know why you exist?
- Do you possess conviction about your values?
Cultural relevance is important but don’t burn all your energy and exhaust yourself with so many distractions, stay focused on your purpose.
(My heartfelt prayer is that you feel the freedom and spiritual authority to stay focused on your purpose.)
3) An intricate balance between reaching the lost and meaningful spiritual formation.
There are things in life like blood and oxygen that are never meant to be separated. Reaching the lost and spiritual formation are like that; they were designed by God and commissioned by Jesus to run in tandem together.
Nearly all of us who lead have a slight or strong bent to one or the other, evangelism or discipleship. That’s natural. The beauty of the body of Christ together balances that out.
Knowing your bias, however, is important so you can intentionally make sure you keep reaching people who are far from God and helping them mature in their faith.
In the past, we’ve experienced a little grace in leaning strongly to one side or the other, evangelism or discipleship, but the strong and spiritually healthy churches now and in the future must do both well.
4) A spirit of joyful generosity and hospitality to strangers and guests.
I love the church, and I’m kind of a church geek. I love the people most, but I also appreciate the organization of the church.
One of the reasons I appreciate the organization of the church is because the more organized we are, the more people we can engage with genuine hospitality.
My wife Patti and I can have several people in our home for a meal, dessert, etc., but we hit limits pretty quickly. There’s just the two of us. But the organized church can meet, include, and care for hundreds, and some churches even thousands every week!
When it comes to joyful hospitality, there is something even more important than being organized (prepared) for strangers and guests. That is heart. Joy and generosity come from the heart, and that makes all the difference.
The people who are new to your church, those who are just like you, and those who are different than you intuitively know in a moment if you care. When our hearts are in it, it’s a game changer.
5) Resilient spiritual leaders who love God and empower other leaders.
More and more leaders are hitting a wall. Fatigue, frustration, and failure … resilience is so needed.
Resilience is formed by several components, such as the people who are closest to you, your ability to handle pressure in healthy ways, and your willingness to slow down to spend time with God.
For help slowing down, check out my new book (a devotional for leaders), Leadership Alone Isn’t Enough.
The lasting power of resilience at a character level comes from God. Our love for Him and His grace toward us allows for amazing renewal.
Resilient leaders can bounce back from setbacks and keep going, but none of us can do it alone.
A significant part of our resilience as leaders comes from our willingness and ability to develop and empower other leaders.
- Are you investing in other leaders?
- Do they share the vision with you?
- Are you willing to let go and let them lead?
No leader can carry everything. We need a team. Are you growing your team, and is your team growing?