A reason why great churches die…
I understand this is really complicated. The reality is most churches out there have a great heart. They are passionate about missions globally and locally, yet many of these same churches have done nothing but atrophy for the last decade. They will fervently tell you they love missions and any of their members would open their home to any missionary from Africa. So how in the world can these churches with good people continue to die?
People see the needs they want to see, not what is truly there. Let me explain.
The other night my family sat in a restaurant. It was a fish market down in Florida. Butcher paper covered the table and crayons were in abundance. This is the kind of restaurant my kids love, where they can draw on everything. So we all did. Believe it or not I took art all the way through high school. I actually was in AP (advanced placement) art. I drew a picture of Emma’s face and my boys were in amazement. Honestly I am not all that good, but compared to a 9-year-old I am amazing. My son asked me how I did it so I told him something my art teacher told me. Draw what you REALLY see, not what you THINK you see. My son started in without taking the time to gaze up at my face and it didn’t take long before it looked like many other amateur visage portraits. The eyes were near the top of the head, my hair was a slim line, and my mouth was huge! Now the huge mouth may have been accurate metaphorically, but that’s for another time. I asked him to look up, pay attention to what my face REALLY looks like. He finally looked at me then looked at his drawing and realized he, like many young artists, drew what he THOUGHT he remembered seeing instead of the proportions of my face as they really are.
The key to great art is great observation.
This is true in churches too! Countless churches create ministries for a culture they THINK exists outside of the four walls of the church. Like a delicious steak house in a vegetarian community, they may serve a great meal but they are going out of business because they aren’t meeting the needs of the culture around them. All too often they frantically try to refine their steak menu so to speak, giving their all as they numerically decline into history. One thing church leaders ought to be constantly doing is helping the people they work with truly observe the culture around them.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
(John 1:14 ESV)
I love this verse! The concept is so powerful. The phrase “dwelt among us” could be translated as he “set up his tent” in our presence. God didn’t just stay on his throne, remaining distant from us. He came and dwelt among us.
Great ministry comes from great observation, both of God and his people.