I have just started listening to Simon Sinek’s book, Start With Why. A key question he asks is why some companies and some leaders inspire and others don’t? As he often does, he uses Apple as an example of a company that inspires people. And whether you are a fan of Apple or not (as you probably know, I am), you can’t deny loyalty is one of the many things they inspire.
I began listening to this book because I want to think through some of this specifically regarding the Table, the church we are starting here in Dublin. But it led me to another question…
What is the “why” of the local church?
Now we could put on our proper theological hats and craft a statement that begins with “The local church exists to…”. We would make sure to add something about making disciples and something about the gospel of Jesus Christ. We could come up with something really good.
But that’s not what I’m asking.
What I’m getting at is why does a specific local church exist? Maybe yours, maybe the one down the street?
Let me throw out some reasons some local churches exist…
Some churches exist because:
- They believe they are supposed to exist.
- When this is the case, all kinds of things, misuse of funds, abuse of power, and dishonesty, can be justified because the work we do for the kingdom is too important to be stopped.
- The leader(s) ego.
- This can be in a mega-church or a small home group. A key warning sign is when the pastor or other key leader is presented as the one who hears from God and keeps everyone else living off their “supposed” spirituality.
- The leader(s) craves power and authority.
- I’m sure that speaks for itself.
What would you add?
A Couple More Reasons
When I was planting a church in Ithaca, I was encouraged to do some things that I seriously question now.
I was encouraged to think about planting a church that would still be around in 100 years. But why? If the church stopped connecting with its community and became a holy huddle, does it need to exist? Almost all research shows churches, like most organisations, decline long before they get to 100 years. Does the need to still be around years down the road cause us to not only justify whatever we do because “this is about the kingdom?” but also miss opportunities to serve right in front of us because it might impact our annual budget?
I was encouraged to build the church for growth. How much growth? Ongoing growth. I received endless coaching about breaking growth barriers. And the stuff works. But when your focus is always on growth, the people in the church become either 1) co-workers who are there to help you reach your goal, 2) butts in seats and giving units who count towards and also fund your goal, 3) or complainers who must be encouraged to “get off the bus” so they stop distracting from your grand vision.
And if your focus is growing your church, contentment and gratitude will rarely be part of your leadership. (I actually wrote about this here.)
So, what does any of that have to do with Sinek’s book?
I believe that the church has the most incredibly inspiring message the world has ever known. Yet, all the stuff above gets in the way…over and over and over.
When Liz and I were looking to join an organization years ago, one of their leaders told a group of us, “the only people who leave our group are those who don’t understand grace.” We glanced at each other with one of those “did I really just hear that” looks.
Too often, our churches look at those struggling with their faith or walking away from it and blame the person for “not getting it” when the fact is, they did get it.
They saw the church’s “Why” and decided they wanted no part of it.