One of the most important questions church leadership has to answer is: What is the purpose of our weekend services?
This is a big deal. In our work with churches, we often find this basic question is never asked…and for a number of reasons, from “This is how we’ve always done things” to the daily pressures of ministry simply squeezing out time to even think about it.
It seems there are 3 primary approaches to Sunday mornings. Of course hybrids of these are often the case. But they fall into three basic styles:
· A Tool Rental
· A Visitor Center
· A Charging Station
The Tool Rental is where you go to get the equipment you need to do a specific job. Let’s say you’re building a patio with pavers in your backyard. Chances are you don’t have a heavy-duty compactor laying around to tamp down sand and gravel, so you go to the Tool Rental in order to get the job done. Same way with your church. You tend to see the primary role of Sunday services as equipping Christians with the tools they need to live flourishing lives and to disciple others around them…that is, to do the job we’re each called to do according to Matthew 28:18-20.
The Visitor Center is the place you go to when visiting a town or new destination in order to learn what’s there and how to navigate the place. The church that views Sundays like this is often described as “user-friendly”, meaning their language and style is hyper-cognizant of visitors…or tourists. They believe that weekend services are the best place for their regular attendees to bring new people to in order to see what the “beloved community” is like…and to understand it in their vernacular and even respond to the call to action.
The Charging Station is the place in the airport terminal where you recharge your electronic devices. Or the spot at a Cracker Barrel to plug your EV into when you’re traveling. Charging Station Churches primarily see Sundays as a time to recharge believers after the spiritually draining and energy-sucking weekdays of life. In reality, this is often the case in persecuting cultures where the local church is a true refuge and sanctuary, a worshiping community that offers communal safety with one another and the Father.
Sometimes we’ll see a blend of these, but typically there’s an unspoken motivator that falls into one of the three categories. And we can’t forget the context of the surrounding community the church is placed in.
But one thing is critical in our post-Christian society: wherever you land in those categories, there is always the need to operate like missionaries…and I mean missionaries that function in the best and truest sense.
The best description I’ve read recently of that was in an interview with Alice Ott. Alice is a professor and author of Turning Points: The Expansion of Christianity from Pentecost to the Present. In a recent interview in Christianity Today, she said:
“Generally speaking, the most effective missionaries have immersed themselves in the local culture and achieved a substantial level of linguistic and cultural competency. That’s an important lesson to heed as we attempt to engage the world for Christ.”
That’s rich. Regardless where we fall in those three categories, we have to take seriously how we’re doing with that, honestly measure our productivity (or fruitfulness, as Jesus put it), and make adjustments as needed.
Let’s get real, leaders: why does your church meet? Which of the categories do you primarily operate out of?
Dave Workman | ELEMENTAL CHURCHES