Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Different Purposes for the Church and the Need for Balance

Historically, churches have taken on five basic styles, depending on what emphasis they believe to be most important. 

The Soul Winning Church.  If a pastor sees his primary role as an evangelist, then the church becomes a “soul winning” church.  Because this church’s main goal is to see souls saved, it’s always reaching out to the lost.  The terms you most often hear in this type of church are witnessing, evangelism, salvation, visitation, altar calls, and revivals.

The Experiencing God Church.  If a pastor’s passion and gifts lie in the area of worship, he will instinctively lead the church to become an “experiencing God” church.  The focus of this church is on experiencing the presence and power of God in the services.  Key terms for this church are words like praise, prayer, power, worship, moving in the Spirit, spiritual gifts, laying on of hands, and renewal.  In this type of church the worship service itself receives more attention than anything else.  There are both charismatic and non-charismatic versions of the experiencing God church.

The Family Reunion Church.  A church that focuses primarily on fellowship is a “Family Reunion” church.  The church is shaped by the pastor who is highly relational, loves people, and spends most of his time serving as a Chaplin.  Key terms heard in this church are potluck dinner, belonging, fellowship, dinner on the grounds, homecoming, and caring.  In this type of church the gathering itself is always more important than the goals of the church.  Most churches of this type have less than 200 members or active attenders, since that’s about all one pastor can care for.

The Classroom Church.  A “classroom” church occurs when the pastor sees his primary role as a teacher.  If teaching is his primary gift, he will emphasize teaching and de-emphasize the other tasks of the church.  The pastor serves as the expert instructor; and members come to church with notebooks, take notes, and go home.  The primary emphasis of all teaching is on Bible content.  Key words for this church are expository preaching, Bible study, Greek & Hebrew, knowledge, truth, doctrine, and discipleship. 

The Social Conscience Church.   The pastor of the “social conscience” church sees his role as a prophet and reformer.  This kind of church is out to change society.  It is full of activists who are involved in major issues.  This church comes in both liberal and conservative versions.  The liberal version tends to focus on the injustices in our society, while the conservative version tends to focus on the moral decline in our society.  Both liberal and conservative versions feel the church should be a major player in the political process.  Its members are usually involved in some current crusade or cause.  Terms heard in this church are taking a stand, activism, serve, improve the community, do something, and involvement.

I realize that these pictures are painted with a broad stroke of the brush.  Generalizations never tell the whole story.  For instance, some churches are a blend of two or three categories.  The point is that unless there is an intentional plan to balance all five purposes, most churches will embrace one to the neglect of the others.

The members of each of these five types of churches often consider themselves to be more spiritual or their churches more important than any of the others.  That’s not necessarily wrong, it’s because people are usually attracted to a church that corresponds to their own passion or giftedness.  We all want to be a part of a church that affirms what we feel is most important.

Additionally, it is the natural tendency of leaders to emphasize what they feel strongly about and neglect what they feel less passionate about.  Around the world, or even in our own community, you can find churches that have become an extension of the pastor’s giftedness and little more.

The truth is, all five of these purposes are important for the church, but they must be balanced together if the church is to be healthy and able to reach its redemptive potential.  By focusing equally on ALL FIVE - Evangelism, Fellowship, Worship, Discipleship, and Service - a church will develop a healthy balance that makes lasting growth possible.

Strong churches are not built on programs, personalities, or by emphasizing one cause above all others.  They are built upon the equally emphasized purposes of God.  There is no single key to church health and church growth; there are many keys.  The church is not called to do one thing; it is called to do many things.  That’s why balance is so important.

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