A few years ago, my senior pastor asked me what I looked for in a church. At the time, I had been attending and a member of that congregation for about 15 years, and I really hadn’t thought about it before.
The answer I blurted out was “a platform for ministry”. To this date, I do not know what pastor thought about my answer. He asked me what I meant, and I shared (see below) and about the only response I got was “Hmmm”. I however, have continued to value the church as a platform for ministry, and I think that many mature believers instinctively look for something similar.
A Platform for Ministry
I hope that the congregation that I attend helps me to use my God-given gifts and talents. I hope that they (leadership) organize and present opportunities to serve the church, the community, each other that I can take advantage of. I hope that they have their needs understood, and so when I ask, “how can I help”, there is a meaningful response.
I hope that beyond a vision and a mission the church has a strategy, and policies in place that support the vision and the mission. That there are leaders who are thinking and praying about the stewardship of resources both fiscal and human. That there is adequate attention paid to both inreach and outreach. That there is a plan and a pattern for starting up new “things”, and a plan and a policy around when to stop things that aren’t helping the mission.
I hope that the church has a “whole gifts” approach, that values all spiritual gifts, and knows how to help individuals discover their gifts, and help those so gifted use their gifts for the edification of the body, and the accomplishment of His mission. I hope that every running program has a list of gifts and talents that it is lacking, or would benefit from if they suddenly became available, beyond simply a needed body count.
I hope that the church has a meaningful spiritual formation or discipleship ministry, and some method for connecting folks to each other, and for deconstructing the cliques that form as people minister together for years and years. I hope that there is a framework for accountability, starting with exhortation, and admonition, and working through confrontation, and ending with biblical corporate discipline.
I hope that all of these things are executed with Love; Love for God and Love for all His people, and Love for all He created. That the church sees its place in the community as important, and is ready to cooperate with other congregations to accomplish for God, what it alone could not.
I hope that the church focuses on the core mission of The Church as expressed in the Great Commission as constrained by the Great Commandment. That the church does not get twisted up in subtleties that detract from this core mission, or fly in the face of the constraints.
I hope for these things because I see the church as a platform for ministry; a foundation that provides the necessary infrastructure to get the most out of the resources that I have to offer the Lord, in terms of money, talent, and time.
And if I don’t find the church in this state when I “get there”, this is the state that I will continually pray and work to establish.
I don’t know if I have these in order of importance, but they are in an order that makes sense to me. As I review this, I notice that what is conspicuously missing are elements of doctrine, worship style, or specific programs or methods. I realize that as I have grown older, I am less concerned with orthodoxy than I used to be – that I have become more tolerant of doctrinal differences other than some core values – I am more willing to learn by looking at things from other angles than I used to be. I find that I can worship in any flavor, all are equally conducive to my adoration of Him who sustains me. I find that I am willing to have my (and my family’s) programming (personal growth) needs met in different ways, even at alternative venues. That is why I think ecumenical cooperation is important.