Brace for Impact July 20, 2010Posted by Dan R. Dick in Christian discipleship, Christian witness, Congregational Life, Congregational Planning, Core Values, Mission of the Church, Strategic Planning, Vision.
Tags: Christian discipleship, Christian service, Church Leadership, Mission & Purpose, Values, Vision
Why are we here? I don’t have one answer that applies equally to all congregations, but I believe this question is THE question every congregation should discuss and wrestle with. Why do we exist? What difference are we making — in the lives of our members and friends, in our community, in our denomination, in our country and in our world? How do others benefit from our existence? What is our witness? What are we known for? What do we WANT to be known for? What are we doing about it? This string of questions is all about identity and purpose. They remind us that we are here for a variety of reasons — but if we are not consciously aware of the reasons, it is extremely difficult to tell whether we are doing a good job or not.
It can be quite disconcerting to ask church leaders what difference they are making? Where they are clearly aware of the differences they make in individual, communal, and social settings, the question generates great energy and excitement. Leaders fill newsprint with ways both big and small that lives are touched, people grow, hope is given, healing happens, transformation occurs, relationships are formed, bridges built, new possibilities emerge, and the gospel is shared. It can be amazing. But often the response is guilty silence. People clear their throats and refuse to make eye contact in the wake of the question, “What difference do we make?” Perhaps one person might offer, “well, we’re a friendly church — we all love it here,” but that’s about the extent of the feedback. Sometimes, people turn hostile, firing back, “why should we have to make any difference? This is our church and it takes care of us. That’s good enough for us.” And while an isolated individual might say and believe this, it is quickly evident that the majority of people present don’t agree. We all know, deep down inside, that the church exists to make an impact — to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world,” or some similar significant purpose. We know it, and we feel embarrassed when we have to admit that our own congregation is not living up to its full potential.