In 1969, Elmer Towns published The 10 Largest Sunday Schools And What Makes Them Grow. Over 40 years later, most of those churches have disappeared from the lists highlighting the largest churches in America. Why is that?
Often times, as a church grows larger the tendency grows to focus on maintaining and servicing what is already there. Internal ministries overwhelm outward mission. This is not strictly a large church phenomenon. Any church can be overwhelmed with by this temptation.
1 Peter 4:10 (HCSB) says, “Based on the gift each one has received, use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied grace of God.” The key word is each one. Each and every church member. But unfortunately, there is a huge chasm between this verse and what happens on a regular basis in our churches.
According to the research from the book I co-authored with Thom Rainer, Transformational Church, the majority of people in the majority of churches are unengaged in meaningful ministry and mission. There’s this passage in 1 Peter, but then there’s the practice in our churches.
So, how can we avoid having a church full of customers rather than a church full of co-laborers in the Gospel–develop a culture and implement a structure.
Churches need a culture that encourages and a structure that enables people to move from passivity to activity, from being passive spectators to active participants in the mission of God.
Today, I want to focus on developing the culture. Here are three steps to develop a missional culture within the megachurch environment: instill it, repeat it, and celebrate it.
A pastor I know put it in a way I thought was really helpful. He said they see four categories of people that come to their church – three categories that they want and one they do not.
• Category one: The visitor or seeker
• Category two: The mature serving disciple
• Category three: The growing disciple beginning to take steps
• Category four: The person who thinks they’re mature but is unengaged and serving no one.
And here’s what he said to those in the last category: “We need your seat for some of the other three categories.” Having that expectation of attendees, they are either serving or in the process of becoming a servant, that is creating a culture in your church.
The sooner you place this mentality into the DNA of your church the better, because as you reach new individuals you want to bring them into a place where service is the norm. A person will become what the majority of your people already are.
You can help develop this within your church. As Mike Dodson and I found in our book Comeback Churches, the primary factor for the revitalization of a church is the leadership. The same is true of developing a missional culture. The leaders, including, but not limited to the pastor and staff, must work to intentionally engraft the right mindset in the body. How can they do that? By repeating the values of the culture you want to instill.