Reflect and Renew

The Blog of Pastor Alan Cassady of Navarre United Methodsit Church


That is a phrase that I hear often in church circles. As I have listened to people who make the statement I usually hear a few different concerns.

The first concern usually happens when accountability is inserted into the culture of the church. When someone expects the church to hold people and groups accountable for their actions or in-actions, some do not like it and want to say the church is not a business.

A second time when this statement is heard is when the church gets so serious about its mission that it deliberately plans for growth. Some believe that ideas like leadership, strategic planning or goal setting belong in the boardroom and not in the church.

Another time when this accusation gets bandied about is when the church institutes processes or policies that people are not used to. For example policies about room use or procedures for scheduling meetings.

Another situation that could prompt someone to make a statement like the above is when church leaders begin to learn best practices from others and try to adapt the principles in their own church.

All of these complaints could be boiled down to two primary ideas: the business card is usually played when a church tries to use it resources to best of its ability or when the church gets purposeful about its mission.

People everywhere have come to expect efficiency and great customer service in every area of their lives.  When they go to a department store, they expect to be treated with courtesy and get a fair price on the articles they purchase. Of course, that would not be possible if the store did not expect its employees to be courteous and knowledgeable of the items they stock. If the store did not take care to plan and create a strategy for providing its wares, the customers would nit find the items they had become accustomed to and they would shop somewhere else. If the store did not make efforts to learn from other retailers and nurture its suppliers, its customers would wind up paying much more for their items.

Retailers (and other businesses) work tirelessly to create efficient, well-managed and pleasant environments in which people could buy their stuff. Imagine that! All that work and effort to make money and provide things that will decay and fall apart.

Shouldn’t the church put at least as much effort into making sure the world sees, hears and experiences the greatest news every before heard? Of course we should! Secular businesses spend thousands of hours and millions of dollars just to make money. Church should invest all it can to ensure that people have the opportunity to hear the good news of Jesus Christ and grow in their relationship with God.

I don’t think I could say
it any better that Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church. One of Hybels’ senior staff members once presented a case study to the Harvard Business School. As part of the defense of the case study, Bill was invited to come answer questions from the students. During the question and answer session a student made the remark that he didn’t think pastors should blend business practices with spiritual things. Bill took a deep breath, uttered a silent prayer and said:

“You know, I find it very interesting that you’re here in one of the best schools in the history of education, learning the very latest and greatest leadership and management disciplines so that you can graduate from here and join a secular company to help them set records manufacturing and selling widgets, soap, or software. There’s nothing wrong with that. People can benefit from using all that stuff so you might as well do your best to get it into their hands. But still, it’s only stuff. It isn’t going to transform anybody’s life in a deeply significant way. It isn’t going to change the world or determine anybody’s eternal destiny.

“What you have to understand is that some of us church leaders believe to the core of our beings that the local church is the hope of the world. We really believe that. We believe that the church is the only God-anointed agency in society that stewards the transforming message of the love of Christ. We  believe that the church addresses every human being’s deepest need. We believe that the church can lead people into a whole new way of living and loving and serving, and can thereby transform society.

“You also need to realize that some of us church leaders live daily with the realization that the eternal destinies of people in our communities hang in the balance. That’s why we are so determined to get our visions right and live out our values and come up with effective strategies. We truly believe that it matters that we attain our goals . It matters that we align our staffs and leverage our resources. We believe that the success or failure of our churches directly affects people’s lives here today and for eternity. We believe this to our depths. We’d take bullets for it.”

I continued, “That’s why we make no apology for learning and applying best practice principles as God leads us in our churches. How could we do otherwise? The church is the hope of the world.”   Courageous Leadership (p. 69-70)

Indeed! The church ought to learn all it can about the best practices of the best organizations on the planet and then deploy them for God’s use. Even Israel plundered the Egyptiansas they left for the promised land (Ex 12:36).

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  1. Lynn Bouressa on said:

    Hmm, I’m in favor of honest efforts and efficiency but I’m not in favor of assuming we can really rely on best practices that sell outside the church to legitimately booster what God is doing. We know He speaks to us in any way He chooses and at any time He chooses and to whosoever He chooses and His will WILL be accomplished. It is the gift of individual access to our Father by grace that sets the church apart from the business world. Grace, Love, Forgiveness, Relationship…. No true confidence whatsoever can really be placed in any methods not initiated by God. It is the supernatural power of pure Love that we have access to only by grace that still attracts the world. I don’t think best practices draw people into relationship with God, nor can they compete with spirit filled hands, feet, and hearts.

    • It doesn’t have to be either/or. I think it is both/and. I don’t think God automatically blesses, half-hearted, sloppy, and lazy efforts in the church. The Proverbs are full of admonitions to do our best work. Best practices are simply ways to do our work better and when we do our work better we glorify God. Paul sums it up well, “Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” (Php 2:12b–13)

      • Lynn Bouressa on said:

        I agree but what attracts those searching, because God is leading them to Himself, is God. The true work is where the Spirit is working. More of Him, less of us. More following, less leading. More we are children of He who can and will and is doing right now. Not less in that jobs are not done and done with best efforts and hearts, but less in that the joy of God and the attributes of God remain on our thrones and always outshine the secondary man-mustered practices designed to improve upon processes that, ironically, God has ultimate say in whether they are fruitful or not. As I speak this know that I am preaching to myself more than anyone. Thank God that He is the faithful One. Much love !

      • Again, I do not disagree, but it doesn’t have to be either/or. God’s spirit empowers us to reach out to people, but the way we reach out can either help people hear God or put unnecessary hindrances in people’s ways. Doing the work of ministry in a good way, demonstrates that we not only put our trust in God and God’s ways, but also that we are good stewards of the grace he has given us. God Bless.

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