Do we want to be the best church IN the community or the best church FOR the community? That challenge has haunted me ever since I read it a few weeks back in Eric Swanson and Rick Rusaw's book, The Externally Focused Quest.
The natural tendency of many churches is to be the best church IN the community. The authors suggest that this is the unspoken objective of most churches. As a result, they staff, budget and plan to achieve the goal of being the best church in the community.
When that is our objective, what is the result? Where does our emphasis lie? Our emphasis is almost exclusively internal. After all, what does it mean to be the best church in the community? Maybe it is being the biggest church. The one with the best building. The one with the coolest worship band. The church with the most programs or the best preaching. Maybe it means being the friendliest church or having the most life-impacting small groups. Each church in each community will answer that question slightly differently. And while there is nothing really wrong with being any of those things, should they be the church's objective? Should it be our objective to become the best church IN the community?
Or, should we strive to be the best church FOR the community? What would change if we sought that objective? Obviously our focus would shift from internal to external. We would start thinking and praying about how to serve the community. Instead of focusing on who is inside the church, we would seek to know those outside of the church as well. We would develop a burden to reach the community with the good news of the gospel. We would ponder how to get our church and its people into the community at large so that people outside of the church could see Christ in them. We would focus on training and equipping the people in the church to impact the people outside of the church. We would not be content just to have programs where we would invite the community into church, but we would also prayerfully seek opportunities where the church can go out into the community.
It is tempting to always seek to be the best church IN the community. I hope and pray that the Holy Spirit continually challenges me on how I can lead our church to be the best church FOR our community.
How about your church? What is your spoken (or unspoken) objective? It is internal or external? Does our gaze focus on who or what is inside our church walls, or do we look outward beyond those walls? What would change in your church if your church made a commitment to be the best church FOR your community? And what part do you play in making that objective a reality?