A Tale of Two Churches: Staying Churches Parts 3 and 4.

3. In Staying Churches, programs become the end rather than a means to an end. If you have been involved in a local church for any length of time, you have likely been exposed to a plethora of church programming. In Southern Baptist life there is no shortage of programs. Church programming is like television programming. Cable companies offer channels that satisfy the interest of the viewers in almost every conceivable way (music, fashion, sports, cooking, travel, news, DIY, etc.) Churches utilize programs to minister to a wide variety of people (children, students, adults, seniors, single-moms, military, etc.) There is nothing inherently wrong with this approach. One size does not fit all. One single ministry approach does not fit all. Problems arise when churches view the programming as the end and not the means to an end. Staying churches fiercely defend their programs. As churches stack program atop program atop program, resources such as time, money, people, and energy are stretched and exhausted.

The question to be asked is not, “What program should we add now?” The real question is, “Do the programs we currently use aid in fulfilling our purpose?” I’ll talk more about evaluation later in this series. For now, let me share one thing about evaluating programs. The nostalgia of certain ministry programs makes it difficult to honestly evaluate their effectiveness. Statements such as, “My son was saved in AWANA”, “We have always had Sunday School”, and “We’re Southern Baptist, we must have…” speak to hold that programs can have on the congregation. I am not advocating stopping ministry programs for the sake of stopping them. Any stoppage of programs should come after careful consideration and study. Why be careful? Do you remember how you felt when your favorite television was canceled? It’s the same for the church.

4.  Staying Churches prefer sending money so others may “do ministry” instead of doing ministry themselves. This is common. Throughout the church year, most churches take up offerings for various missions causes. As Southern Baptists, we collect at least three. Staying churches believe simply giving money is sufficient as far as missions involvement. Why? It is easy. It is clean. It is guilt-relieving. It is the path of least resistance when it comes to mission work. I had a former church member tell me, “That’s what we pay missionaries for.” This tells me that people believe ministry belongs to “professionals.”

It is one thing to give money to a cause or ministry. After all, ministry requires funding. It is something different to involve yourself in the lives of others and get your hands dirty. There is a blessing in serving people, sacrificing time and comfort, and seeing first-hand the gospel at work in the lives of others. There is a blessing missed when we only write a check. As far as giving to missions offerings as our sole involvement in missions, think about this. The majority of missions offerings that churches collect are not for the benefit of their local community. Who is reaching them?

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