When I arrived at FBC Perry in August of 2017, I knew there was a great deal of work ahead. This truth was communicated by the search team that brought us to Perry. It did not take very long to learn just how big the job was/is. The church was/is in decline. The blame for the decline could not be laid at any one person’s feet. Everyone had a part to play in the church’s condition – the same way every person will have a part to play in the church’s turn around. I did very little to begin with. I listened. I loved. I observed. I preached faithfully. I prayed for clarity, direction, and vision. Early in 2018, God began to reveal what I believed was the way forward for FBC Perry. In June of this year, over two Sundays, I shared with the people of FBC Perry a new purpose, vision, core values, and specific strategies that would serve as our guide going forward. This would also allow us the freedom to say “yes” to what we needed to say “yes” to and the permission to say “no” to what we needed to say “no” to for we had already decided what was important and worthy of our time, energy, and resources. at FBC Perry, we believe that our job is to connect the people of Taylor County and beyond to Christ, help them mature in Christ, and together serve Him by serving others.
In my mind there was/is one critical question: What type of church were we going to be? Churches regularly exist somewhere between two opposing ministry models: staying and sending. What do I mean by that?
Staying Churches – “I go to church” – attractional, consumer
The church is seen as a dispenser of religious services. People come to church to be “fed”, to have their needs met through quality programs, and to have “professionals” teach them God’s Word. The focus is often on ministry programs with success defined by the number of people who gather in the building. These churches acknowledge their community but do not necessarily feel responsible for it. Budgets and ministry programs reflect an inward focus. The tendency is to look through the rear-view mirror instead of the windshield.
Sending Churches – “I am the Church” – missional, kingdom-focused
The church gathers in Christian community for worship, encouragement, and teaching from the Word so that they will be equipped and empowered to live as Christ-centered, outward focused disciples wherever God daily sends them to be His witness. There is a commitment to sending people and resources into the community for the sole purpose of introducing people to Jesus Christ. The acknowledgment of their community translates to responsibility and action. Budgets reflect an outward focus.
For us to fully embrace our mission statement, it was necessary to make a commitment regarding the type of church we are going to be. FBC has existed somewhere in between these two models throughout the years. To be perfectly honest, as hard as it was to say, FBC was/is a staying church. If FBC was going to connect the people of Taylor County and beyond to Christ, we would need to make an intentional and significant shift to the sending model. In the next two posts, I will share our core values and strategies we are utilizing to begin the difficult turn toward a thriving, sending church. We have begun to make the turn. How can I say that so soon? The people of FBC have embraced the current reality of decline and have committed to a different future. That’s a win.