Phase 1: Discovering God’s Design for Your Church

God created your church for a purpose

In Ephesians 2:10 Paul tells us that

We are God‘s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

This applies, not only to individual believers, but also to churches. Indeed, if we read that verse carefully, we find that “we” (plural) are God’s “handiwork” (singular). We – together – have been crafted by God to do good works which he has prepared for us – together – to do. Our churches have a task to complete for God. How do we find out what it is?

First we need to recognize that Jesus has only one task for the church:

    Make disciples…
      [apprentices of Jesus’ life and ministry]

    by going…
      [we approach them “out there”]

    baptizing them…
      [enfolding them into the life and love of the church]

    training them to obey all I have commanded you
      [transformed lives, not just true beliefs]

Your Church is unique. Like individual believers, God has made ever church unique. God has not designed every church to be equally qualified to reach every person. At the most obvious level, a church in which no one speaks Spanish will not likely be used by God to reach into a Spanish-speaking community. What may be less obvious is that a church with a very high culture worship will be able to reach some people that one with a more “rockin’” service won’ be able to reach, and vice versa. A church filled with blue-collar laborers might be able to enfold the local college professors. It’s more likely they will most easily be “going” into the lives of others like themselves.

Therefore, God’s mission for your church is unique. If your mission statement (or stated mission ideas) can fit any church in your community (or worse, in the whole world) it misses the mark. No other church can do exactly what God has called your church to do in the manner He’s called you to do it. You are not a clone or a generic church. You are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do the work God has prepared in advance for you to do.

We can understand God’s mission from God’s design. I am a knife snob. In my kitchen is a good set of knives. Each knife has its purpose and you can see that purpose in how it has been crafted. A paring knife is short and doesn't have serrations and therefore is designed to cut hard fruit and vegetables. A utility knife has serrations, and therefore can be used on my beloved tomatoes. Never use a chef’s knife to cut bread and you can’t use a bread knife to chop onions. The characteristics of the knife determine its use.

God designed your church for a particular purpose. “God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” (1st Corinthians 12:18) The member of your church display God’s design for your mission.

  • What are their gifts? A musically gifted congregation has a different mission than a tone-deaf and care-giving one. I have heard of a very successful church whose pastor very poorly and it didn't matter because their church had a powerful gift of service. The particular gifts that dominate your church will show you one aspect of God’s design for your mission. Helping your members discover, affirm and develop their giftedness needs to be an on–going process of mission discovery for your church.
  • What are their abilities? One church in Chico, CA developed a very successful outreach based on the fly fishing (and fly–tying) abilities of one member who formed an evangelistic fly fishing club in the church. Having a cadre of “gear– heads” in your church may indicate an opening in helping the poor acquire reliable automobiles as a way of introducing the love of Jesus to them. Only a church with several people who know American sign language have a calling to the deaf.
  • What are their experiences? No one understands war veterans like war veterans. If you want to minister to alcoholics and addicts, it helps to have people recovering from those addictions in your congregation. Many people in your congregation with multiple college degrees make you more likely to be called to college ministry.
  • What are their passions? An older member of one of my congregations passionately loved 3 things: bicycle riding, talking and eating donuts. As a consequence he was my best ministry to shut-ins. You had better love motorcylces if you want to reach out to bikers. And many churches lack a passion for the mentally challenged and so do not make these people a priority. God will give your congregation a passion for those he wants to reach.

Now, obviously, this mission design will change over time. However, if you are seeking a new pastor for this time you will do better to choose one who matches God’s design for your mission. Otherwise, you will have a pastor inclined to lead you into ministry you are not capable of nor interested in. That is a recipe for conflict.

But don’t stope a phase 1. Go on to Phase 2