Years ago, we needed to replace our refrigerator. My first stop was to the closest mega hardware store. It didn’t take long to find a refrigerator on sale that matched our needs. Spotting an employee, I asked: “I see an interesting refrigerator. Can I ask you a few questions?”
He smiled and said, “I’m sorry, our refrigerator person left town for a few days. I don’t know anything about them. If you want to purchase one just take the attached card and pay the cashier up front.”
“What?” I wanted to say but I politely thanked him, looked a little longer and took the card for the refrigerator I liked to the front. There were at least 10 lanes where you could purchase but only one had a cashier. There was a line of five people. They all looked frustrated. In front of them was the lone cashier who happened to also be on the phone trying to answer a question, completely ignoring those in line.
So, I walked out. I was ready to buy a major appliance. This store had what I needed but instead, I left frustrated and empty handed because no one wanted to help me.
It gets worse.
After coming home, I went online to the website of the same store. Within minutes, I found a similar refrigerator but when I clicked to make the purchase, a message popped up on the screen. Can you guess? “To purchase this refrigerator, please go to the nearest store.”
Can you believe it?
“Well, enough is enough, so I searched the website of their competitor. Within minutes, I found the same refrigerator for nearly the same price and placed the order. The next day, my new refrigerator was delivered and installed. Years later, I still do much of my hardware related business at this store.
Both stores claim their central purpose is providing home improvement expertise and merchandise. Both stores had the right product but only one store provided helpful service and expertise while the other store seemed to mess up at every opportunity.
So, what does a refrigerator purchase have to do with churches? Everything. Churches also have a purpose. Christ’s mission centers around the church.
Just before ascending to heaven, Christ told the Disciples: “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.” (Mat. 18:19-20) Our purpose as a church according to Jesus? 1. Go and make disciples. 2. Teach them. Pretty simple but critically important.
But how Christ’s purpose gets carried out varies widely from church to church. Ask someone who no longer attends, and you will likely hear…
- Worship services don’t apply.
- People say “Welcome” but don’t really mean it.
- Pastor seems nice but he/she is so busy.
- Web-sites aren’t helpful.
But not all churches are this way and churches that are can change. Many have already changed. In addition, those of us who already belong to a church have a responsibility to be an active part of that change. Churches who aggressively and passionately seek to understand and carry out their purpose to make new disciples and teach them, provide a distinctly different experience:
- Worship that meaningfully and creatively seeks to connect people with God.
- Members actively seek to know and understand others, their needs and concerns.
- Pastors are busy but lead a team of dedicated volunteers who will find a way to help.
- Web site offers opportunities to seek new disciples and offer solid teaching
Jesus said to Peter, “You are Peter which means ‘rock’ and upon this rock I will build my church and all the powers of hell cannot conquer it. (Mat. 16:18)
Like hardware stores, some churches treat you better than others, but a church still offers the best way I know to strengthen your connection with God and better understand God’s purpose for your life.
Next Week: Churches Doing It Right