by Bill Wilson

All organizations, including churches, have a reason for being. Only a few actually know that reason and articulate it and live into it. Sometimes the reason is clear and crisp, other times it is fuzzy and nebulous. Some choose their “why” intentionally, others do so accidentally or allow others to choose it for them.

Clarity about this is essential for a congregation to have a vibrant future. Those churches that define and differentiate themselves in a healthy way will be the ones that have a chance to manage the challenges of the 21st century successfully. Those who do not will probably not survive past mid-century.

When it comes to our primary purpose for being, it has been helpful for me to observe churches and try to understand what it is that resides at the center of their attention, focus, funding and shared vision. I’m into my fifth decade of local church ministry, and have had the privilege of walking alongside many, many congregations and faith communities from a wide array of traditions as they seek to be faithful to their calling. This pivotal question, “What is your primary reason for being?”, has emerged as my first question for assessing the health of a congregation.

In alphabetical order here are eight common scenarios I’ve observed, and one that I can only hope will continue to emerge as a healthy alternative.  Please know, this is simply an exercise in hyperbole — no church fits neatly into any one category, and there are many more categories than listed here!

Building-Centric. Some congregations have come to see their facilities as their primary identity and reason for being. Every decision is run through a filter that assumes the primacy of the facilities. Nothing can be considered without taking into account how it will impact facilities or the campus. The church eventually exists to care for its facilities, and its mission is dictated by the building(s).

Denomination-Centric. This type of church is waning and rapidly disappearing, due to the implosion of denominational organizations of every type. Its primary task is to play out the role and programs that its denomination tells it to. Very little original thought or local initiative is required to be this sort of church. Like a chain restaurant, the church simply serves up whatever the denomination sends them or tells them to do.

Doctrine-Centric. At the heart of this church is a rigid adherence to some faith confession or doctrinal stance. This can be a very conservative and strict church that tolerates little deviance from a shared doctrine, or it can be a very liberal and permissive church that tolerates little deviance from a shared doctrine. Both types of churches are marked by smug intolerance, demeaning of those who differ, and a lack of humility, compassion and basic love for the people God places around them.

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SOURCE: Baptist News Global

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