Last time I considered the idea that churches may have a unique design and therefore a unique role they’re to play in God’s redemptive plan. This flies in the face of the teaching that the church has five purposes, and that each church should strive for balance in carrying them out. But, as I stated, that teaching seems to fly in the face of reality. (There were a lot of faces being flown into in that last post.) (Plastic surgeons were giddy.)
So what reality does the “balanced church theory” fly in the face of? Well, I’ve never seen a truly balanced church. Have you? Perhaps I should say that I’ve never seen a balanced church that is really effective and moving forward with great momentum.
Interestingly, it’s the same with people. There are no balanced people. God created each person unique. Every individual has a set of spiritual gifts, certain passions that motivate them, and a personality type through which they process information and relate to other people. People also have experiences they’ve gone through, skills they’ve developed, information they’ve learned, and pain they’ve suffered through. And all of it comes together to create a unique expression of what God can do in a human being. And that unique human being will have a distinct role to play for God in his Kingdom.
Now that’s not to say that this beautifully unbalanced person won’t have some responsibilities in areas of weakness. Every Christian has the responsibility to be generous. It comes naturally to some, but we’re all supposed to give. Every Christian has the responsibility of sharing their faith. Some are gifted when it comes to evangelism, but we’re all supposed to tell people about Jesus. Every Christian has the responsibility to mourn with those who mourn. Some are blessed by God with the ability to be merciful, but we’re all supposed to show mercy.
So why shouldn’t it be the same with the church? There are five purposes (are there really five? do we know there are five? might there be six or seven?) of the church, and each church has the responsibility to engage in all those purposes. But no church is going to be equally effective in all five.
The reality is that every individual church has a specific gift mix. Yes, it’s likely that all the gifts are represented in the people of the church, but my guess is that in your church you’ll find an odd emphasis on a few of the gifts.
Every church also has a certain personality, and a motivating passion. It’s what Will Mancini calls your “apostolic espirit” and it’s easy to discover if you look for it. Will encourages churches to ask questions like, “What do we pray for most?” “What focus most energizes and animates our leadership?” “What stories are told most frequently?”
You take that passion, along with the specific gift mix, and throw in the particular locale of the church, and some of the experiences it’s been through, and something unique and not balanced emerges. Like what? Well, I’ll talk about that next time.
But for now, consider the possibility that maybe God just loves uniqueness. Maybe the idea of balance doesn’t appeal to God. Maybe if all churches were balanced, we’d pretty much all be the same. And maybe we wouldn’t need each other. And maybe that wouldn’t be a good thing.