We started this series (which I think has gone about two installments too long) (don’t you agree?) by talking about Prego’s attempt in the 1980’s to find the perfect tasting spaghetti sauce. After much research they discovered that the answer was: It depends. There’s not one right way to make sauce, the best taste depends on the person tasting it. And we’ve been asking the question: Is it possible that there’s not a “right” way to do church, not a perfectly balanced way to do church, but instead maybe God makes each church unique? And that uniqueness allows it to be an important and interdependent part of the larger body of Christ in that city and in the world? And that uniqueness allows it to reach and minister to some people that other churches couldn’t?
So after debating whether this is true, let’s finally just assume it is and ask the question: What kind of sauce is your church? How do you discover what Auxano calls your Kindgom Concept? Here are some helpful questions:
• What does your church pray about the most? If you hung out at our church, you’d constantly hear people praying for those in our city who don’t know Jesus, that God would bring people who don’t like church through our doors, that he would use us to change the minds and hearts of people who have stayed or strayed away from him. And the focused passion of our church would quickly become obvious to you.
• What stories do you tell? There’s probably some “lore” around your church – what is it? Perhaps people love to talk about how many teenagers have gone onto Bible College and into ministry. Or the amazing way your church sprung into action after Hurricane Katrina or the tornado in Joplin. At our church, as you might guess, we’re always telling stories of people who showed up at our church who you’d never expect to find in church, and of stories of radical life transformation.
• What particular needs exist in your community? Ask the Dream Center in L.A. why they are what they are, and they’ll tell you it’s because they are where they are. God placed them near Skid Row, in an area with lots of homeless and drug addicts, and so that’s become their focus. What about your local predicament speaks to the unique calling God may have for your church?
• What can your church do better than 10,000 others? This is a question Will Mancini loves to ask, and I love to hear churches answer it. Every church has the mission of making disciples, but within that mission, what is your church’s sweet spot? Are you amazing at ministering to senior citizens? Your men’s ministry has always been unbelievably strong? If you mention the word “homeless” people in your church start signing up to volunteer? You have more people in small groups than on Sunday mornings, and those groups are really effective? So what if, instead of just realizing that, and maybe being grateful for it, you developed your vision around it? Like let’s say you have always had incredible worship. God has always blessed your church with amazing musicians. Obviously, getting people to your services is a priority, but are there other ways you could use that particular strength to do ministry? Could you put on concerts for the community? Could you make your church a place where local musicians can come just to jam together? Could you start a “School of Rock” to train young musicians in your town, thereby building relationships with their families and getting them on your property?
A few years ago Kenley Jansen was an average catcher in the Dodgers minor league system. But people noticed that he could really throw. So someone finally asked the question, “Why don’t we make him into a pitcher.” Same sport, same team, same basic set of skills, but they shifted the specific skill that Jansen would focus his efforts on. And today? Kenley Jansen is one of the best pitchers in the major leagues.
Maybe that should be the story of church? You keep playing the same sport, for the same team, same basic set of skills, but with a shift in the specific skill that you focus on. When you understand and embrace your Kingdom Concept – your “great permission within the great commission” you have the opportunity to really become yourself as a church, and to bless the world in a way God meant for you to bless the world.