Mega-church Willow Creek has been drawing a lot of attention from bloggers passionate about the church as they’ve rolled out the Reveal study, as well as the changes they’re trying to implement throughout their institution as a result. The study (so far) has basically quantified what a lot of us who care about the church already suspected: the deeper you grow spiritually, the less impact church services and programs seem to have on your life in God.
Although I don’t resonate with the marketing they’re doing with this information (pay to bring your church leadership/staff team to an Event so you can have a conversation about it), I admire the Reveal team for choosing to wrestle with the issue of what the church is – and isn’t – supposed to be doing.
Focusing on the “why” strips away the obsessive focus on organizational/instititutional management that characterizes staff discussions at a lot of churches. Because promoting, managing and funding the institution becomes a focus, the church sometimes becomes nothing more than an advertisement for the church. If you drill deep enough in these places, you will likely find life – but you have to buy what the ad is selling, then perhaps hunt like crazy through the institution to find the (real deal, big C) Church in action. (Note: small groups in a big church are not the de facto place where you’re guaranteed to discover the Church. If you’ve ever been in a terrible, false small group, you know what I’m talking about.)
However, this is not a slam against Big Box guys. Small congregations are just as easily tempted to focus on building and selling their own corner of the kingdom and claiming its something its not.
I have seen the Church at her most beautiful. She is radiant, hopeful, generous and completely love-struck as she waits for her Bridegroom. She lives like this as she waits:
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” – Acts 2:42-47
In fact, she lives like this because she waits. She knows Who she is waiting for.
You don’t need to market and continuously massage your institution to in order to sell people church.
The Church gives herself away – to God, to one another, and to everyone around them.