I remember something Scott Peck said in his book, The Different Drum, Community Making and Peace: When people come together, there comes a point where some are tempted to retreat into organization. I’ve thought about that and I’ve noticed how often inspiring movements become bogged down institutions that demand constant self maintenance.
Sometimes, in a church meeting I’ll think, “We need to get some focus here.” Others will be feeling it too, and someone will say, “We need a mission statement.” Another will say, “Don’t we have one of those somewhere? Remember that Saturday we spent composing it? What did we do with that?” Somehow it became just another forgotten project.
We don’t have to form a committee to help us stay focused. I can tell you what we need to focus on in five words:
People, people, people, people, people.
I’ll expand on that:
Wounded people, lonely people, angry people, and hungry people. People at war, people in poverty, people mired in forms and financial confusion. There are divorced and widowed and people who suffering other kinds of grief. People are in jail, going to jail, and getting out of jail. People are addicted to every kind of substance and/or activity. People are sick and dying. People are young and directionless, old and confused, middle aged and overwhelmed.
The primary questions we should be ask are not, “How do we get them to Sunday school or worship services? How can we get them to join our church?”
We need to ask, “Where are they? What do they need? What can we do? What can we give them? How can we communicate our concern for them? How can we tell them of a God who cares? How can we help them get in touch with that God?
It’s overwhelming. It is much easier to say: “Let’s have an attendance drive for Sunday School. Let’s have a basketball goal installed for the kids. Let’s get some cool music that will appeal to the younger families.” They are not wrong, but they do not really address the question.
Remember, our goal is not to preserve a church but to save people.
PS: My father has been a minister for close to sixty years. He has a plaque on his wall that Mom made for him many years ago. It has one word: “PEOPLE.”