After being in some outreach-oriented ministry from the time Jesus captured my heart way back in the seventies (the Mesozoic Era) and pastoring in an outward-focused church for nearly 30 years of that time, periodically I’ll run into folks who ask, “Do you like what you’re doing now?”
When I co-founded Partnership Advisors and we subsequently launched the Elemental Churches approach to measuring church health and leadership development, there was really only one goal: to help as many churches possible be as healthy and effective as God intends. And here’s why:
A few days ago I was in our local Trader Joe’s buying a half-case of inexpensive wines (okay, cheap…). The twenty-something at the cash register was a tall, chatty, overly friendly guy who seemed to be genuinely thrilled to serve the customers. I was not in a particularly talkative mood and felt a bit sensitive for the woman behind me who was holding a pile of supplies in her arms, waiting for her turn. At the same time I was internally processing how effective Trader Joe’s employee training system must be: every cashier seems to enthusiastically greet shoppers!
“How are you doing this fine Friday evening, sir?”
“Doing well,” I smiled, slipping my Discover card into the reader.
“It’s a good day, isn’t it?” he said, pulling out each bottle and scanning them while simultaneously exchanging friendly banter with a passing fellow employee. He looked up at me and suddenly queried, “Let me ask you something: if you could do one thing to change the world, what would it be?”
I was totally caught off guard; I wasn’t expecting an existential question from a Trader Joe’s cashier. I said, “Seriously?”—just to buy a little time to actually contemplate what I’d say.
He grinned and said, “Yeah.”
And here’s what came out of my mouth before I had time to really think about it: “Well, honestly, I wish I could figure out a great way to tell everyone in the world how good Jesus is.”
He closed his eyes, slid the last bottle back in the carton, and walked around the counter to me. Motioning me toward him, he said, “Bring it in.” And we hugged. Not the half-bro handshake hug, but the full-bodied-heads-on-shoulders-patting-on-the-back kind. An old white guy and an African-American millennial. The woman behind me with her arms full just stared.
He said, “That’s the answer, man. You know, our policy here is that we’re not supposed to talk about this kind of stuff…”
“I totally get it,” I interjected.
“…but that’s what I like to hear. I’m with you. I just like to ask questions like that to hear what people say and what they’re feeling. You know, my generation needs a lot of help. You take care, my friend.” He smiled and handed me my half-case of wine. “And have a great day.”
Which brings me to my point: the Big “C” Church is both the expression of the Kingdom and proclaimer of the Kingdom message. The Church is Plan A; there is no Plan B. It is the way of telling the entire world how good Jesus is. And the local church is the best representation in whatever corner of the world it’s in of the now-and-not-yet Kingdom.
And so when a local church is healthy, everyone wins. The congregation, the city, and all those who don’t yet know how good Jesus is. And if our team can play a small part in helping any church get a little healthier, a little more on point, and stronger organizationally and missionally, then my little life feels pretty full.
So, yeah, I pretty much like what I do.
Now go listen to this old song by All Sons & Daughters and dream. This is what the local church can do best.
~Dave Workman | Elemental Churches