Here in our final blog in the series, “Getting to the Next Level,” we are ready to discuss the final and most critical of the three elements that will help you move forward. You’ll recall that we have already discussed Excellence and Organization (the first two elements). But without this final element, what grows won’t ultimately be healthy. What is that critical piece?
Impact asks the question, “Who’s changing lives?” Now, ultimately we know this to be God’s work, but impact focuses on how that’s happening in our church. Is the pastor the principal agent of our church’s ministry? Are we changing lives together? Or are the people the ones God is using to change lives?
Remember this: Getting to the next level is almost always about what the people are doing?
Consider this: In a congregation of less than 100, the pastor is the primary minister. He is busy caring for the people, doing the ministry, and basically justifying the salary we pay him. But 100 people is likely his maximum capacity as a minister. Okay, if he’s young and energetic, maybe he can minister effectively to 150, but that’ll probably take a toll on his family.
So once we get to his maximum capacity, we add some staff to help. But we don’t usually gain the same amount of potential, so a new staff person might add 75 people to our capacity and together, pastor and his new helper can do the work needed for our church to grow to around 175, maybe 200. But then we need more help, so we add more staff, usually maxxing out around 400, where what we can afford meets what we can manage.
What to do? We have to change everything to get past this level. Now we must be a church where the people do the ministry–and very few churches can make the change. They’ve grown comfortable with the pastor taking the lead and doing the ministry. They don’t want to take on such responsibility, and often the pastor is reluctant to give it.
So, who’s changing lives? In these stories (which comprise more than 90% of churches), it’s the pastor and his team that are changing lives.
What would happen if the focus could shift to a more biblical idea, where pastor and his team equipped the people for doing ministry? What would happen if the real impact of a church was what occurred Monday thru Saturday, and Sunday was just a chance to celebrate what God has been doing through His people all week?
As long as Sunday is the primary moment of impact in your church’s week, you have placed a ceiling on your growth. There are levels you will not reach, and today you are not the church God intends you to be.
How are people impacting the lives of coworkers, friends, neighbors, relatives, and the neglected folks in their lives? Pastor, how can you help them do that? This is your healthy road to the next level. Don’t think that motivational sermons compelling people to reach their friends is getting that done. You’ve got to show them and equip them, painting pictures of what such impact might be.
When your people learn to live the passion you call them to each week, something begins to happen. Your capacity for ministry as a congregation explodes exponentially. You burst through one level after the other, propelled by an impact you can’t begin to measure. But if you’re people aren’t seeing lives changed around them, no amount of excellence and organization will make you a healthy church.
So, yes, look for ways to make Sundays excellent, and do your best to organize your efforts so there’s no wasted energy. But go after impact. Focus your best energies on helping your people succeed in their efforts to minister to others. Show them that the Church was called to GO out there, not just try to get everyone in here!
Pastor, as long as you or your staff are the answer to the impact’s question, “Who’s changing lives?” a healthy next level will remain beyond your grasp. Even if your answer is “we are!” and your thinking about last Sunday’s great service, you’re still not where you need to be. But when your best stories start with “Look at what my people are doing…” well, the next level will be here soon.