Two Steps Toward a Healthy Church – Part 5

In our journey of “two steps” we have already seen the two steps a pastor must take (grow himself, build a team) and the two steps that only the congregation can take (face reality, create an embracing environment). So what’s left?

There are two steps that the pastor and people must take together.

The first of these is to “discover the engine.” Okay, that seems a bit unclear at first blush, but every church has an “engine” that can generate momentum and drive it forward. There is something that your church was made to do. Baseball players speak of a “wheelhouse,” a place where the hitters strength meets the pitch and maximizes his capacity. A pitcher wants to avoid a hitter’s “wheelhouse” because that’s where the hitter is at his best. For golfers, the idea is the “sweet spot”–that place on the golf club that makes a perfect connection, allowing the golfer to hit the ball where he intended, making his best possible shot.

Okay, maybe the sports analogies don’t clear this up for you, but there is something that fits. There is a focus, an effort, a ministry priority that every pastor is made for. Likewise, there are certain things a church can do very well. When you find these, you find the church at its most effective best.

The “engine” is a merger of three key components. First, is the leader’s passion. Not long ago, I visited with a pastor of a small struggling congregation. He was frustrated to say the least, so I asked him what he was truly passionate about. I figured talking about that passion might lift his spirit a bit. He begin telling me how badly he wanted to bring hope to broken people. His own story of brokenness and the love a church family had brought helped me see how this passion had developed. To see that same thing happen for others was the very reason he felt called to ministry. “I want to see broken people healed,” he tearfully exclaimed.

I instantly concluded that this was an “engine” he could drive forward. So I asked him, “Do you think your congregation could help you do this?” You see, the second component of the “engine” is the people’s abilities. What can we be good at? In most churches, there’s a long list of things we’re not very good at, and when we spend a lot of time doing what we’re not good at, well, frustration is guaranteed–so is lack of growth. No one enjoys watching us try to maneuver our weaknesses.

He said, “Yes!” He knew that his people cared deeply for broken people and he’d seen them respond in love again and again.

The final element is community need. I guessed that such an engine could connect powerfully with many people in his community. So we begin talking about how to shape the ministry of his church around this vision–healing broken people. It seemed to be the perfect merger of leader passion, congregation ability, and community need.

That’s where you find your engine. I attend a church where that engine is “life-change.” Everything is driven by this single priority. I pastored a church where “belonging” was the driving force. I’ve seen others where “investing in the next generation” or “passionately teaching truth” fire them up. Every church needs to find its wheelhouse or sweet spot–the central focus that can become their very best effort of ministry.

So together–pastor and congregation–the search for its “engine” becomes paramount. In church life, many books or assessment surveys try to tell you that addressing your weaknesses will get you where you want to go. But remember this: Momentum and growth flow from maximizing your strengths. Endurance is achieved by addressing weaknesses.

Find the engine, but do it together. Both pastor and people have to bring their contributions to the same table. When you find the spot where the leader’s passion, congregation’s abilities, and community’s needs merge, you will find the path that can bring the momentum you crave.

Next time, we’ll take a look at the second step for this pastor/people partnership.

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