Glen Guyton is chief operating officer and director of Convention Planning for Mennonite Church USA.
The church has been a poor steward of the resources we have been given.
The bulk of our time is devoted to worship services and insider “fellowship” events that only seek to indoctrinate the individual to our particular congregational culture. We create holy huddles rather than facilitating mission and creating capacity that gives hope to the world.
The church experience has been relegated to the Saturday or Sunday production. While many churches claim to be seeker friendly, the atmosphere in many buildings takes on a cult like ambience. There are both overt and covert rules for how one is to properly carry themselves. Sit in the wrong seat as visitor and you might just get a dirty look. Typical worship services are inherently not for outsiders; they are more akin to private insider parties. They are a weekly display of the gifts and talents of those on stage (in many cases paid professionals), but not an engagement of the spectators. Is this the best use of the tithes and offerings entrusted to us a church leaders? Not to mention the staff time that goes into planning a two hour worship service.
What is the mission of the church? Is it to gain members? Is it to entertain members? Is it to engage the world?
That is the question each congregation has to ask itself. What is our primary mission? Let’s just go out on limb and imagine that Matthew 28:19-28 is a “Great Commission” for all churches. Imagine that churches have adopted this as their primary mission. Where then should our time and energy be devoted? Matthew 28 refers to discipleship, which should not be confused with congregational membership. Matthew 28 calls the disciples to observe and practice the stuff that Jesus did. I wonder how much time Jesus spent in committee meetings. How much time was spent on voting and debating versus healing the sick and providing for the poor? Did Jesus and his disciples spend the bulk of his time coming up with a great Sunday service or more time defending the persecuted? One thing that I do know is that Jesus was engaged in the community. He was on the streets; he walked amongst the people sharing with them messages that related directly to their context. His parables spoke to the situations they were in. Whether they were a tax collector, a fisherman, a Roman solider or a farmer, Jesus could share the gospel in the common tongue.
Now like any good indoctrinated Christian raised in the church, I love a good worship service. I expect it to have good music, good word and good graphics. But as I mature, I realize that this Christian walk has to be more than entertaining and informing me. I have been in church for most of my 46 years. I probably have preached, read or heard most of the Bible 10 times over. So I ask God, how can I be a good steward of all the knowledge and wisdom that has been poured into my life?
I urge you, pastors, bishops and denominational leaders, to exam where your resources are going.
Ask yourself where are we putting our money and time? Are we just maintaining a Sunday fellowship for the elite few or are we equipping men and women to impact the world? Is it all for a Sunday morning show? I don’t know what your priorities are, but here are some categories that you might consider and see where they are reflected in the work of your ministry.
- worship for members
- fellowship and member social event
- combating issues of poverty (food, finances, & homelessness)
- social justice (racism, sexism, criminal justice & education)
- discipleship training
- community service (childcare & elderly care)
- prayer and Support (hospital visits, funerals, and crises intervention)
Maybe your congregation has other priorities, but I would urge you, as stewards of God’s people and God’s money, let us examine wisely the management of these precious gifts.