Taking a church to a doctor
Imagine someone going to the doctor with a sore knee and a tingle in the toes. They don’t think too much of it. In many ways the issues seem like minor niggles than anything serious. But when they get around to seeing the doctor, they are told that actually there is a serious problem in their back. Immediate treatment is recommended in the form of prescriptions. They argue with the doctor, who ends up helping them understand how the central problem in the back leads to the felt symptoms in the knee and toes – and other symptoms you only realise when they are pointed out. The doctor’s combination of study and experience means they can see the symptoms and diagnose the central issues.
I have recently had the opportunity to be part of a ‘church consultation.’ It is a bit like a church going to a doctor. One of the central premises is that a church should be missional, reaching people in its community for the Lord Jesus. Prayer is foundational. The place of the Word of God is critical. Quite explicitly acknowledging the sovereignty of God, the process is an exercise in seeking wisdom to know how a particular church can be more effective in reaching the lost.
I had heard of the dynamic that when you are part of something, it can be difficult to think objectively about it, and that this tendency increases over time. In other words, when you first arrive somewhere, you notice things. But after a little time, you become part of the furniture and you no longer notice things you should.
While a particular church may only have ever known one way to do things, an experienced ‘doctor’ has seen many different ways (both good and bad). Observing the process of combining quantitative analysis together with listening to people’s desires, priorities and reflections was nothing short of fascinating. The benefits of being ‘external’ to the situation were unmistakable on many levels.
It was a bit like observing a coach who is able to see an athlete’s strengths and weaknesses more clearly than the athlete themself. And then, like a coach combining research and experience, the athlete can be assisted to be more effective in what they should be trying to do.
This consultation process, in the context of a range of measures, has been used by God to turn around whole networks of churches around the world. Many churches in decline or plateau have realised that they are, and seen turn around by taking appropriate and concrete action to reach their community. Growing churches have been aided to reach even more for Christ.
By the end of the process, I thought about my own church a little differently. And I must admit I was a little jealous, wishing that my own church could have such an opportunity.
If your church wants to express interest in participating in a possible pilot program of such consultations, please contact me.