Most churches have a subtle, perhaps even unspoken, objective. It is driven by the question:
“How can we be the best church in our community?”
How a church answers that question determines the approach to membership, staffing, budget, etc.
In a book I am now reading, Externally Focused Quest, authors Eric Swanson & Rick Rusaw ask an entirely different, more poignant, question:
“How can we be the best church for our community?’
The difference between the two questions dramatically influences the way we approach ministry, approach our community, and relate to other churches. Those driven by this question are inclined to be highly attractional, may tend to view neighbors as being placed by God so that they can be harvested for the growth and benefit of the church. And while many people would be gracious enough to realize that there are enough people to go around, and that no one church can monopolize all the people in an area, this question inherently promotes a sense of competion between churches.
Perhaps even more significant, the differences between these two questions radically reveals our view of God and what we believe to be God’s purpose for the church. The church that wants to know how they can be the best for the community understands that God is on a mission and invites us – even demnds for us – to engage in it. It is a church that recognizes God has placed His church in the community primarily to benefit the city and it’s people (see Jeremiah 29.7 & Proverbs 11.10), and consequently to draw people to himself. While some may ask this question and still posess an unhealthy competitiveness, the question itself does not inherently demand competiton. To be the best for the community means to play the roles needed in the community. There is room for more than one church to play various roles.
One thought on “Externally Focused Quest”
I couldn’t agree more Dennis. A Church must be about the Gospel in the community God has placed it in. That means the community should be different as a result. Answering the question what can we do FOR the community is a great starting place.
Not sure about the competitive thing…But I know it happens, even among Pastors either knowingly or not.