“Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,” So said JFK in his inaugural speech. I wonder if that’s not a bad question for us to ask when we are looking for a new church.
‘Ask not what the church can do for you – ask what you can do for this church?’ Often when someone new to an area does a church tour before settling in a church it feels a bit like a beauty competition. Where churches are compared and rated to see which is cinderella and which the ugly sisters. In my head there’s a kind of score card that goes along with this.
Youth work – __/10
Sermon – __/10
Music group – __/10
Welcome – __/10
People like me – __/10
I wonder if in our consumer world we automatically do it without thinking. Which of these churches most meets my needs? Which most appeals to my likes and loves? Which most closely resembles my identikit ideal church? The one which does, or comes closest I will join (though church stats show that there is a growing group of unchurched “Christians” who can’t find any church that is good enough!!!). But here’s the worry if we choose a church on the basis of such a consumer approach what’s to stop us attending this church with that same consumer mentality?
I am taking it as given that the churches we visit are Bible teaching and Bible applying. So I wonder if instead of asking the church consumer questions we ought to ask what is the mission this church is on? What is it’s vision? Is it discipling people? Is it moving people from not knowing Jesus to hearing the gospel? Is it robustly discipling young disciples into mature believers who are active in love and service? Is this somewhere where I will be equipped and encouraged to serve and play my part in God’s mission to reach the world with the gospel both in my neighbourhood and my networks? Does it have a vision of every one on mission? And a healthy commitment to one anothering? Is the gospel lived out in real relationships that cross barriers of class, race, gender, age?
They can’t be answered easily. I wonder if that means visits need to be longer and deeper than one or two Sunday morning services. For example ought we not to sample something midweek? A Bible study? A prayer meeting? So that we see the life of the church in full. So that we can ask that question and answer it well. And so we join a church where we will be equipped to serve and called and encouraged to join in God’s mission.