As I look at our church calendar, I am frustrated.
I'm frustrated that we have done, once again, what we have said we would not.
We have filled up a calendar with tons of good events and programming.
It sounds strange to say that we wanted to not do this, but it's true. About two years ago, we (the leadership team at First Church where I serve) lamented the reality that we have allowed the calendar to be filled with numerous good events and activities that basically leave our people tired and stretched.
“One of the most difficult tasks of visioneering is distinguishing between good ideas and God ideas.” - Andy Stanley
I know we struggle with this concept. Everyone in the church has good ideas. Everyone on our Leadership Team has good ideas. These are ideas based on previous places of service or maybe something that was read or seen or done elsewhere. However, a "God idea" is something bigger than a strategy and better than just something copied from another church or another time.
God ideas change lives.
So, it is my conviction that God ideas or movements often do not happen because they are hampered by good, church events and programming.
So, I lament that we have fallen back into this trap.
The result is busy-ness. Busy people in a busy world being guilted into serving in more areas in a busy church - all with a sales pitch that it's for the "glory of God" but in some cases, it for little more than the edification of an organization.
It's not intentional. It's often just all we know.
It's more than stripping away everything on the calendar (though I'm very tempted to do that) and live as the "simple church." This shift is about focus.
Focus - Focus - Focus
I've been in church long enough to know that leaders can justify anything being done in the church by sliding it under a banner titled "missions" or "evangelism" even when everyone knows that it is a stretch to see these items as such.
This hearkens back to the time when we would host "Christian" concerts and market them in house as outreach events. Here's a newsflash - Christian concerts are not outreach events. They are events targeting Christians and therefore basically uplifting Christian entertainment. By the way, I'm okay with having good Christ-themed entertainment. Just don't call an event outreach when everyone knows that unchurched people have never heard of the band, singer, illusionist or comedian, etc.
The challenge for us today is to ensure that we calendar based on who we are and what we are called to. The Great Commission is the start - "make disciples" is the command and under that banner, much of what we do is legit. The Great Commandment is as important and so we love others missionally as we love God.
Should We Stop Doing Everything?
I'm so tempted to say "yes," but that' not the answer. To stop everything, to do nothing for a season and then restart without any major philosophy of ministry adjustments would lead to another overbooked calendar and a busy-ness that burns out people and leads to less and less engagement and true ministry.
Some questions that must be asked when planning or calendaring in the church are as follows:
- Does this line up with our primary role?
- Is this something that expresses true love to God and others?
- Is this something that leads to disciple-making?
- Does this line up with the vision of the church or is it just a church member's or a few church members' primary ministry?
- Are the resources devoted to this calendared event best used this way?
- What ministry is being said "no" to in order to say "yes" to this one?
- Is this something being done just because it's always been done?
There are more, but you get the picture.
Our church has three stated emphases. . .
- Global Missions
- Church Planting
- Orphan Care
There are many things on our calendar now that require resources, promotion, time and effort. The challenge is to measure them against our biblical purposes as revealed in the Great Commission and Great Commandment and God's revealed focus for us with the three elements listed above. Then, we have to have the courage to erase some things on the calendar.
Why? Because busy-ness in God's church keeps us from the the business of God's church.
There will be damage. Someone will have their feelings hurt. Unfortunately, hurt people sometimes hurt people, so be ready. It's inevitable, but necessary to ensure you are not wasting away looking busy while the mission remains ignored.