The main goal of many churches is not to follow Jesus, make disciples, spread the Gospel, or whatever else they might claim in their mission statement.
The main goal of many churches is simply to go on existing.
They will never say this, but their actions and decisions prove it. No matter what they say in their “mission statement” their true mission is to do whatever is necessary to go on existing. Churches and organizations may start with lofty ideals, biblical values, and Gospel-related goals, but as soon as the organization or church files its 501(c)3, the primary goal of the organization changes to securing and maintaining its existence.
Would You Sell Your Church?
In my book, Skeleton Church (which you can get for free by signing up for email newsletter), I tell the story of a time when I interviewed for a Senior Pastor position of a certain church. Here is what I wrote:
The elders told me they wanted their church to start reaching the lost, and were looking for a pastor who could lead them in that direction. “It’s possible some drastic changes will be necessary,” I told them. “Are you ready and willing to do whatever it takes to reach others with the Gospel?” They assured me that they were.
So I continued. “Let’s say that after much prayer and careful discussion, the elders decided that to reach the community with the Gospel, God wanted us to sell the church building.”
Silence. Crickets chirped in the background.
Finally, one elder spoke up. “Well, that would never happen. The building is an essential part of our ministry.”
So I tried again. “But you said you were willing to do anything to reach your community with the Gospel. So what if the elders unanimously agreed, after much prayer and discussion, that one of the things God wanted you to do was sell your building? Is that something you’d be willing to do?”
The same elder spoke up again. “We would never come to that agreement. We need our building to reach our community with the Gospel. How could we reach the community if we didn’t have a building? We’re willing to do anything to reach the community, but the things we want to do in the community require a building.”
The interview moved on, and needless to say, they didn’t call me back.
You see? They could not imagine that their church could continue to exist without their building. And since continuing to exist was their primary goal, they did not want to do anything to endanger their existence, even if it could possibly mean reaching their community with the Gospel, and making many disciples of Jesus Christ.
It Might Hurt Donations
At another time, I got terminated from my place of employment (a non-profit publishing company) because the organization feared that some donors would stop giving if they found out what books I was reading and topics I was studying. No joke. I have a written and signed letter from the CEO of this organization stating that I was not terminated for violating any company policies or doing anything unethical, but because my continued employment there might cause some of the donors to cease supporting the organization.
It turned out to be a very good thing that I left this organization, but it was painful at the time. But I am not trying to reopen old wounds. The point is that through the actions and decisions of this organization, they proved that their primary mission was not found in their mission statement, but was actually the hidden mission of “longevity.” They wanted to survive.
For the Cause of the Gospel
And I understand the feeling. If we build something, whether it is an organization or a church, we want it to continue, to grow, and to thrive. I am definitely not against any organization doing what it can to expand its impact and influence upon the world. I just think that if it comes between choosing between expanding the reach of the Gospel and expanding the reach of the organization, we must be willing to let the organization die.
Of course, the two are not always exclusive. But until we are willing and ready to shutter our organizations and close our churches down if it will help the cause of the Kingdom, we are not in a position to be ready to do much for the Gospel anyway.
So why does your church exist? What does your organization exist? Why does your blog exist? If it became clear that you could do a better job of loving and serving people in the name of Jesus by shutting down your church, your organization, your company, or your blog, would you do it?