Monday, April 30, 2012

How do you keep Church "garbage" down?

Let me offer a  "Fraze" definition to get this blog started.
Church Garbage:  Those non-salvation (um...just started a fight...oops) items that we love to argue and split fellowships over that haunt the American church and keep the evangelistic growth rate at snails pace. See Worship Style Wars, Para-Church Partnership Wars and Who Sat in My Pew Debates. See also Problems all faith traditions battle.

Church garbage has the ability to creep into any fellowship and wreak havoc upon God's people. Paul wrote a young Timothy (I know, he was probably 30--I think that is young these days):

Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly (II Timothy 2:15ff).

If you have not read these versus before, they are rather powerful aren't they?  When you check the context of Paul's words, they really highlight the origins of Church garbage--We love to selfishly take sides and argue about our opinions and preferences.  The result? Well, all those highlighted words above happen.  When more and more Church garbage collects, it really begins to smell.  And then, the greater the smell the less attractive we are to those who need Jesus.  Seriously, who wants to visit a house in which trash is piled high in the corners and the smell is absolutely unbearable?

So what's the answer?  How does one keep Church "garbage" down?

One word:  MISSION!

This is not a church growth blog.  Yes, mission is more than a word and needs intentional, strategic and theological reflection on programming to fulfill.  I want to highlight the word in the context of church garbage.  As simply as I can possibly communicate: A church on mission does not waste time on the things that produce and collect garbage!  Utopian? Perhaps (I prefer the term theological idealism), but totally attainable and tangible in churches that strive to focus all their energy on being the hands and feet of Jesus in their context of ministry.  They focus on Mission!

So, if you are smelling a little garbage in your ministry.  Take time mending the relationships (take out the "garbage") and then focus your community on the reason you exist--pressing against those Kingdom of Darkness gates.  And if you can't verbalize your mission?
  • Start and continue with prayer asking the Lord to reveal what work He would have you to do in your community, surrounding community and world.  Ask others who will be involved in the next step to join in this prayer focus.
  • Begin a series of conversations with church leaders who are willing to have the hard but fruitful discussion concerning the following question. "What does the Lord want this body of Jesus followers to accomplish in our community, surrounding community and world?"  
  • And then, brace yourself, He will speak, you will follow and the adventure will begin.  
There will be garbage collectors that will resent such focus and want to divert the church's attention toward their own opinion(s) and idea(s).  And yes, it is never a pleasant experience to work through conflict with people (family life is messy).  In such situations remember, the more time a church spends on mission the less time they have to spend taking out the garbage.  

Question:  Do you agree with the statement, "A church on mission does not waste time on the things that produce and collect garbage"? Why or why not?


  1. It raises the question: how do you keep the church focused on mission so the garbage doesn't get in the way?

    Josh Hunt

  2. Here is my humble take on the answer (others are welcome).
    Practically, Once a mission is set by the leadership, keep that mission in front of the church by annual sermon series, focus budget process and spending on the mission, redirect programs towards the mission, speak the language of mission frequently AND, could be the most important focussing agent, tell stories of "wins" in which the mission was achieved and/or pushed ahead. Again, tell and retail stories!

    And, the mission of every Christian to represent Jesus to the World, we need to preach and teach Jesus. Sounds simple, but I have found that the churches that are most focussed on mission are most focussed on Christ and living a Holy life and NOT issues. Issue discussions may be a necessity but, my opinion, not occupy pulpit time unless "mission" demands the time.

  3. Um..."Retell" story not "retail." Don't sale your stories:). Unless the proceeds go to your mission:)