In a recent post, I stated that most churches will settle for being “good” rather than “great.” So what does a great church look like? I am not talking about numbers. Being a great church has nothing to do with numbers—people attending, services offered, funds received. A great church is characterized by the willingness of its members and leaders to pursue certain tasks.
A great church both prays to God and listens for God’s response. Great churches have members who are willing to lay their concerns, hopes, and fears before God and to be patient enough to listen for an answer. This means that the church is willing to hold everything loosely —ministries, budgets, leaders—and place it all in God’s hands.
A great church values its people as their number one resource whether they are children, adults, or retired people. A concerted effort is made not only to teach the Bible but to apply it to life. Leaders listen to members and discover where God is at work in their lives and then the church comes alongside to encourage them in their ministry, whether it is within the walls of the church or outside those walls.
A great church recognizes its strengths and builds on them. They embrace who they have been called to be. Such a church does not try to become something that God has not called it to be but uses its God-given strengths—people, context, facilities, funds—to be all that it can be.
A great church is willing to take risks and court potential failure in order to be the presence of Christ in its community. A great church is not concerned about being unpopular or standing over against the popular consensus but in doing what God has called it to do.
A great church continually seeks ways to improve the way that it does things, whether it is member care or food services. Great churches realize that the core remains the same, but everything else is in flux. A church that wishes to be great takes advantage of the changes in its composition, community, and culture in order to become more effective in its mission.
A great church is willing to learn from the young, the old, the seeker, and the outsider. Each brings a certain kind of wisdom to the table that gives the church insight and understanding about its mission.
A great church seeks to pursue God’s vision for the church. This keeps the church focused on what is really important, avoiding wasting time on peripheral issues. This type of church is not afraid to ask the question, “Does this have impact for the Kingdom of God or not? If not, let’s not work about it.”
Great churches may not be large, popular, or prosperous, but they will clearly be God’s people on mission in the world.
(This blog originally appeared July 29, 2011.)