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Institutions and Individuals

Do you ever wonder if you are spending more time building up a church than building up disciples at that church?  I do sometimes.  Sometimes it feels like the programs and the to do lists have soaked up nearly all of my energy.  Sometimes I am so worried about making our program great that I forget to make sure people are actually encountering God.

The demands of the church as an organization were never meant to circumvent our work in changing people’s lives.  In fact, the church is a means to that end, not an end in itself.  The unwelcome truth is that we can have an incredible program by most standards and yet we may be completely missing our actual calling: making disciples.

So what does it look like to focus on individuals more than the institution?  Here’s my best guess.

  • We take time to talk to people at every turn, even if it means we don’t get something else done.
  • We always keep in mind that we are ministering to actual human beings who have their own concerns and their own needs.  The congregation is not some uniform entity so let’s not treat it that way.
  • We simplify programs in order to maximize our efforts in mentoring and individual ministry.
  • We pour into a select group so that we stay grounded to individuality of the membership.
  • We treat volunteers as partners in ministry, not as people who work for you.
  • We remember that Jesus never called us to make great churches.  He called us to make disciples.
  • We don’t let the work of the church get in the way of the work of God.

I am all for having a big ministry, but the tendency of so many ministers (myself included) has been to focus on building a noteworthy ministry rather than a disciple-centered ministry.  The funny part is, when you turn your focus toward building up fully devoted followers of Christ, you begin to see incredible ministry happening.

Let’s resolve to keep our focus on the individuals in our church rather than on the church itself.  How do you keep from falling into the institution trap?

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