If you want to succeed at building something special, you need to begin with the end in mind. That is to say, you need to carefully plan what you are building, how you are going to build it, and what you will need in order to build it within the budget and on scheduled time. The old saying that you should “measure twice and cut once” is true for carpentry, business planning, personal decisions, and organizational development. When you “fail to plan you are planning to fail.” So begin with a good plan – a blueprint – in place or do not begin at all. Blueprints give you the best chance of actually building the vision in your mind. Proper planning is essential for a happy ending.
Seems like there is a lot of planning taking place across the country about how the church should be shaped and the direction it should be pointed. Many people – a few are even professionally trained – spend a great amount of effort and energy trying to produce the church that they have in their mind and in their heart. Theirs will be a church that is fun, hip, full of trend, and relevant to a generation. Most importantly of all, the church that many are planning is one that takes on the character of the planner, the parishioner, or even the pastor. Nationwide, in cities and neighborhoods, we are finding new churches popping up created in the image of humanity. And we are seeing long established churches digging in to carefully keep their church just as it is. In their own image. That is the plan that many have drawn up and are desperately clinging to.
Maybe you are stuck in a church that isn’t interested in your image. Maybe the congregation and pastoral leadership is obsessed with being too ancient in their reading of scripture, structure of the church, and mission to the lost. Perhaps your church refuses to respond to market demands of “Get Bigger” Magazine’s Top 10 churches and their strategy for gathering the church consumer crowd, and that frustrates you to no end. It is possible that what you need is a new blueprint for church. You need – no, you deserve – a church that fits your image and meets your standards of spiritual relevance.
So how does one create a church in his/her own image? Step by Step and piece by piece. That is how you erect something that makes you spiritually happy or satisfied. Take each component of church life and guard against anything that messes up your day.
The Bible/Scripture – Make sure that the church uses only language that aligns with your current pattern of living. Old words from Israel should not dictate how a modern American believer worships, is discipled, or serves others. Make sure that each of God’s words are squeezed into the modern vernacular regardless of how the meaning changes.
Music – Make sure that music is on a playlist that you like and that the “repeat often” button is pushed nearly every Sunday. Learning new songs might force you to sing/pray new things to God and that just isn’t an easy ask.
New Members – Make sure to evaluate each new class of members or those being baptized. If at any point a person is received into membership or baptized into the church that is mysterious or has a scandalous past, then immediate red flags should be flown.
Politics – Make sure to require anybody teaching/leading to pass the litmus test of your agenda. If they don’t fully align with your platform or your candidate/elected official, then you have no business listening to them. Their rhetoric is biased against your political view and is trying to force God upon your thoughts. You might need to even express your disgust through social media and private messages about their refusal to support your gal/guy. Anybody that holds the character of a candidate over the ability to produce or perform must be from another planet and should be marginalized.
Programs – Make sure that all church programs meet your need and interests. There is no purpose in your tithe money being wrapped up in kids’ ministry if you don’t have kids in the programs. Forget about funding water wells in Ethiopia because you have never been there and have no vacation plans to visit there.
Location/Atmosphere – Make sure that the church is conveniently located near your home so that a commute is not necessary. Never mind that you drive many miles to work, to golf, to visit friends, to eat out, or to shop. God planned for the church you attend and support to be no more than 5 minutes door to door for the sake of saving time, money, and hassle on Sundays. Just like the Bible says.
Partnerships – Make sure that your church is not a partner with anybody who might ask you to contribute more to the partnership than they do. Any investment of money or time should be measured with at least twice the rate of return or a partnership should be ended. Giving more to another church or organization than we get from the relationship means we are subsidizing their work. And that isn’t fair or Biblical!
Jesus – Make sure that he is just an example for people to observe and consider in life. Keep him as a good teacher – even the best teacher – but not much more. If he becomes Lord then the things he did and the things he taught must become serious convictions for you and for you church. That would certainly cause an uproar in your strategic planning, your rainy day reserves, your 1% “tipping” to the persecuted church, and any self indulging initiatives you have planned to entice people to come or to stay at your church. Jesus as Lord would certainly cause you personal pain as he might (would certainly) expect you to shred this blueprint garbage you have been so invested in. So be very careful with this one. Keep Jesus in a place that you can watch him closely so that he doesn’t get into areas of your church that might create problems.
Be very particular on these issues, or you will find that you belong to a church that isn’t up to your standards. That church might even try to influence you or your family in ways that you never imagined a church would. If you find that is the case, just start drawing a new blueprint. Do so again and again. At some point, you will build that church in your image that you so desperately want to find. You may even discover a new group of friends that have the same thoughts you do about life and faith. Maybe then your spirit will be at rest because you found a place that makes you happy. And isn’t that what church is all about?
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.
(Ephesians 2:19-22, NASB)