seeking-external-help

The pattern is conspicuous. Churches that are insular are not as healthy as churches that are regularly seeking outside perspectives. Of course, there will be exceptions. But, as a rule, those churches whose leaders and members are involved only in their own church ministries tend to be less healthy in evangelism, retention, discipleship, and community ministries.

Healthier churches have leaders and members who thrive on good conferences, meetings, consultations, and other external perspectives. In my own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, churches have the opportunity for their members and leaders to get training, learn trends, and develop best practices from their own state conventions. Each state convention has excellent resources and conferences for groups, Sunday school, and discipleship, to name a few.

So why are healthier churches more likely to have representatives at these events than other churches? Here are five reasons:

  1. Healthy churches understand that God’s Kingdom is larger than just their particular church. They grasp that they can and will learn valuable insights they would not have gotten otherwise.
  2. Healthy churches understand that leadership development is key to their ongoing health. They are thus more likely to send church members to external events for that development.
  3. Healthy churches desire to take the benefit of skilled experts in a very specific area that might not otherwise be available in their own churches.
  4. Healthy churches avoid “ruts.” Training and conferences offer fresh ideas and approaches. They are no longer bound by “the way they’ve always done it.”
  5. Healthy churches have members who are more open-minded to new ideas and approaches without compromising theological and biblical beliefs. One of the main reasons they are open to change is that they have heard that it has worked at other churches. And they often get this information by external help such as meetings and conferences beyond their own churches.

If your church is denominational, learn about the good opportunities that your denomination might offer. If your church is part of the Southern Baptist Convention, your state convention will be one of the best resources to contact. If your church is non-denominational, ask some friends from other churches to recommend good conferences and meetings to have your members attend.

In 1966 Simon and Garfunkel released a hit called “I Am a Rock.” Some of the more memorable words were: “I am a rock. I am an island. And a rock feels no pain. And an island never cries.” The thesis of the song was that loners who have no need of people or love are some of the more unhealthy people alive.

Churches whose members never seek perspectives beyond their own churches tend to be unhealthy churches. They are islands that think they need no one and no perspective beyond themselves.

Healthy churches, to the contrary, have members who are lifelong learners. They relish new and outside perspectives.

They are thus part of churches that are willing to make changes when needed. These churches are constantly seeking to improve, constantly seeking to grow, and constantly seeking to do things better for the glory of God.

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Comments

  1. says

    I am a minister/pastor in the Independent Christian Church associated with the Restoration Movement plea and ideal. The insular mindset has been one of the biggest hinderances to our brotherhood.

    These are great thoughts. As a brother in the RM churches it is my goal to encourage our churches to open the doors, beginning with each others, so we can reap the benefit of “arete” as we all bond together as The Body with other appreciation and unity with other Christian expressions.

    Thanks for this piece. It confirms what my heart has come to recognize as the heart of the RM, we are way off track.

    Tim

  2. says

    Yes, Thom this is true. I’ve found that the more involved churches are in serving and supporting the local association, and the convention at all levels, the healthier they are. They do not mind being “in the light” so to speak.

    If a church doesn’t want anyone “knowing their business,” and tends to isolate and want to be “left alone,” and we don’t want anyone “telling us what to do because we are autonomous,” chances are there may be much deception and power control groups lingering beneath the surface that have things less than the Kingdom of God in mind.

  3. says

    Thom,

    I was greatly helped by the Willow Small Groups Conference years ago. Trying to build a groups ministry from scratch proved difficult. The flight and time in Chicago provided the right mix of ideas and encouragement to stay the course.

    Good word! Thanks!

  4. Randel Trull says

    I wish you had included Baptist associations and not just state conventions as a portal to greater Kingdom consciousness and involvement. It seems you focused your reasoning on the benefits the local church would receive by a greater external focus, but if the motive is for self-improvement, the focus is still inward. The solution is a greater Kingdom mentality. Although I cannot speak for all Baptist associations, involvement in the association of which I am Director of Missions will help a church live for the Kingdom.

    • Thom Rainer says

      Totally agree Randel. There are a number of great associational resources available. I could have included several others that I did not mention (like NAMB and LifeWay).

  5. TJ says

    We unfortunately felt the need to visit other churches after being in the same one for over 12 years. Sadly, it was like a breath of fresh air when we visited some churches. We had been stifled and had no idea. Based on that, I almost think we need to require members to visit other churches to get out of their comfort zone and see some new ways of worshiping God!

  6. Eustine says

    Thank you so much for reinforcing those insights. I am presently part of a pioneering assembly of six years and we have quite recently been implementing some of your reasons in our assembly. Our next step is to introduce step no.3 in the new year. Thank you for reminding us that the Kingdom of God is mor than our local assembly.

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