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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.