By Rev. Dr. Hal Bilbo
The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. – Mark Twain
This statement is as true for your church as it is for you and me. The shorter Westminster catechism summarizes the why for followers of Jesus this way: “to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” God is most glorified in us when we are the most satisfied in Him (Tim Keller). Selah.
We exist to glorify God. Our life purpose is given to us by the Life-Giver. We simply choose to what degree and how to live to God’s glory. We are better persons, friends and neighbors in the moments when we are simply delighting in the Lord. These moments can be scripted devoting time to worship and serve others. Such moments bring peace and joy by shifting our focus away from ourselves.
Above all else, every church exists to glorify God. Churches do not get the privilege of naming their purpose, only their unique way of living it out. Healthy churches dedicate time, energy, and resources to please God through worship and serving others. There are thousands of expressions that glorify God through a church. These are influenced by church traditions, as well as congregational and community demographics.
Personal and congregational patterns create stability in day-to-day and week-to-week life. Long-term patterns provide a sense of safety but can lock out new opportunities for growth. Patterns point us away from the why by giving attention to the what.
In my 40+ years of serving local churches, I have observed renewal most often occurs following a time of prayerfully examining church priorities and behaviors to ask: “How does this activity, program or committee advance this church’s purpose to glorify God?” Church programs and committees have an expiration date if not reviewed and renewed. Often, a church directs time, energy and resources toward marginal activities that deprives its core practices. A time of honest examination can reset the focus and redirect resources toward its God-given mission.
Before starting a church renewal or revitalization journey, why not take time to explore the past? Your church was born with a mission and for a purpose. What were the priorities of your church’s first generation of members? What were some notable sacrifices that helped the church move forward? Review early records of the church to rediscover your why. What are some past people-oriented events worth celebrating? There’s a lot more to a church’s journey than a list of pastors or building additions. Celebrate to communicate the why.
These thoughts are from Rev. Dr. Hal Bilbo, an associate partner in ministry living in Ocean Isle, North Carolina. Hal has ministered for over forty years in helping churches find their why. He also serves as Eastern NC Church Relations Manager for Baptist Retirement Homes Foundation. Contact him for follow up about this post.