Over the years, I have worked with many churches around the country, most of them being in rural America and usually seven hundred people or less. Because I lead a church in rural America, I can identify (and often empathize) with the struggles that small town pastors deal with on a consistent basis. Everything from A (dysfunctional Autonomy) to Z (unhealthy religious Zeal). However, many of the common struggles are symptoms of deeper core issues.
While core issues differ in each church, there is a common bone of contention I see frequently; it is the lack of permission to use strategy. Some churches believe the word "strategy" belongs in the business world and has no place in church. Others fear systems or strategies would bring too much complexity and confusion to the church and endanger the principle, "The gospel is enough."
I do believe the gospel is enough. The gospel is the change agent; it is God's powder keg of salvation (Romans 1:16). However, we can't deny the fact that God used strategies in the Old and New Testament.
- God systematically created the heavens and earth (Genesis 1-2)
- God used Joseph's strategic thinking to preserve Egypt from famine, which ended up saving Israel too. (Genesis 27-50)
- God used Jethro to help Moses set up a strategic plan to share his leadership burdens (Exodus 18)
- God gave Joshua war strategies to overcome the enemy (Joshua 6)
- Jesus used the strategy of sending out His disciples two by two with specific instructions (Luke 10)
- God used the strategy of the cross and resurrection to save us from our sins (The Gospels)
The reality is, whether you believe in church strategy or not, you're using one. Whatever your process is for reaching people with the gospel is in fact, your strategy. Some churches use outreach; others rely on small group ministry; and for many the Sunday sermon is their only strategy. Regardless of the strategy, we must ask ourselves, "Is it working? Are we seeing life change? Is our church making a difference in our city or community? Is our church growing? Are we making disciples?"
I encourage you, regardless of the size of your church, to consider implementing a healthy, gospel-centered strategy that is unique to your church. At the Unstuck Group, we believe God has a strategy for every church...it's just a matter of discovering it. We have tools for both larger and smaller churches to help. Check out The Unstuck Group website to learn more.