Pastors wonder why people seem less committed today. Ministry leaders wonder why people attend less frequently. It seems like years ago a committed church leader came at least three times a week, but today that same leader may come only three times a month.
The answer seems pretty simple. People go to places where they are given a larger story to live in.
At work the larger story is quarterly profit reports, annual raises, and beating the competition. In social spaces the story is fueled by juicy gossip and the latest romance. You name it: from extreme sports to porn addiction, from leisure pursuits to Netflix binging, everyone is chasing the biggest story they can.
Consider the power of sports as a smaller story for men—from watching college bowls and March Madness to playing weekly golf and fantasy football. Let’s not even mention the temptation to live vicariously through their children’s sports. Our stadiums today are the worship centers of choice.
Apply that line of thinking to your church through some probing questions. Does your church have either a strongly inspiring choir or a really good band? Check. Your church probably has solid teaching and quality programs. Check. Your church rallied people to serve the community this past year. Check. Finally, your church sent people on mission trips this past year. Check.
Here is where the challenge begins: What makes you think weekly participation of your programs is helping people experience God’s larger story?
Do the weekly patterns of involvement and sporadic service opportunity by themselves unveil the beauty of God’s work through your church? Or do these ministries need to happen in the context of a meaningful and memorable picture of the next decade?
Are your church activities a random series of events that report the distant story of God in history, or master-planned programming to engage people in a specific story of God today?
Do you really think another “serve the community day” by its disconnected self is going to inspire people to something big, or is it just adding another thing on their church to-do list? Does adding another women’s weekday Bible study by itself compel people to see the dramatic potential of your church? Probably not. The problem is not the program; the problem is a lack of overarching, long-term vision.
Do you really want to inspire people? Don’t flood your church with more programs and events. Rather, blow their minds with new context. Give them something that blows up the smaller stories. Disrupt the casual week-to-week worship routine with a real, visible, and dramatic picture of the specific difference your church will make ten years from now. Give people something epic.
How do you do that? Take your imagination beyond the horizon.If you think long, you are more likely to dream big and attempt great.
What if a stunningly clear, long-range vision could be a powerful stepping-stone to God’s big picture? What if, by thinking long, you create a personalized, local window to transcendence? It’s a story that is much bigger than the smaller stories that stifle our lives, but it is relatable, accessible, and foreseeable—an on-ramp to the universe’s biggest story.