We start with several assumptions about what our local church must have. A question to ask: whatever it is you’re talking about, how long has it been a crucial ingredient in the church? Is it a crucial ingredient of all good churches across the globe today?
- “Any good church has to have a vision and mission statement.” How long have these been essential? More to the point: how did churches survive until the 1980’s without these? See more: “The people don’t perish without a vision statement.”
- “Any good church has to have a good children’s and youth ministry.” How long has youth ministry been around in its modern form? The Christian Endeavor Society claims to be “the uncontested father of youth ministry.” They started in 1881. We might ask how churches managed without our modern forms of youth ministry for the first 18 centuries.
- “A good pastor or preacher has to be good at [fill in the blank].” Whatever fills in your blank, ask if any of the great pastors or preachers of the past would be excluded. Which preachers throughout history wouldn’t be expository or charismatic enough to meet your definition? Which great pastors of history would be too blunt or controversial or introverted to meet your qualifications?
None of these things are necessarily bad. Maybe our context has made something nearly essential. But it might be good to question some of our assumptions before we say the church must have _____ to be a good church. Perhaps our options are more open than we’ve assumed.
Ironically, critics of the church’s recent history (i.e. “The church today is losing too many young people!”) are among the quickest to advocate for recent history’s solutions (i.e. “We have to have a great youth ministry to fix this!”).
For the comments: Does the church assume anything to be essential that you think we might question?