Why Does Your Church Exist?

Fellow pastor and blogger Kevin Martineau posted the following on his excellent blog, Shooting the Breeze:

On Monday I began reading John Kaiser's book "Winning on Purpose." It has been incredibly challenging and refreshing so far. In the first chapter of the book, Kaiser asks the question "Why does your church exist?" He narrows down the question by asking "If your church were to disappear, what difference would it make or for whom would it make a difference?"Ouch! Tough questions if you are an inward focused church.

He goes on to say that there are only three possible answers to the question:
"Why does your church exist?"

1. This church exists for us - the people inside.
2. This church exists for others - the people outside.
3. This church exists for both.

The first answer obviously reflects a church with an inward focus. Caring for its own members is the primary task. Sadly, most churches (in practice anyway) choose this option. A minority of churches would choose answer #2 and would say that their "primary customers" to be served are the people who "aren't here yet." And then there is option #3 - we are here for everybody. These churches exist to help Christians grow and to see people come into a relationship with Jesus Christ. This of course is the "right" option to choose BUT it isn't sufficient either.

Kaiser explains why it is not sufficient:

"If we say that our congregation is here to serve both the insider and the outsider, we are compelled to ask a follow-up question: Who will we serve first? Now if at this point we try to achieve the overrated virtues of balance and lack of controversy, we will discover a surprise. If we say that we will serve both groups equally, you may be sure that our congregation will wind up hopelessly focused inward. How so? Because the needs of those inside the congregation are the ones that will always be in your face. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and if there is one spiritual gift that all congregations have, it is the gift of squeaking with tongues. Why don't we ever sing my favourite songs? Why didn't someone visit me when I was sick? Why don't we have a children's club for my third grader?However, no one will ever march down the street from the neighbourhood, pound on the pastor's office door, and demand, 'Why haven't you started making disciples of Jesus on my block?!'" (pg. 26)
The bottom line is this: we MUST choose serving others (those far from God) first and serving ourselves second. The need of outsiders to be reached MUST be raised noticeably higher than the needs of the existing members. This of course is a challenge because of what was mentioned above BUT it must be done. This is what Jesus called us to do when He left us the command to "Make disciples!"

Why does your church exist? If your church were to disappear, what difference would it make or for whom would it make a difference?


  1. Thanks for highlighting my post Bob! I appreciate it!

  2. This was the post I was thinking of when we attended a new church as a family last week. Of course, I feel like the whole subject requires abundant preliminary explanation (of who and where we are spiritually, as a family), but I think the letter will never be written because I will want to pour it all out.

    I guess what struck me most was that the church was so clearly a #1 church - existing only for its membership. Despite arriving early (so we could direct our preschool sons), no one greeted us, we had to interrupt a friendly conversation to ask for a bulletin, my husband struggled to find available seats and apparently we took someone's seat (although not treated as egregious, still awkward and uncomfortable). I could go on, but I'm sure you are familiar with the many ways churches stumble when it comes to welcoming others.

    It reminded me of a time back in our church in DeKalb when a crazy looking individual attended. A few in our writer's group were discussing this later and wondered whether or not this individual was visiting various churches in order to document the reactions he received. It sounds like an excellent idea for a book.

    My own personal question always comes back to why am I treated with a more welcoming approach when I attend a new church alone? When I bring my entire family back to "try" a church, inevitably the response is different. I'm not sure what causes this. Is it because I am an OK, and as such, tend to reach more than my family members? Is one individual alone more approachable than a family? I have many thoughts about this whole topic, but no really safe place to voice them for fear of offending the community where I so desperately want to belong.