What church doesn’t want to new people to start coming on Sunday, right? But what is the underlying reason for that desire to reach new people? Are we looking for more people to ease the burden of paying the growing overhead expenses of the church? Are we short on people to volunteer to carry out the ministries we have always conducted? Do we grieve not having young children to go forward at children’s time during worship? Or are we as disciples who make up the congregation, heartbroken because more people in our neighborhood are not experiencing this loving relationship with Jesus that we have had the honor and privilege of experiencing? Do we have a burning desire to love our neighbors as Christ loves us so that we can introduce Christ to them?
Christian social innovation is motivated by love – the love of Christ. We innovate as a church to have a greater Kingdom impact. Of course, there can also be all sorts of additional benefits such as launching additional ministries, job creation, feeding people, clothing people, additional revenue streams, and much more. But the underlying motivation must first be that we are doing it for love. Spoiler alert . . . isn’t that why we should be doing everything in the church? Kenda Dean sums it up like this.
“Innovating for love means holding our ideas for ministry loosely to make room for the Holy Spirit’s work as well as ours, lest we drive ourselves (or others) into the ground. Love surpasses our need to succeed. Innovative ministries mutate, adapt, change, and when we no longer need their scaffolding to love people well, they fall away. But love never fails.”
A few months ago, I was on a coaching call with a mid-size church pastor. Emerging out of the pandemic, his church was growing in attendance, generosity, staffing, and ministries. Even the church’s endowment was growing. This pastor was ripping through a list of the church’s goals for the year including a significant growth in the endowment. I stopped him mid-sentence and asked him the purpose for the endowment. Stunned, he replied it was to provide services for the community. Probing further, I asked what kind of services. After a few more questions, it turned out the church wrote significant checks each year for donations to local social services. While these non-profits did some good things for the community, I asked the pastor how funding those social services helped the church in its mission of making disciple-making disciples who transform the world starting with transforming his community. Several seconds passed as the pastor looked at me in disbelief. He then replied, “I got so caught up in raising the funds that I lost sight in why I was doing so. I forgot the mission. I failed to connect to the why. I need to go back to the drawing board.”
When our church gets stuck or we want to go back to when ministry felt easier, sometimes in our desire to see the church flourish again we might lose sight of our why. Our motivation becomes misguided. We lose sight of Jesus’s Great Commission.
If your church is looking to impact your community in a fresh way or perhaps your church has a desire to innovate with love, but just not sure where to start, join Kenda Dean, author of Innovating for Love: Joining God’s Expedition through Christian Social Innovation and Kay Kotan, Founder of the Greatest Expedition (Innovating for Love is one of the resources in the Greatest Expedition) for a virtual cohort experience starting in January. Click here for more information and to register. Space is limited, so recruit your team and register soon! Kenda and Kay can’t wait to meet you and begin this expedition together through Christian social innovation!