January 30, 2009 Tony Morgan

Are we married to the mission or the methods?

We operate in denominations and congregations, while the rest of the world is open source.

We listen to worship music, while the rest of the world listens to hip hop and pop.

We talk about history, while the rest of the world talks about reality.

We are local, while the rest of the world is global.

We need the church to connect us in groups, while the rest of the world finds their own friends.

We share our message at specified times on Sunday morning, while the rest of the world uses video on demand.

We use bulletins, while the rest of the world is on Facebook.

We are concerned about the structure and the rules, while the rest of the world is focused on the content.

We create everything, while the rest of the world lets everyone create.

We are centralized, while the rest of the world is organic.

We think the web is for sharing information, while the rest of the world thinks it’s for community.

We send direct mail, while the rest of the world is using text messages.

What do you think? Are we married to the mission or the methods?

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

Comments (22)

  1. Lee Fields

    we should marry the two together. use the best (which the world knows as everyday life) to obtain our objective. If we can do what “they” are not doing, or do it better, then we will be on to something.

  2. I hope that we’re married to the mission. I have to say that I loved the increased “Open Source” feel happening in the online community. So grateful to be able to learn from others and contribute to the conversation when able.

  3. Sam Marsh

    We also have the potential – backward though our church culture may be sometimes – to build genuine and lasting community.

    Besides, not all churches are that backward!

  4. Unfortunately, the people who really need to read a post like this never will because they’re not part of this community and may never even read a blog.

    What are we to do about that?

    Also, the next question could be something like: Does our philosophy drive our actions (ministries), or do we manufacture a philosophy to justify our actions (ministries) after the fact?

  5. Pat

    I think by “rest of the world” you really mean “north america.” We like to think the whole world is the same as the world immediately around us, but it’s not.

  6. Many of the new and old churches are more married to their method than the mission. If Christian Leaders would start trying to create hunger in people to BE the church instead of continuing to view it as something people GO to…the “open source” community, ministry, relationships, evangelism, etc. would become much more of a reality.

    That’s the real difference between the early church and what we all refer to as church. They WERE the church…they didn’t GO to church. Did they assemble? Of course. But they were continually pursuing the mission Christ gave them even when they weren’t in an official assembly. They didn’t need the organized church leaders to put together “bait” to help them invite their friends to hear the Gospel. THEY were the bait. Their changed lives, their love for one another, and their efforts to serve people were the attraction.

    I think rather than a “church” trying to chase down whatever the new methods are…what would be more effective would be if that “church” was encouraging and teaching the people that assemble with them who are already on facebook, texting, having dinner with friends, etc. to BE THE CHURCH…BE THE BODY OF CHRIST WHEREVER YOU ARE. It’s organic open source at it’s finest.

    Shortened: Equip saints to do the work of the ministry and spread the Gospel in their own languages instead of relying so heavily on one or two preachers to present the Gospel for them. Relationship is the strongest tie to Relevance.

  7. snap! @tony you are so right… I spent many yrs in campus ministry and at some point realized that we spent so much time trying to create what was happening naturally on campus through other groups including fraternities and sororities.

    @pat… you are right… however, for many of us our mission is “north america” so that is our world. not to say we shouldn’t think global… sometimes we spend so much time thinking global and being “far sighted” that those at our feet are starving.

    Thanks Tony!

  8. danielle

    i’m married to the mission, but i was betrothed to the methods by my organization.

  9. Couple of things:

    *People gather in Tribes. I think early Christians gathered together out of desire and necessity. Should that change?

    *I know a bunch of people who were anxiously sitting on their couches waiting for LOST to broadcast. That which is excellent and anticipated does not have to be Video On Demand.

    Sometimes bad marriages are idiocy, but sometimes we’re just not aware they’re bad.

    Awesome post! Have you heard about “The Divine Commodity”?

  10. I agree – but SOME people in the Church are doing it right.

    Your post makes it seem like the whole entire church is irrelevant to its culture. Not true. And what did Jesus do when he was on the earth? He was radically relevant but not afraid of offending anyone.

  11. Tony Morgan

    rick, this post isn’t about being more relevant. it’s about people hearing the Gospel message. we’re using a language that our culture doesn’t speak. it’s not different than trying to preach the Gospel in english in india. people won’t respond, because they don’t understand. same thing is happening today in the u.s.

    we want people to hear the message, but we want them to hear it on our terms. that’s pretty arrogant of us don’t you think?

  12. Michael

    great post with great thoughts. it’s important to know where “the rest of the world” is for your ministry. in my small town, facebook hasn’t replaced bulletins and text messages haven’t replaced direct mail. hoping that day comes quickly, but it’s not quite here yet.

  13. Hi Tony …. Yeah, what they hear is definitely more important than what we say. As someone who teaches a church of about 20 nationalities every Sunday morning, it’s something I have to be very careful about.

    I just have a knee-jerk reaction to the attention that repackaging our churches receives among church leadership. I’m speaking in generalities, obviously, but it seems we have serious spiritual issues that no amount of repackaging will fix. If God actually showed up in our church communities and if lives were being transformed, then I think the hungry, thirsty, and broken would listen.

    That said, we need to understand our cultures and how the gospel speaks to them.

  14. We watch ‘Fireproof’ while the rest of the world watches pornography

    We love our neighbor while the rest of the world loves themselves.

    We worship God while the rest of the world worships pop stars and athletes.

    We live for Christ while the rest of the world lives for money.

    I totally get what you’re saying and yes, too many of us too often become focused on the method – and are unwilling to change it.

    The danger I see though is that some people get so focused on abandoning tradition and becoming ‘contemporary’ that they lose focus on what’s good and right and holy.

    It is easy to try so hard to be relevant that you actually lose focus on the mission and become married to the method all over again.

  15. Joel Schneider

    This article has really made me think over the last couple weeks. I’ve realized it isn’t just the way the church runs, its also the way I’ve run.
    I’m more focused on task like reading my bible than I am on the vision, the goal, what I am trying to reach.
    I need to focus more on what the vision for my life (the mission) and let the methods (reading my bible, praying) fall in place to accomplish it.

  16. Donny G

    To a large extent the accusation is true, the church has built up its walls and now prefers to hunker in the bunker of their congregational meeting houses, only letting in those who meet a strict criteria in dress, speech, and economic compatibility. Follow our rules and you can join our exclusive club, and we will teach you how to successfully market Jesus. And the world looks on with disgust and contempt for those who are of this ilk. Unfortunately that is what this world thinks of when they think of Christians. It is up to us to change that perception. We have to break out of the “American-ized” mentality of churh and Gospel Presentation and get back to living the message in a radical sense as Jesus taught His disciples. We are so caught up in our “rights” and comfort and affluence that we no longer affect the culture… the culture affects us.
    That is a broad stroke of the brush I know but fairly accurate on the whole. Yet there always has been and always will be a remnant until Jesus’ return. Until then we are to be busy about the Father’s work until He does return (not just biding time until we are “raptured” out of here). That was the whole point of the stewards, five talents, or one talent it is to be used not hidden away in some vault waiting for the master to return so we can show him how well we have kept what he has given us but how through using what he has given us how it has increased.
    So let’s live as if we really believe what we say we believe. If your behaviour does not mirror your beliefs then you do not believe what you say you believe and you are a hypocrite. The type the world sees through and labels “Typical Christian.”
    Just a thought.

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