(Adapted from a document found on The Village Church website.)
Every church has a unique identity, a DNA if you will, which is formed by the interaction of theology, philosophy, and practice. It all starts with theology as a church’s understanding of God and His scriptures. This theology affects the philosophy of ministry, which each church operates by and within. Finally, this philosophy, founded upon the theological beliefs, affects the practical outworking of a local body.
To clarify the identity that we feel is our own it is easiest to describe contrasting approaches to ministry. Our desire is in no way to belittle or condemn those churches which may minister differently from us, but rather to affirm our unique identity as our theology impacts our philosophy and our practice. Following are five contrasting methodologies.
Attractional vs. Incarnational
Attractional approaches to ministry are those which basically take the “if we build it they will come” approach. These churches are typically known for their varied resources often including buildings and facilities, wide ranging programs and activities, etc. The idea behind this approach is that if you can draw people through your doors, you can keep them there.
Christ Fellowship likes to view things, not from an attractional, but an incarnational perspective. Instead of ministering on the basis of people coming to us, our approach is to take the ministry to the people. Like the Son of God descending to leave His heavenly home and dwell among those whom He loved, we want to be known for our willingness to take the gospel from within the walls of our building to affect the lives of those around us.
Width vs. Depth
Traditionally, most churches cite numeric growth as their driving evidence of success. Success is measured by quantifiable numbers of weekly attendance, small group attendance, bible study attendance, etc. Achievement is determined by the wide number of people with whom the message is shared.
Christ Fellowship understands a primary purpose of the local church is to make disciples. Not mere attendees or even converts, but disciples—mature followers of Jesus Christ. If our message has wide appeal, but no deep or lasting impact; if we only get people to attend, but do not make disciples, we have not succeeded. In the end, the Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be Christ’s disciples (John 15:8).
Marketing vs. Mission
Some churches exercise a marketing approach to ministry in which they hope to create a brand name to fit in a certain niche. Perhaps they are the church with good music, or a great drama team, or a really excellent children’s ministry. Like the attractional approach, the hope is to market the church to bring people in. The problem that we see with this approach is that it is generally true that “what you win them with is what you keep them with.” If you win people with lights and smoke, then next year you need more lights and more smoke. You are always forced to better your resources and marketing of those resources to distinguish yourself. The challenge is that culture is always changing and when you market a specific segment or ministry, then you inevitably teach that your church is not for everyone.
At Christ Fellowship we hope to win people by the gospel of Jesus Christ. If we can do this, then all we have to do to keep them is continue to preach the gospel—what we should be doing anyway. We hope to accomplish this through challenging our people to have a missional perspective as they live a gospel-centered life. So, the church will experience growth because of mission rather than marketing.
Entitlement vs. Sacrifice
A deep and pervasive sense of entitlement exists in much of the evangelical community. Those who have such an attitude, though they might not articulate it, assume that the church exists merely to meet one’s own felt needs. Therefore, the church that caters to such an ideology is forced to create thousands of different programs to meet those ever-changing desires.
The Bible teaches not that the church exists only to meet your needs, but rather that you exist to meet the needs of others and to glorify God…in doing so, your needs will be met and your joy will be full. A heart of humility does not demand “meet my needs,” but instead resists being catered to while seeking to serve, all the while understanding our need for Christ and for one another. In the end, the greatest need, felt or not, is for the gospel. If we spend our time meeting peripheral issues, all we have done is dealt with symptoms without addressing the disease. Certainly, we recognize the legitimacy of needs and are here to serve those with needs, but an attitude of entitlement and true service are always at odds.
Christ Fellowship believes that theology influences philosophy which in turn determines practice. Given that we believe in an incarnational, missional, sacrificial model, which seeks depth over width, we strive to align our practices with our beliefs.
Segregation vs. Integration
Another goal is to gear ministry toward integration instead of segregation. That means bringing together, or reaching, particular demographics through integrated ministry. We do not feel as though we must gear a ministry toward a particular demographic to reach that group.
You might ask the question, why integration instead of segregation? Following is a link to a helpful article: http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2014/may/dropouts-and-disciples-how-many-students-are-really-leaving.html? At first glance and for many decades now, segregation of ministry based on demographics such as age, social or cultural specifics, etc has been the norm. We must ask why many of this current generation are rejecting the “Christianity” of their parents and struggling with a committed faith in Christ.
Of those committed to faith in Christ and continuing on in that faith after they leave their parent’s home, a common factor is intergenerational relationships. In other words, they grew up living out their faith, learning in the faith, and participating in that faith with people of other generations, not just their own. There is a time and place for segregated ministry for children and adult, or age specific bible study and learning, but we should also make the effort to give our children, and us all, a well rounded and broad based faith experience. We learn through diversity of age, style, interest, conversation, interaction…so that is why we believe integration is a vital philosophy of ministry to build strong and lasting faith.
What does this mean for CFC?
One of the immediate implications for Christ Fellowship is that we hold loosely each of our ministries to see if they correspond to our theology and consequent philosophy and practice. We identify any ministries competing against one another for resources of staffing, time, and finances while at the same time fighting for attention and affection of our people.
We will consistently hold up our ministries to this challenge; Are we who we say we are? We pray He will continue to shape us as He wishes.