The other day, I wrote about whether or not we have to choose between doing two different things. My answer was that quite often we can do “both/and” rather than “either/or.” Why did I say this? Well, the answer is that often in life we create false dichotomies. By “We” I mean specifically evangelical churches.
Here are some of them that I’ve seen over the years:
– Evangelism or pastoral care – are we inward looking or outward looking
– Looking after the elderly or being welcoming to young people and families
– Head or heart – emotions or brains.
– Plural leadership and every member ministry or fulltime pastors (a particularly Brethren problem).
– Supporting global mission or local mission.
– Stepping out in faith or being practical and counting the cost.
Those are examples of things where you don’t have to choose and I think there are lots more. As I mentioned the other day, the question we had to answer was about whether to look for one type of staff worker or another.
Another decision that churches sometimes have to make (and the one that prompted these articles) was to do with employing staff or investing in property. Again, I would start with “why choose?”
You need somewhere to meet? Right? You’ve outgrown the front room where you have been meeting. You’ve got to do something about the fact that your existing building is falling down and no matter how much money you throw at it, you are throwing good after bad. You’ve discovered after careful assessment and through painful experience that no matter what you do, the venue where you meet is just in the wrong place or has unpleasant associations and people don’t stick (venue does matter more than we appreciate, I know of one church that moved venue from one school to another school round the corner and it made a significant difference). Yet, that doesn’t change the fact that you still need people around to work for the Gospel.
That’s why, there are times when you need to stand up and say “We need to do both (or more) things because they are not competing priorities, they are part and parcel of the same priority.”
Now, to know this, you need to have a clear understanding of what your vision is. You see, the thing that rules out doing some things as opposed to other things should be the vision.
So, when we chose to invest in a community hub building, start a second service and bring in extra trainee workers, we could see that these all complemented each other as part of a desire to reach out into a local community and to multiply opportunities to share the Gospel. These opportunities did include the need to ask people to give sacrificially both in terms of money and time. They did, and are still doing.
However, we did make choices, there were other things we did not do. Some people said “Why can’t we invest in a new building, either on another site, or by redeveloping our existing site?” We decided not to.
Why? Well we recognised that at that particular time, a new building would have been the wrong solution to the challenges we faced because it wouldn’t have helped us in our mission aims. I’m not saying that we will never do a building project like that – and certainly a building project was part of the 2012 strategy.
The point is this. If we had not been planting new congregations, if we hadn’t been opening a community café, etc would we then have seriously pushed a building project. I still think the answer is no. It wasn’t that it was an “either/or” it was that it would never have been the right thing to do at that time.
Now, saying that we want to do everything in terms of our vision and goals obviously doesn’t mean that we do everything at once does it? So there are still other ways in which we make choices. We’ll come back to that shortly.