Philosophy of Ministry
Every church has a unique identity. The particular way a church approaches ministry is based upon their understanding of the nature of God and the church. It also includes their values, vision, priorities and the people who compose the church. This ultimately determines a church’s philosophy of ministry or how they “do church.”
Pragmatism is the prevailing philosophy of some churches today. It is about what “works” or “sells.” No church intends to be irrelevant, but in fact, being relevant can actually become an idol. Some churches are in a “breathless chase after relevance without a matching commitment to faithfulness” (Prophetic Untimeliness: A Challenge to the Idol of Relevance by Os Guiness, p. 15).
We do not want in any way to suggest that we stand exclusively for the only way, or the right way of “doing church.” However, we do want our philosophy to be biblically sound and not subject to the changing winds of the latest trend or fad. In order for that to be true we must be “deeply rooted and radically focused on just a few basic things that God has called us to” (Doing Church: Building from the Bottom Up by Alexander Venter, p. 70). We believe a clear and precise philosophy of ministry will enable us to accomplish what God has called us to, if we keep focused and persevere.
The easiest way to clarify our philosophy of ministry is to contrast it from different approaches to ministry. As Os Guiness has written, “Contrast is the mother of clarity.” This contrast can be seen, for example, in the following comparisons:
o Attractional vs. Incarnational
o Width vs. Depth
o Marketing vs. Mission
o Consumer vs. Sacrificial Mindset
Attractional vs. Incarnational
An attractional church model basically takes the “if we build it, they will come” approach. This model is typically known for offering a variety of resources including rock walls, coffee shops, gyms, sports leagues, major productions, etc. The idea that motives this approach is that if you can just get the crowd in the doors, you can keep them there, and out of the crowd will come a church.
CrossWay prefers an incarnational approach. Instead of trying to attract people to an event or a building, our approach is to take the ministry to where people live. God places us in neighborhoods, classrooms, jobs, gyms, and coffee shops on purpose. We love, serve, witness, pray, and care for those whom God has placed in our lives in hopes that they too will see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Width vs. Depth
Some church models cite numeric growth as the driving evidence of success. Success is measured by quantifiable numbers of weekly attendance in the church’s different services and activities.
Studies have shown that numerical success, however, doesn’t automatically translate into spiritual depth. In fact, in many cases it has proven to be just the opposite. In spite of unprecedented numerical growth in a small percentage of churches in North America, there is an alarming lack of bibilical knowledge and an “ignorance of God—both of His ways and practices of communion with Him—that lies at the weakness of the church today” (Knowing God by J.I. Packer).
At CrossWay, we believe the primary purpose of the local church is to glorify God, love people, and make disciples. The first believers in the early church were known as disciples. Unfortunately, it has become acceptable for a person to become a Christian without any obvious sign of progress toward discipleship. Jesus commissioned His disciples to make disciples, not just to gather crowds, make converts, or nominal church members. Every Christian and every church needs to be committed to making disciples that are growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).
Marketing vs. Mission
Yet another approach to church seeks to utilize secular marketing as a ministry avenue, with the hope of creating a brand name that appeals to a certain niche. Perhaps the goal is to have the best band or choir, a great drama team, or Disney World-like children’s ministry. Like the attractional approach, the hope is to market the church as a desirable product that beats the competition, which sadly often means the church down the street.
The downside to this approach is that it is generally true that “what you win them with is what you must keep them with.” If you get people to come with lights, smoke and mirrors, then next year you need more lights, smoke and mirrors. A mega church pastor recently commented that he felt the pressure to “hit it out of the ball park every Sunday,” because as he said, “I realize the crowd can disappear within two weeks.” This approach makes the approval of the audience the “bottom line” rather than the message of the gospel and the approval of God.
At CrossWay we hope to win people with the gospel of Jesus Christ by teaching through books of the Bible. If we do this, then all we have to do in order to keep people is continue to preach the gospel—which is where we believe our focus should be. We hope to challenge our people to live gospel-centered lives and to stay on mission. Jesus said, “As the Father sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). We have a vision for a church that lives out this commission in the way we do carpentry, plumbing, nursing, art, business, government, sales, school, and act as neighbors. This means we are all missionaries in our own zip code. God has no greater method for building His church than men and women empowered by the Holy Spirit sharing the message of Jesus Christ through their transformed lives.
Entitlement vs. Sacrifice Mindset
A deep and pervasive sense of entitlement exists in much of the evangelical community. This is often known as a “consumer mentality.” Those who operate out of this mindset probably do not even realize it because it is such an integral part of our culture. This mentality assumes the church exists to meet the individual’s own felt needs. Unfortunately, the church that caters to such a mindset is pressured to create more and more new programs to meet these ever-changing desires.
At CrossWay, we believe the Bible teaches that the church exists, like Christ Jesus, for others. Jesus said, “I did not come to be served, but to serve and give my life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). A servant’s heart doesn’t say, “meet my needs,” but rather asks, “How can I serve others?”
Therefore, we believe the greatest need we all have is for the gospel. If the church spends all its time and energy in trying to meet the superficial and felt needs of people, it will only deal with the symptoms and not provide the cure for the disease. Certainly we recognize the legitimacy of real needs, but an attitude of entitlement and a heart of true service are incompatible.
How does our philosophy impact our practices?
Our first priority, which is also the driving passion in our Sunday worship service and all areas of ministry, is to be God exalting, Spirit-led, and gospel-centered. We embrace the fact that there are a variety of creative ways to accomplish this focus. But we also recognize that the “medium can easily become the message.” Therefore, we are careful to resist a performance mentality that uses hype or technology merely to draw a crowd or entertain without clearly communicating the gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 4:1-3).
Secondly, we desire to minister to singles, men, women, and students of all ages. However, we do not feel as though we must create a specialized ministry for every demographic. In light of this philosophy, our ministry practice to adults is primarily through our Lifegroups, which we believe are at the heart of our church family. Lifegroups are a place for men and women, young and not so young, singles and married to gather and do life together.
Thirdly, we realize that if we do not proactively disciple people, the culture will. People are inclined to automatically adopt the values of the culture over the values of the Kingdom. We also recognize the danger of church becoming little more than a “once-a-week-drive-through” experience for many Christians. Our mission is to make “biblically healthy disciples who are passionate about reaching the unchurched.” In other words, we want to make disciples who are passionate about reproducing more disciples.
We consistently review all of our ministries, starting with the Kids’ Discipleship Club to adult ministries, in order to ensure our practices are aligned with our philosophy of ministry - are we who we say we are? We pray the Lord Jesus will shape us to be a church that glorifies Him.
Copyright 2011 CrossWay Community Church
CrossWay Community Church, 807 Russell Palmer, Kingwood TX 77339, 281-358-5933