As local churches try to find their niche here and there, this question posed by pastor James MacDonald, of the Vertical Church fame, is an all-important one.
Pastor MacDonald begins,
Church consultants are everywhere these days, flying in, costing a fortune, and teaching church leadership teams to “establish their vision,” “figure out their unique value proposition,” “settle on a purpose statement and what they will offer to the community.” Demographic analysis, carefully targeted music, and ad campaigns to catch the eye of consumers, all designed in hopes of attracting people to your church. The results are tastefully crafted church names that remove offense for the irreligious, facilities that are hip with coffee shops, and mini Disney Worlds for kids, stage lights, sermon bumps, and preachers on stools with a bottle of Snapple. None of these things are wrong! Some of them are unquestionably helpful—but they are not, not, not what makes a church of Jesus Christ distinct.
Local churches do not need church consultants. They do not need to waste the Lord’s money flying in church consultants from here, there, and everywhere. Pastors and church leaders simply need to put their heads to the wheel–pray, study, and continue to serve, while they wait on that fresh wind from the Spirit of the Lord.
What James MacDonald says nexts is ultimately what our pastors and church leaders need to truly believe and build on:
Moses continued his foaming-mouth frenzy: “Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:16). Moses knew in the depth of his being that his only point of identity, his people’s only scintilla of significance, was the distinction of God’s manifest presence in their midst. If you accept the authority of God’s Word, you must embrace the distinctive mark on the people of God: what separates us from all other people groupings on the planet is the presence of God manifest among us. What Moses pleaded for can’t be had at the rotary club and has never visited the PTA. God’s manifest presence doesn’t come to the NFL or the NRA. What God gave to Israel then and wants to give your church today is our birthright as His children—the distinctive of His manifest presence in our midst. read more
Note how James MacDonald emphasizes “the presence of God manifest among us.” Pastor MacDonald is correct. Throughout Scripture, whenever God calls his people to accomplish a task, whether an individual or a group of God, he is always present among them.
The distinctive presence of God among his people is indeed our birthright and should be enough to allow local church pastors and leaders to move forward.