I was listening to the latest podcast from Catalyst the other day, featuring Andy Crouch. (By the way, listening to the Catalyst podcast is required listening for every church planter, pastor, or church leader. REQUIRED! Really, it is, look it up . . .) Andy has a new book, titled Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling. I haven’t read the book but I will soon. The podcast was great. The one idea that stood out the most for me was Andy’s discussion of the church and its need to be proactive in culture.
For most churches, we’re primarily reactive. Nobody hears from us and we don’t bother anyone until something culturally arises that gets our negative attention. We react to some social sin, some political slight, or some media smear. The world sits back and watches our reactions and that’s their total exposure to the church. Rightly or wrongly, our reactive nature only gets an AMEN from those who think like us, from those immersed in our culture. To those outside our culture, our reactions only reinforce their opinion and view of the church. All they know about us, the church, is what we’re against. And usually, it’s them.
On the other hand, proactive churches don’t wait for the world to slip up, then say or do something. They’re actively trying to change their local culture, their local community. They’re not driven out of their four walls by reaction. They’re driven out by Jesus’ call, a proactive call, to go into the world and make disciples. They’re not shaped by reaction but pro-action. These few churches are into letting the surrounding culture know what we’re for. We’re for the same thing Jesus is for: them.
As a church planter, God’s wired me to be proactive. But, to be honest, since early in the process of planting LifePointe, I’ve been mostly reactionary. In trying to shape the culture of our church, my recent tack has been to watch for challenges to our vision and mission and react with correction. I spend so much time reacting that I feel now I’ve almost lost that proactive view. That proactive view is driven by the vision and the dreams God gave me for a church that makes a real difference in the real world. But, at times, the dream seems to dissolve into simply survival. Pro-action takes a backseat to reaction.
So what does it take to return to a proactive church stance? I’m no expert, and I’m struggling to answer this question and regain my proactive nature. But here’s a few broad ideas I think we (I) can take to become more proactive in our (my) culture and community.
- Revisit the vision God has given you and your church. Our statement goes like this: LifePointe Church exists to bring glory to God by making disciples of Jesus Christ who impact their community and the world. That’s not a reactionary vision. That is proactive in three different areas: bringing glory to God, making disciples, and impacting the community and the world. That’s God’s vision for us.
- That leads to brainstorming and praying for proactive ways God wants us to bring Him glory. Proactive ways to making disciples. Proactive ways to impact our community and the world. We know the call. How do we make it happen? What will it look like it?
Even at this point, it’s easy to become reactionary. What are other churches doing? How did we do it in the churches we came from? What’s (__insert the latest and greatest hip megachurch here__) doing? That’s all reinventing the wheel. And it puts us in a creative box. When we go in this direction, we’re automatically limiting ourselves to others ideas. We’re reacting to what others are already doing. That’s not always bad, but think about it, how well did it work out at the other church? What is the cultural context of that big church that’s got the Midas touch?
- We should ask the questions, “What’s the cultural context of our community? What do we see as God’s idea for our community and culture? How do we create God’s idea for the community and culture?”
- We know God’s vision for our church. We study God’s Word and prayerfully discover His vision for our community. We take our church’s God-given vision, combine it with God’s vision for our community, and proactively move out to change and shape our culture and community.
- The entire church has to be saturated with the answer we arrive at. The proactive stance has to be emphasized over and over. Before we can become proactive in our community and culture, we have to see proactivity within the church. We have to make the shift from reactive to proactive. We have to bring back dreaming as a major part of our own church culture. We have to rediscover the whole point of the church from those pre-launch, core group days.
I haven’t fully developed all of this, obviously. But this is now my driving force, the question: “How can LifePointe proactively fulfill the vision God has given us as a church in our particular culture and community?”
I’m sure I’ll have more to come in the future as I immerse myself in this question. Much Bible study, soul searching, and prayer to follow. Feel free to comment.