There is always a reason why churches do what they do. From the worship services to ministries, there is always reason (though not always a rhyme). When we look at those reasons as objectively as possible, and especially in the context of being gospel-centered, we discover that some reasons are better than others. This article will outline some of the most common reasons—both good, bad, and otherwise—why churches do the things they do. We’ll begin with the bad, or not-so-good, reasons.
Bad Reasons why Churches Do Things
- Tradition / the way it’s always been done / it’s what worked in the past. This is probably the number one reason why churches do what they do. However, society evolves, culture changes, and so our approach should also change. The only thing that does not change is message of Scripture. Traditions are nice, but traditions are never a reason to continue doing something.
- That’s how we were taught. Unless the teacher is Jesus, sometimes what we learned is wrong or no longer effective. We must learn new approaches and new methods, and then we must be willing to try new ways. You never know, a new approach may be far more effective at reaching non-believers, the religiously unaffiliated, and the unchurched.
- That’s the way it’s supposed to be done. Unless Scripture prescribes it (and in most situations this is not the case), there is no such thing as the “right” way. Rather, this reason is a cousin to “tradition” and is a statement of pride.
- That’s how we [this church, denomination] do it. This is the sibling to the “supposed to be done” reason given above, but uses the church or denomination to justify the reason. Just because a denomination or church has witnessed a certain way or held services at certain times does not mean that they are locked into that method or schedule.
- That’s how [insert person or place] does it. Another church or person may do it the way they do because it works for them. That does not mean it will work in another church or another city. Rather, churches should find what works for them to help them share Jesus more effectively.
- The denomination requires it this way. Any denomination that promotes a one-size-fits-all approach to ministry is failing to recognize the diversity abundant in this nation and the world. It also places ecumenical directives above the gospel. What works in one area may not be effective or needed in another. What matters is the gospel of Jesus, not the uniformity of the man-made creations we call denominations.
Plausible (but Insufficient) Reason why Churches Do Things
- It meets the physical needs of the community. It is an honorable thing to meet the physical needs of those in the community. However, meeting physical needs without addressing spiritual needs is social service, not gospel-centered ministry.
Good (or the Right) Reasons why Churches do Things
These reasons really don’t require much explanation. Furthermore, each of them are wonderful reasons for doing something.
- It enables people to share Jesus more regularly. The key phrase is “more regularly.” Scheduled outreach ministries often experience very low participation. Furthermore, they do not encourage every believer to evangelize in their daily lives.
- It promotes the gospel.
- It helps people know Jesus more / fosters spiritual growth.
- It meets the spiritual needs of the community. The greatest (and I would argue the only) spiritual need is a growing personal relationship with Jesus.
- It helps remove man-made hurdles to church or God. Scripture says that the cross is a stumbling block to the world. However, many Christians add other hurdles and roadblocks to coming to church or knowing Jesus. We can and should remove those man-made obstructions.
There is one reason that, when applicable, is always good. However, it rarely applies to specific ministries or schedules:
- Scripture / Jesus / God commands it. This reason rarely applies to specific types of ministries or to scheduling activities. The Bible does not require services be held at certain times or on certain days, nor does it require a weekly food bank or clothes closet. It does call on us to help those in need and, more importantly, to share Jesus with them. How and when these are done are up to each church.
Churches Must Re-evaluate Their Activities and Reasons
Churches should always be willing to re-evaluate what we do and why we do it. Ministries and church activities should always be gospel-centered. Also, they should help individuals grow in Christ, not overburden them with many church obligations.
When re-evaluating the church, everything should be examined. This includes service times and dates, music, sermon style, fellowships, outreach activities, needs-based social ministries, small groups/Sunday school, and everything else. If something is done for the wrong reason, then something needs to change. If it is done for the right reason, then it should be encouraged.
Our mission is the gospel. Everything churches do should be about promoting the gospel.