Those who know me know I am a huge fan of "The Why" over "The What." I'll get on a kick where I study an individual or a particular organization, not necessarily because I love WHAT they do, but because I'm fascinated by WHY it works. Several years ago I moonlighted as a medical equipment technician during a tough time in ministry. Part of that job required being able to disassemble power wheelchairs and hospital beds and fix the broken pieces. One principle I came to understand quickly is that if you don't know why something works when it works, you won't know how to fix it when it breaks.
Christianity. The Church. Both operate under this same principle. We love the joyous user experience when it has that new-car smell and requires no maintenance. For a time, these vehicles transport our spirit to great places and we have no problem recruiting others to hop on board with us. But with mileage plus some wear and tear, pieces start to malfunction. Because we never studied WHY they worked, we fail to truly diagnose what has gone wrong.
A few months ago I stepped into my fifth "church flip" project. As a consulting pastor, when a church is struggling to navigate transitions of all sorts, they require some intentional coaching and Christ-filled TLC. I'm sure we will walk through many of the lessons here in the coming days, but one stood out to me in particular today.
In this facility, one of the first places a guest stepped foot in, especially if they were dropping off children, was a long room. In it was mostly storage, junk, dingy paint, and tile from your grandma's house. Decades ago, it was the "social hall" for this assembly prior to multiple additional building phases. So, when people referred to this space, many called it "The Old Social Hall." Buildings matter because people matter. And names affect perception. So, we began an overhaul of this highly important space, and with the renovations came a new name: "The Commons."
The Commons will be equipped with couches for fellowship, lighting for enjoyment, coffee for non-morning people, and decor that says "welcome home" to anyone who walks through the door. Makes perfect sense to you and I, though for many there was an uproar! One even complained about the fact that they believed in the Holy Spirit inspired name: "The Old Social Hall." (Sarcasm added for emphasis....though its not far from the truth.) So, if you're a pastor facing a situation like this, I'd like to give you the reason we have a commons and no longer have a "social hall."
Because true Christ followers would rather be a part of a church where the mission is for everyone to know Christ rather than go to a church where everyone knows each other.
I love church dinners and anything that involves free dessert as much as anybody! Don't get me wrong, I'm not despising the history that brought us to where we are today. But it is my earnest desire that the church grow so deep in discipleship that the width of their small group reach could not fit combined into a social hall. When our focus is on BEING the church rather than GOING to church we view the church house as a starting point, a gas station if you will rather than a rest area destination. "Back in the day," it was through church socials and Sunday School classes that discipleship was done effectively, families did life together, and souls were reached for Christ and plugged into the church. But decades of unmonitored use and undiagnosed depletion turned what was the means to the end into "the end." That which was the vehicle for the commission became our great focus. In other words, "social" took the place of "salvation" in most churches.
So, If you're looking for a social hall gathering, I'd like to recommend Bingo night at the community center or karoke at Applebees. But as for me and my house, we want to create environments that draw people into a passionate journey of new life in Christ. Welcome to the Commons, where rich or poor, old or young, black or white, we have a common taste for coffee and donuts. A common problem with sin. A common solution in salvation. And a common community of souls to win.