The Church is a Zoo

Building on my last post: Why do the people who thrive spiritually at your church thrive? This is the habitat question. There are three ways to find out. 1) Guess, 2) Educated guess, 3) Ask them. Three seems the most logical except that many people don’t know themselves why they are thriving. So, let me encourage you to follow the steps in order. Take your best guess. Look at the evidence. Then, verify by talking to people. Ask them: What about our church helps makes abundant life in Christ more possible? Take all three steps and you’ll get a pretty good sense.

One final thought: if God is bringing people different than those you thought He would bring, rejoice that He’s drawing any of His children to your church at all. There is nothing wrong with aiming in a direction that makes sense for your ministry context and gifting. However, if you find yourself ignoring those God is sending, don’t hold your breath waiting for Him to fulfill your vision. Even as we use the heads God gave us, we must always be attentive to His Spirit in us.

I remember once starting a new ministry to reach the Hispanic community that surrounded the building. It was tailor-made for them. Who came? Asians from 15 miles away. I remember starting a ministry to reach young families that drew grandparents who were raising their kids kids. I remember changing music style to reach younger people only to find we reached former hippies who loved the rock sound. Yet, the more faithful we were at pastoring the people God sent, the more God sent us the people we thought we were supposed to reach.

It was only when we didn’t see people as a means to an end that God brought us the end we desired. Sometimes that never happens. But, often it does. It’s like He was testing us to make sure we were actually about people, not just the “right kind” of people. I’ve actually come to expect such spiritual testing as a part of any ministry plan.

  • If you want to start a church—expect great struggle before you gain traction. Before He entrusts the Lost to you, you must be prepared to love them. That love will likely be formed on the crucible of struggle on their behalf. Embrace it, don’t despise it.
  • If you want hipsters (though I don’t know why you would 😉 ), except the unhip to show up first. God expects you to love them. If you won’t…you likely won’t have hipsters at your church…because you’d just use them—not love them.

Ministry is God’s holy mission to redeem all people–and He loves all people. His teaching us to do the same often precedes achieving what we thought we were supposed to do first. What I’m trying to say is…the habitat we need to create is more like a zoo. God’s favorite habitat is the one where all His children can thrive.

You won’t be able to build the whole thing right away. So, build it in the order He send people to you. Open that “exhibit” or “habitat” first…then another, then another.

The next thing you know that zoo will look a lot like a church.

 

 

 

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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