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Form and Function

Ever get to be a part of a group that has the ability to see beyond the form as they seek to grasp the function? I do and am very, very grateful for it.

Let me explain.

The past couple of months for me has been full of weighty thoughts and deep conversations about the way we do what we do as a church. It’s been completely refreshing because they’ve happened at the highest levels of leadership. Now, before we get too far ahead of ourselves you must know that we are simply dialogging about what is and what should be. The future could range from radically different to no difference at all. The point is: we are talking about how we best maximize our redemptive potential. I think that’s a critical question to repeatedly ask over time as people lead a local church.

Unfortunately, many churches get all too enamored with some model (of church) they saw operate with great effectiveness and adopted it, never to look back. At first, maybe even for decades it worked well for them and the context they lived in…but then something changed. Maybe it was the leadership, maybe it was the context, maybe it was everything in between but something changed that made their current model less effective for reaching and discipling people in their neck of the woods. But they don’t change. They like the form (the model). It gives them comfort because of its familiarity, its easier because all your systems revolve around it and most of all it takes less courage to change (I mean, think of all the people you might lose if you shifted gears now).

The only problem is the function of the church has left them with little more than a crowd who comes to be either entertained or feel better about checking the “I went to church” box for the month. Disciples…real ones…are hard to find. That scenario necessitates the need to discover a better way to function – and that takes courage to ask the tough questions about form because it just very well may be the major player in the inability to “produce” better disciples for Jesus. It might not, but it might be.

In some churches the form/model is sacrosanct. Not in mine. I didn’t say it was easily exchangeable, just that it wasn’t created out of granite. One of the most invigorating aspects of my ministry at the church I serve is the fact that we’re asking the questions about form and function. Will things change? Maybe, maybe not. But the fact that we’re asking the question brings me much hope for today…and the days to come.

Church leader, look in the mirror and ask yourself,
Is the way we do church maximizing our redemptive potential in the area God has placed us?

What’s the answer?
What do you need to do about it?
Who do you need to dialogue with?

Picture of Yancey Arrington
Dr. Yancey C. Arrington is an eighth generation Texan, Acts 29 Network and Houston Church Planting Network fan, and Teaching Pastor at Clear Creek Community Church in the Bay Area of Houston. He is also author of Preaching That Moves People and TAP: Defeating the Sins That Defeat You, and periodically writes for Acts 29 and The Gospel Coalition.

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