All churches need work; not all churches need the same work

We are just gearing up to move house. We have packers coming today to box up all our belongings and then, tomorrow, we will be moving. We’re not going far away, just around the corner from where we are now. But we are walking into a place that requires some work carrying out to the building. So, on top of the usual hassle of moving, we’ve also got about 2-months of building works to look forward and an even longer list of stuff that we want to get sorted whenever we have the means to do it.

We picked up the keys yesterday and had a bit of a nosey around the property. Some things were better than we had remembered. Some stuff was worse. There was probably more stuff that felt better than we remembered than stuff that was worse than we could recall.

There is also something haunting about empty houses. It will all be fine when our particular stuff is in place but, for the time being, it is just an empty shell that someone once lived in. It certainly doesn’t feel like our home. I am not very good at envisioning what things will be like when our stuff arrives, but my wife. She can already see where things will go and what they will look like, how things that currently look less than A-grade will be reasonable in due time.

It can often be like that in churches. If we are undertaking a revitalisation project, we have often inherited little more than a shell that requires an entire makeover. It needs somebody with enough foresight to see just how good things could be with a bit of work for things to really start moving again. Such situations, just like tired old homes, may just need a lick of paint in some places while other parts of the home need tearing down and starting all over again. All of this has to take place while you and your family are living in the house.

Others of us inherit fairly healthy churches that need very little changing for them to continue seeing growth and fruit. We don’t so much need the foresight to see how good things could be (though changes may, nonetheless, be necessary here and there), we rather need the good sense to see what is already good and not to rework what is already working well. These churches are like well-maintained homes in which somebody has put in lots of work, regularly and often, to make sure it remains good. There is relatively little work for us to do when we first move in, except to make sure we keep up the good maintenance of our predecessor.

If we are planting a new church, this seems closer to a new build situation. We are the builder, constructing the house, and designing it according to whatever we think is most appropriate. Everyone joining in the work of building has already signed up to the design before they start the project. Nobody is there before you, laying foundations that might cause problems later on. You are able to lay your own foundations, building upon it with a team who are fully behind your concept of how things should look in the end.

So, pastor, what sort of church are you building? Is yours a doer-upper, a well-maintained home or a new-build? All of them require work – some perhaps more than others – but not one of them allows us to do nothing. The house falling into disrepair will crumble to the ground if we don’t try to fix it. The good home that ceases to be maintained will soon need major work undertaking. The new build home that nobody is prepared to build will never come to exist at all. All kinds of church require work but the kind of work each church requires will differ. You need to know what kind of church you are leading to know what kind of work is required.