Church culture is always a funny thing.
Every so many years, a new church trend comes along and everyone starts jumping on a bandwagon while criticizing the bandwagon they just jumped off.
Right now, I feel like the bandwagon for many is to decry anything that is a church “program.” While I would agree that much of our church experiences have gotten “fat” over the years with unnecessary, inconsequential efforts and events, I don’t believe that we can label everything that looks like a program as evil. Especially when we are bemoaning those programs within the platform provided by another church program.
How can I use the platform of one church program to decry another church program’s too-much-“progamminess?” If I have to use a worship service (program), group meeting (program), class (program), event (program), or communication piece (program) to talk about how we don’t need to be programmatic as a church, I am blind to the double standard I am using. If I am not careful, I can be negative towards all the church programs that don’t highlight and encourage myself.
It’s not that we devalue programs in church – we simply devalue programs that are not our preferences.
I do believe that every church needs to evaluate the programs that they are currently providing, but I believe we also need to be thorough and consistent.
Types of Programs
- Worship – I value the corporate assembly of worshipers (1 Cor. 14:26; Acts 4:31). It is a biblical gathering but by having a time, place, and format, I think it can be classified as a program.
- Discipleship – I value the smaller assembly of groups (Heb 10:24-25; Gal 6:2) for the purpose of discipleship, but it is a program as well.
- Ministry – I value equipping the saints for ministry (Eph 4:12) and giving them room to serve. Regardless of how we try to slant it, it could still be considered a program.
- Mission – I value sending people out to share the gospel (1 Thess. 2:8) but normally these teams have training, times, and details that must be figured out. Sounds like a rather good program to me.
- Events – I value in differing degrees the gatherings of types of groups for certain purposes (Acts 2:46). I see certain groups and events as entry points into long-term discipleship and opportunities to develop relationships for such.
I don’t have a problem with any of those church programs as long as we can equate them all as that. The best programs in church would be those that become catalysts for lifestyles of discipleship. I can support a program within any church as long as the goal is to move them into discipleship groups or relationships with disciple-making mentors. Is it a part of the process?
Attending the “temple” together day by day through programs and activities is not a problem for me (Acts 2:46) as long as there is a next step.
- How could I outright decry a program that helped me get where I am today?
- How could I outright decry a program that I assume does nothing beneficial if I am never even involved in it?
- How could I outright decry a program that has helped others but never affected me?
We don’t have a program problem in churches, we have a priority problem.