Church: Cause, Corporation or Community?

The office staff and I are busy preparing for our annual meeting on Sunday, February 12.  Sometimes it feels like a giant jigsaw puzzle.  Last year  I wrote a post regarding the annual meeting.  In it I argued that every annual meeting needs the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide and challenge us. It remains my prayer this year.

Congregational meeting have often gotten a bad rap because they deal with controversial topics like budgets, mission and staffing. They are the central moment when the corporate business of the church takes center stage. Many (including myself) have a discomfort with this focus because it is not our strength. I did not feel call by God to RUN a church, but rather to preach the Gospel and to shepherd God’s people. Yet the corporate business of the church is necessary.

Twenty years ago Jim Dethmer wrote an article for Leadership Journal that continues to help me. He described the church as having three primary identities: Cause, Corporation and Community. As a Cause the church is like an army with a central mission: to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ and to drive back the forces of evil. The model participant in the Cause is the engaged volunteer who works hard to spread God’s love and grace in word and deed.  As a corporation, the church is like a business, seeking to use its financial resources in the most “profitable” ways. As a corporation the church tries to be a wise steward of its assets.  Finally as a Community the church is like a family with the central attribute being love. The focus of that love is often on the weakest among us: the sick, the grieving, the unemployed.

All three identities (Cause, Corporation and Community) have value and purpose. Scripture bears witness to all three circles.  They also can conflict with one another from time-to-time. The Holy Spirit is needed in all three circles so that such conflicts can be creative and energizing, rather than destructive.

Dethmer rightly observed that pastors often have a strength in one of these and a weakness in another. I invested much of my pastoral ministry in the community circle, writing my Doctor of Ministry Thesis on Congregational Care. I also have a passion for the Gospel of Jesus and how it can impact people’s lives. My weakest area is the corporate or business side of the church. I am very thankful for those members of Resurrection who have that as their strength and passion.  With each person using their strengths and gifts, the church can function well in all three circles.

Which circle is your passion and strength?

Lord Jesus, send your Holy Spirit to empower us to your church.

3 thoughts on “Church: Cause, Corporation or Community?

  1. sarah

    As we have discussed in the Dependable Strengths workshop, it can be hard to name our own strengths. But as I read this, the first circle (cause) is the one that resonates with me.

  2. Pingback: Cause, Community, Corporation

  3. Pingback: Cause, Community, Corporation - Jeffrey Long

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