Why Does Your Church Exist?

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Our topic for this month is “Leading With Why,” which spins off Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why. Published in the fall of 2009, Sinek’s book started a leadership conversation that is still going, a conversation around the simple premise that organizations who know their “why” create a loyal following. If any of our listeners haven’t read Sinek’s book or watched his Ted Talk, I would highly recommend you do so. He presents a simple yet revolutionary thought that can really transform any organization. Both resources are linked below.

In the church world, I think we are really good at describing what we do or how we do church, but are not so clear on the “why”. If we were honest with ourselves as leaders, we would realize that most of the conversations we have with people outside of our churches consist of descriptions of what type of church we are. Or, we discuss how we conduct our services; the length, service order, type of music we play, or the type of preaching we provide. Rarely, if ever, do we talk about why our church exists.

This mindset translates into the rest of the week as well. We focus on what we are going to do on Sunday and how we are going to do it, but the “why” becomes fuzzy. Sinek makes a strong case that it is important to begin with why if you want to make a lasting impact.

The “Why” Behind MyVictory Lethbridge

When I first arrived in Lethbridge eight years ago, I began our first staff meeting with this question: “Why do we exist?” A lot of discussion ensued around that topic and as we talked it through, our “why” became more and more evident. We realized that Jesus gave the “why” to the church when He said, “Go make disciples…” and that hasn’t changed over the past 2,000 years.

We also realized that in giving us the “why,” Jesus also provided us with the practical ways to accomplish it. But the “why” was central; we are to make disciples of Jesus. As we talked about it, we discovered that our current methods were more suited to keeping insiders happy and not focused on reaching the community and adding disciples to the Kingdom. In that meeting, we focused on the “why” of discipling and since then, we have been working on how to do that most effectively.

Unity Between Churches

When we as a church are too focused on what we do or how we do it, we tend to compare our methods with that of other churches. It breeds competition between churches and our effectiveness decreases. When we focus on the “why” of making disciples in our community, we unite as a team, working together to reach our communities for Jesus. In this environment, our differing methods aren’t threatening but embraced because we can each reach into a different part of society. We become partners and co-labourers; exactly how Jesus intended us to.

Simple Church

I believe that when you put your methods before your “why,” your organization will naturally become more complex. The tendency for all of us is to add a new “what” or “how” to stay effective and relevant which only leads to more complexity. Having a clear “why” will demand that we ask ourselves, “What is the best way to accomplish our why?” Then we can safely remove a current method and replace it with one that is more effective.

Having a clear “why” demands simplicity, whereas putting your “what’s” or “how’s” ahead of your why will only lead to complexity and confusion.

Jesus’ Why

As Christians, we get into weird theologies and practices when we focus more on the methods than the “why.” I’d encourage everyone to study the gospels and search for the statements that Jesus made in regards to His “whys;” why He came, why He operated the way He did. Look at implementing these into your lives and ministries.

Our purpose is just too important to get distracted by the nitty gritty “whats” and “hows.” Methods and methodologies change rapidly in today’s world and if we get stuck in them, we will become ineffective and irrelevant. Too much is at stake; the church is the hope of the world, given a mission to reach every available person, at every available time, by every available means, with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by creating churches unchurched people love to attend.

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