Here is something I am playing around with for a larger piece I am trying to write.
Growing a Church’s DNA
D.N.A. is the collection of proteins that combine to give each of us our unique and individual make up. It truly is the foundation material of our identity. People can be identified through D.N.A. People can also be connected to others through sharing of D.N.A. (from parent to child). D.N.A. is remarkable in giving us a basis for our identity and relating us to others.
Each church has DNA also. There are some fundamental elements that help give us identity. There is also a basis in our DNA for how we relate to one another and the people around the church. DNA does not limit us in who we can be. It only offers us the foundation for growing into who we are. Each church needs to identify its DNA and compare it to the One who gave birth to the church, Jesus Christ.
A United Methodist Church is to be a place of practical divinity. Practical divinity is a phrase drawn from John Wesley’s opinion of his work. He was not a systematic theologian – he didn’t write thick books on which he explained who God was. He was more concerned with who God is in our lives. His writings reflect a concrete application of scriptural revelation concerning the nature of God. Practical divinity is about making God’s nature a reality in people’s lives. John Wesley strove to do that in 18th century England. We are about making God’s nature a reality in people’s lives in 21st century community.
Our purpose or mission is to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We do this by four means: mission, witness, nurture, and discipline. The church serves as the connection point or hub to engage people in a life of discipleship. We invite people to encounter God through mission and witness. We grow people in becoming followers of Christ through nurture and discipline. Then we send people out to minister and be agents for transformation in the world. Supporting this mission these values that cannot be compromised for any reason.
First, we constantly remember that Christ is the source of our strength and identity. No religious institution or tradition, no individual’s personality or qualities can supply all we need. Only Christ, the Savior and Redeemer, our hope and salvation, can be the source of strength and identity for what we do and who we are.
Second, we must keep our focus on people. Christ did not come into the world to transform religion or to reform the world. He came to be among his people and to heal their hurts. He went where the people were. He listened to their stories. He saw their needs. He never took his eyes off of the people. We must always look at Christ’s people.
Third everything we do should be a source of healing, or at the very least cause no harm. Christ’s teaching and healing were inseparable. His mission in the world was to proclaim freedom and healing. Our efforts should intend no harm to anyone but should be done with the intention of leaving that person better than when we first met them.
Fourth we can never give up. Christ is our source of strength. The world cannot overcome the victory we receive in the name of the risen Lord. He has overcome death and the grave, our mortal enemy. He gives us hope and reason to celebrate in everything. So we must give thanks to God and continue to persevere in the expectation of overcoming.
Fifth, we face the unknown and the new through imagination, innovation, and adaptation. Christ told the disciples he was about to do something new. Every opportunity we face should follow Christ’s example. We allow ourselves to do something new in order to accomplish mission. We adapt to the surrounding situations in order to minister more effectively. We cannot allow ourselves to be stuck in complacency or stagnation because we haven’t done something before. Christ ministered to the Gentiles, the unwashed, the diseased, and the outcast. We approach ministry looking for new ways to heal and help.
In order to fulfill our mission and honor our values, we place principles or guiding standards around our lives and activity. Above all else, we put ourselves in a position to seek the Holy Spirit’s direction and power. In order to reach God’s people and do God’s mission thus fulfilling God’s will, we must seek the Spirit’s guidance and power. If we do not begin at this point, we will be ill equipped to do anything else.
To fulfill our mission of inviting, we need to remember to do two things. First, always remain outwardly focused. The church was born for the people who are not yet part of the church. Jesus called on his disciples to go into the world baptizing and teaching people about him. This implies that we are called to focus on people who have never been a part of the church. Second we need to build and maintain loving, caring relationships. This begins in our homes but extends into every relationship we have. If people do not perceive that we love or care for them, our invitations will be hollow and return empty.
To fulfill our mission of growing, we need to concentrate on five areas.
• One, learning and growing in our walk with God and with one another in a safe and affirming environment.
• Two, train, model, and practice daily spiritual disciplines.
• Three, come together regularly and faithfully to worship God in ways that engage our hearts, minds, souls, and bodies.
• Four, teach and encourage all members that they are stewards of God given resources and challenge them to give sacrificially for the sake of Christ and others.
• Five, identify recruit, train, and empower leaders to be servants to the entire body.
To fulfill our mission of sending, we have two important principles. First, wisely administer all of our resources to provide the maximum amount of support and hold one another accountable that we are being honoring and answering to the DNA through the use of our resources. Second, network with other churches and faith-based organizations with compatible DNA to ensure the widest possible ministry effort and provide hope and healing further into the community.
A church’s DNA amounts to its Purpose or Mission, Values, and Vision or guiding principles. Everything a church does is based on enhancing the DNA. Each action or decision is compared to the DNA and then carried out only as it truly honors and answers to the DNA. Once the DNA has been formulated the leadership of the church seeks to understand and live it out. Each member is taught and expected to accept the DNA of the church. This may sound tyrannical or hard-lined. The truth is that if people cannot identify with who the church is our mission will encounter resistance. If our mission is resisted we cannot live what God calls us to be. If anything does not honor or advance the DNA of the church, it is dropped. From this position the church is ready to move forward in the mission field with Christ our shepherd.