I read that in the NFL, most teams will prepare upwards of 50 hrs a week in training, planning, practicing, and meeting for a Sunday game, which runs on average 3 hours, 12 minutes. Of course, a football team is completely geared toward that one 3 hour block of time when they go head to head with another team that has does the same routine that week. That 3 hour block of time determines a lot about the team’s future, about their success, about their identity, and about how many people cheer them on, not to mention profits.
Yesterday I had the pleasure of touring another missional church in our city and hearing their strategy and story. The Sanctuary Church in Old Colorado City is about 4 years old and sits right on Colorado Ave., in what was once considered the brothel/bar side of town back in the late 1800s.
As I toured the facility with Dr. E, the Lead Pastor, I heard story after story that could only be explained as God’s presence. In the worship center I saw “stations” where people could engage prayer, leave a note that represents their baggage at the cross (in an old trunk), draw art, be prayed over, receive communion, etc… It was a picture of “active worship.” I then was shown upstairs to several classroom areas which could be used for bible studies or other events but instead has been converted to a counseling center both faith based and secular counselors available. Downstairs, in more classroom space, there is a clothing closet for school children (since the school is across the street). Down another hall, rooms have been converted to a food pantry that is open weekly. There is another large classroom near the offices, but that is used each Sunday to feed bagels and coffee to the homeless neighbors around them. It occurred to me how the building, which was given to them for free (another God story), is so utilized all week for the Kingdom of God.
Dr. E made a statement during out visit that he doesn’t want to spend 80% of his time (or staff time) focusing on the Sunday event. That he wants to spend their time doing the things that fill 80% of the week. So their staff meetings are short, their worship planning meeting is short, but their investment into the things during the week is intense. They aren’t focused on 3 hours, 12 minutes on Sunday morning, though a precious time to gather as a community, they are focused on healing lives during the week…Sunday is a response to what God is doing.
Many churches have fallen prey to a cultural definition of church that isn’t very biblical. We think that we belong TO a church, instead of realizing we ARE the church. Many pastors and staff teams spend upwards of 50 hours a week preparing for 4-5 hours on Sunday, which then are measured for effectiveness. The Sanctuary Church has more stories of life-on-life ministry each week, even at only 190 members, than many churches do in several month time frames.
It begged the question in me; where do I spend my time of focus each week? Do I spend more time preparing to play, or more time playing? Christ-followers are not football players. Jesus, Paul, and the biblical writers layout a game plan that defines the game as ongoing, all the time, life. It’s not an event for the dispensing knowledge about God, no, following Jesus is gaining knowledge about God in the midst of playing the game…loving Him and loving our neighbors.
For a church to return to intended missional practices, maybe a health measurement is in order, seeing how much time is spent planning for Sunday vs doing ministry outside the walls. Maybe we should spend less time drawing out plays on the whiteboard for our team (congregation) and spend more time in the field, learning along the way. A really convicting measurement would be to ask a staff team at church “where the playing field is…”. Is it out where people live life on life experiences with each other, or is the playing field their children’s wing, or the student center, or the worship center, or the bible study rooms? In many ways, the church in America has moved the goal line for being Christian, where points are scored for a really good Sunday event, and where gaining knowledge ABOUT God’s mission is the goal. Preparing for a game is not the same thing as playing the game.