Is the Church Efficient?

I have an interesting recurring thought about the economics of church… do churches in the world today operate as efficiently as they could?  It depends on what their ultimate goal is, you could say.  What is the goal of the church?  What does the organization of the church exist for?  What is the primary reason for the existence of the local church?  What should the church be doing, and does it do that well?

I would say that it probably boils down to the Great Commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”  The mission of the church is to (1) preach the Gospel, (2) make disciples, and (3) teach them to obey God.

If that’s the mission of the church, are churches today actually doing that?  Are they actually using resources to the greatest effect in the pursuit of that mission?

I don’t think so.  In the United States, at least, I think many churches do one of those three things well, and some don’t do any of them.  Some churches today have lost sight of the mission of the church.  Some churches today spend so much money on their church building that it seems like the church building is their church’s vision.  Other churches invest their money in top-of-the-line electronics, youth group facilities, and coffee houses.  Is a coffee house the best way to reach people?  Is having couches in the youth room the best way to make disciples?

Now, I’m not saying that churches shouldn’t use their money for their buildings, or in couches, or in coffee.  However, I do think that many churches today are investing in all those things, but neglecting to actually do discipleship, actually do evangelism, actually do outreach.

At my church, Grace Church of DuPage, we used to like to keep a low profile.  We were the “intellectual” church.  We didn’t get involved too much in the community.  We didn’t advertise ourselves.  We had a fence around our property, to make sure that we didn’t get undesirables on our property.   But a few years back, some things changed.  We tore down our fences, invited our neighborhood to come in and visit, and started reaching out to the community around us.  We invited an after-school program for underpriviledged children to use our facilities.  We partnered with our local park district to host outdoor activities on our God-given grounds.  We started an evangelistic outreach to the local community college. 

These are the things that make the church more efficient, that make it hum like a well-oiled machine.  These are the things that help us to accomplish our purpose.

I think a lot about economics–what makes things more productive, what is the most efficient use of scarce resources–and I guess that it’s natural for me to think about whether the church is at its most efficient.

What do you think?  Is your church efficient?  Is your church accomplishing its mission?  What could your church do to be better?

  • Kacie

    Some things about my church drive me crazy, including the building program. But dang, I am SO so so convicted by the passion of my leaders for bringing people to Christ. It flows out of them, and as a result they bring people to Christ at fast food restaurants, in gas stations, as a result of conversationis in the grocery line. And so I see more people at my church that are new believers than I’ve ever seen before, and I realize that my thought that “most people in the US have heard the gospel” is dead wrong, and I am generally ashamed of sharing the gospel.

    True story.

    • Bob

      I agree, Kacie. Christ should flow out of us as normally as any other conversation, and it’s not the case for many people. Like you, I find it difficult to share the Gospel. That’s what churches should be focusing their resources on.

  • Eric

     Good article. Reaching outside that fence or wall is what IT IS ALL ABOUT—the Great Commission.

  • Brian

    It is a very delicate balance.  The church is for Christians.  Bringing the community into the church changes the church.  The church needs to go into the community, and with the power of the Holy Spirit change the community. 

    • Robert Ewoldt

      I agree with you that the church serves Christians. But that’s not the whole purpose of the church. The purpose of the church also includes reaching out to the lost.

      But even if you look at it only from the standpoint of the church serving Christians, does the church even serve Christians efficiently?

  • Donald Paluga

    Sadly your column is spot on. I’d say the percentage of churches doing those three things well is IMO 2%, maybe a bit higher.