The Golden Circle and Church
I suggest most of our churches (and many of our leaders) are perfectly conditioned to be ordinary. We have been trained to “sell” our “product” based on What and How rather than Why.
“Hey, we do church right here. Our name is right. Our organizational model is right. We worship in the proper manner. We are committed to restoring New Testament Christianity. We follow the commands, examples, and necessary inferences of Scripture.” We know what we do and feel comfortable talking about the details and features of our church’s life—all that What stuff. And we assume that our “customers” will be equally interested in talking about church and faith at that level.
We even venture into How territory on occasion. “This hermeneutic is how we make sense of the Bible. Here’s how we exegete Scripture. This is how our understanding of baptism (or instrumental music or gender roles—fill in your favorite “issue”) differs from other groups. And it is this difference that makes us better, more pleasing to God, more faithful to the New Testament pattern.”
Many churches and leaders talk this way not only to outsiders but to insiders as well. We talk to each other in the language of What and How. “Here is a list of our ministries. These are the foreign missions we support. Here’s the percentage of our budget dedicated to benevolence. These are the names of the twelve apostles. There are twenty-seven books in the New Testament. Here are ten passages that focus on tithing. Small groups meet on Tuesday nights. Our sermon series for the next few weeks is on the book of Titus.” Lots of What. Some How. Little Why.
It is not these matters themselves I would call into question so much as the priority they are given in discussions about faith and church. Whatever your opinions about such issues, could we at least agree that this is not where conversations about faith and church should begin or center? When we start with (and stay on) the What and How of church rather than the Why, it should not surprise us if the result is boring … bland … uninspiring.
Yet it does surprise us! We can’t understand why people remain obstinately unexcited about the inner workings and features of our church. We can’t understand why they won’t plunk down large portions of their lives to join a church that is 17.93% better than the church down the road.
Leaders and churches that want to attract, inspire, and motivate people will think, act, and communicate differently. They will start (always) at the center of the Golden Circle (Why). They will talk first and frequently about their purpose, their vision and mission, their sense of calling from God, their core convictions, and the goals that energize them. They will clearly and constantly point people to the reasons they exist and the purposes they are pursuing. They will explicitly and eagerly invite others to join them in giving their lives to matters that matter.