What is a successful congregation?

by Peyton G. Craighill

Thoughtful church leaders know that something is wrong with our congregations. The problem lies with the our definition of a successful congregation. The widespread assumption is that two features mark success in a congregation:

  1. A full church on Sunday morning.
  2. Offering plates with sufficient funds to support an effective church program.

According to our secular standards, this definition implies a good business plan for a congregation.

But this definition does not indicate why God established and continues to give life and power to our congregations. God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to proclaim Good News. Christ established his servant community, the church, to help him with his mission of love and justice in “all the world.” Through our baptism, we become grafted into Christ’s Body, the church. We accept his Great Commission to share in his mission with him, Monday through Sunday, in everything we do in our everyday lives.

Based on this paradigm shift,  our congregations are changed from “spiritual filling stations” on Sunday morning to “base camps” for mission, Monday through Sunday. How do we get our members to accept this new meaning of church life?

The first step is that you and I must live out our baptismal covenant – in particular, the five promises that we make at the end of the covenant – in every decision we make and every action we take in all of our daily life activities. We have to let Christ transform us from “me-centered” to “Christ-through-me-centered” lives. That change in vision is essential to influencing our congregations to accept a missional approach  instead of an attractional approach to defining success in our congregations.

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