Partakers Or Participants?

Posted on: November 7th, 2013

How do we motivate people to be involved in our church? That’s a question we hear repeatedly as we meet with pastors and church leadership teams. It is not a new problem, but one the church has always encountered.

As a matter of fact, Jesus faced the same issue in the course of his ministry.  Crowds of people would gather just to see him and hear him speak, but many went away without any commitment to his message or his cause.

People often fall into one of two categories: partakers or participants. Partakers are those who love to come and be with other people and take all they can from the experience.  Serving food? I’ll come. Special music event? I’ll come. Celebrating in worship? I’ll come, most of the time. Lead a small group?  Wait a minute, you want me to do something?  That would require preparation and work on my part and I’m not sure I want to get that involved!

Participants are those who not only partake but also get involved, often to the point of sacrificing time and resources to make something happen.  What drives a person to move beyond partaking to participating? I believe three factors determine the difference.

The first thing we need to do is clarify and infuse our people with the mission in a way that will inspire and motivate them to participate. A participant is one who believes the mission of the church and their role in living it daily.

Jesus made that mission abundantly clear, but we often muddy it up with issues that obscure it. Do people believe that Christ called us to make disciples of all peoples, to be witnesses to his life-transforming power, to love God with all our heart, soul and mind, to love our neighbor as ourselves? (Matthew 28:18-20; 22: 37-40) Do they grasp the significance of the fact that salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved? (Acts 4:12)

Second, a participant is one who is inspired by the vision of the church. Your church’s vision should be a statement of how your church is going to fulfill the mission in your unique community. Vision articulates the impact your church will have in the next 3-5 years. Vision inspires people to action because it communicates the cause of the church in a way that people can relate to in their everyday life.

Third, a participant is one who is engaged in pursuing the outcomes of the church. They understand that busyness is not the gauge of effectiveness. Carefully written strategies and goals create an environment of anticipation for what God is going to accomplish through your church. Goals also create an atmosphere of accountability. Who is the church accountable to? Well, to God, first of all, as Christ is the head of the church. Also to one another, as we commit to work together to carry out the vision. But also to the community where God has placed our church, and, the people of the community who need to hear the message of redemption.

These may seem like simple things, but they can make a profound difference and provide a great starting place for your leaders.  Commit to taking the first steps for moving your people from partakers to participants, then give God the glory for the great things he will do.

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