THE VILLAGE CHURCH PHILOSOPHY OF MINISTRY

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THE VILLAGE CHURCH PHILOSOPHY OF MINISTRY

February 2008

The year 2007 was an exciting, beautiful and uncertain time in the life
of The Village Church. We continued to experience substantial growth
in weekly attendance and this led to our first experience of Venture, a
six-week period of church-wide fasting and prayer regarding the future
of our church body. Our hope and request was that the Lord would do
something among us for which we absolutely could not take credit.

The Lord was gracious in hearing our prayers and faithful to answer
them. The first answer consisted in our merger with Grace Temple
Baptist Church (now The Village Church Denton). As of the writing of
this paper, we are running three services at the Denton Campus with
hundreds of participants in a live music and video-sermon format. A
second answer to our prayer was the availability of a former
Albertson’s building less than a mile from our current Highland Village
location. Following our “We need $4 million in 60 days” campaign, we
were able to purchase the property and are now preparing to move
forward with renovations.

The continued growth, multiple campuses, video format and a number
of other factors contributed to a complexity at The Village which was
previously unknown to our staff and leadership. In trying to sort
through all of the logistical intricacies we had an epiphany of sorts. We
began to see the formation of our own identity as ministers within the
unique culture in which the Lord has located us.

Every church has a unique identity, a DNA if you will, which is formed
by the interaction of theology, philosophy and practice. It all starts
with theology as a church’s understanding of God and His scriptures.
This theology affects the philosophy of ministry, which each church
operates by and within. Finally, this philosophy, founded upon the
theological beliefs, affects the practical outworking of a local body.

 To elucidate the identity that we feel is our own, it is easiest to
describe contrasting approaches to ministry. Our desire is in no way
to belittle or condemn those churches which minister differently from
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us, but rather to affirm our unique identity as our theology impacts our
philosophy. This contrast will be seen in the following methodologies:
            Attractional vs. Incarnational
            Width vs. Depth
            Marketing vs. Mission
            Entitlement vs. Sacrifice

Attractional vs. Incarnational
Attractional approaches to ministry are those which basically take the
“if we build it, they will come” direction. These churches are typically
known for their varied resources often including rock walls, coffee
shops, gyms, sports leagues, etc. The idea that drives this approach is
that if you can just get the people in the doors, you can keep them
there.

The Village prefers to view things not from an attractional, but
incarnational perspective. Instead of ministering on the basis of people
coming to us, our approach is to take the ministry to the people. Like
the Son of God condescending to leave His heavenly home and dwell
among those whom He loved, we want to be known for our willingness
to take the gospel from within the walls of our building to affect the
lives of those we come into contact.

Width vs. Depth

In polling various churches, the vast majority cite numeric growth as
their driving evidence of success. Success is measured by quantifiable
numbers of weekly attendance, small group attendance, Sunday
school attendance, etc. Achievement is determined by the number of
people with whom the message is shared. The Village Church
understands a primary purpose of the local church is to make disciples.
Not mere attendees or even converts, but disciples – mature followers
of Jesus Christ. In the end, the “Father is glorified by this, that you
bear much fruit and so prove to be [Christ’s] disciples.”

Marketing vs. Mission

Some churches exercise a marketing approach to ministry in which
they hope to create a brand name to fit in a certain niche. Perhaps
they are the church with good music, or a great drama team or a
really excellent children’s ministry. Like the attractional approach, the
hope is to market the church to bring people in. The problem that we
see with this approach is that it is generally true that “what you win
them with is what you keep them with.” If you win people with lights
and smoke, then next year you need more lights and more smoke. You
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are always forced to better your resources and marketing of those
resources to distinguish yourself. The challenge is that the culture is
always changing and when you market a specific segment or ministry,
then you inevitably teach that your church is not for everyone.

At The Village Church we hope to win people by the gospel of Jesus
Christ. If we can do this, then all we have to do to keep them is
continue to preach the gospel -- what we should be doing anyway. We
hope to accomplish this through challenging our people to have a
missional perspective as they live a gospel-centered life. So, the
church will experience growth because of mission rather than
marketing.

Entitlement vs. Sacrifice

A deep and pervasive sense of entitlement exists in much of the
evangelical community. Those who have such an attitude, though
they might not articulate it, assume that the church exists merely to
meet one’s own felt needs. Therefore, the church that caters to such
an ideology is forced to create thousands of different programs to
meet those ever-changing desires.

The Bible teaches not that the church exists to meet your needs, but
rather that you exist to meet the needs of others. A heart of humility
does not say “meet my needs,” but instead “do not cater to me. I am
here to serve.” In the end, the greatest need, felt or not, is for the
gospel. If we spend our time meeting peripheral issues, all we have
done is dealt with symptoms without addressing the disease. Certainly
we recognize the legitimacy of needs and are here to serve those in
need, but an attitude of entitlement and true service are at odds.

The Village Church believes that theology influences philosophy which
in turn determines practice. Given that we believe in an incarnational,
missional, sacrificial model, which seeks depth over width, we hope
our practice lines up with those beliefs.

What does that mean for us?

One of the immediate implications for our growing into our own skin is
the need to reexamine each of our ministries to see if they correspond
to our theology and consequent philosophy. As we have done so over
the past year especially, we have found that in a few instances our
approach was inconsistent. We noticed in particular that a number of
our ministries functioned in self-contained silos, which competed for
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the limited resources of staffing, time and finances while at the same
time fighting for the attention and affection of our people.

A practical response to this realization is that we have started to
eliminate some of our historic ministries. For example, The Village no
longer has singles, men’s, women’s or college ministries. That does not
mean that we will cease to minister to singles, men, women and
college students, but rather that we do not feel as though we must
gear a ministry toward a particular demographic to reach that group.

A driving passion in our teaching and preaching is the idea that church
consists not of a building and not merely of preaching and singing, but
in being the body of Christ in sharing life together. In light of this
theological understanding, our current thinking has driven us to funnel
our entire adult ministry1 in and through our groups department.
Groups will therefore serve as a panacea in which men and women,
single or married, young and not so young will gather together in
recognition of our inability to do life alone. Our hope is to create unity
in diversity as people interact with those who are perhaps a little
unlike themselves.

This ministry of our church is not the only one that we’ve made
changes to; others, like our Missions Department underwent a major
overhaul in late 2008 because of our philosophy. And we consistently
hold up other ministries up to the same challenge: are we who we say
we are? We pray He will continue to shape us as He wishes.




1
 We have retained a Next Generation ministry for preschool through high school. These immediate
changes are only applicable to college and beyond.