Pillar Church, a CRC/RCA congregation in Holland, MI, has experienced a remarkable Spirit-birthed turnaround. Their ministry focus is, “A CHURCH FOR THE CITY.” Their ministry commitment is, “TO BE A PLACE WHERE YOUR NAME IS KNOWN, YOUR STORY IS HEARD, AND YOUR QUESTIONS ARE HONORED.”
- In the renewal world, many churches focus on improving their amenities, hoping to attract a few more religious consumers. Pillar, on the other hand, has chosen to be a place that prioritizes relationships over programs and stories over sizzle.
Pillar recently hosted a seminar with Dr. Andrew Root (author of When the Church Stops Working and multiple other titles). Root emphasized that today’s secular culture is more in need of pastors than entrepreneurs.
- In other words, the best ministry to today’s culture is ministry that connects with real people who are living real lives, facing real challenges, looking for real community, and seeking a real connection with the Divine.
How Renewal Focused Churches Keep It Real
Idea 1: Begin with Hospitality
- Churches that keep it real begin with radical hospitality. One renewal church begins every service with these words, “This is a Christian church, and because it is a Christian church everyone is welcome here.”
Idea 2: Choose Not To Judge
- Keeping it real demands that people know they are entering a safe place. Safety begins when life choices and life circumstances are not evaluated for their merit but only for the love those choices elicit.
Idea 3: Focus on People
- Keeping it real means people do not fall between the cracks in ministry. Everyone is known, beginning with their name. All are appreciated for who they are and for what they uniquely bring to the community.
Idea 4: Celebrate Stories
- “Real” churches mine stories. Stories include celebrations, concerns, relationships, dreams, dashed hopes, fears, and life experiences. Listen attentively alert for unique God sightings in a person’s life.
Idea 5: Embrace Pain
- Keeping it real demands embracing another person’s pain even when we would rather keep an arm’s length. Paul said, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15, NIV).
Idea 6: Honor Questions
- People have many questions about faith, suffering, the church, God, shame, purpose, forgiveness, and truth. Real churches refuse to gloss over those questions or offer easy answers to complex concerns.
Idea 7: Invest in Mentoring
- There is no better way to keep it real than through intentional relationships where life stories are shared and deep questions are discussed. Good mentors help connect a person’s story with God’s story.
- The story of Philip and the Ethiopian (Acts 8:26-40) is a beautiful example of “real” ministry. Philip followed the Spirit, embraced the Ethiopian’s story, honored his questions, and gently guided him to the Divine. It is a beautiful story of slowing down to listen, love and guide.