categories: church, community, leadership, vision, working together
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October 6th, 2009

by Craig Groeschel

30 comments (+ Add)

The Church’s Vision is Too Small

For years, I wondered why some people seemed more excited about parachurch ministries than church ministries. Perhaps it is because our vision for the church has been too small.

Almost daily, I hear great church members excited about their “outside the church” ministry. Instead of whining about why they don’t give, serve, or care about the ministry of the local church, I’ve made two commitments:

  1. I’m going to cast such a compelling vision for the power of the local church that the vision would draw their hearts back to the local church.
  2. I’m going to celebrate and embrace whatever they are doing to make a difference.

Not surprisingly, God is turning many hearts back to loving his church!

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  1. Oct 6, 2009 at 6:12 am

    For too long the church was all about itself, meaning the people gathered each week to “get” what they wanted from the church.

    Craig you have refocused our church to be all about serving and giving our lives so that others can find Christ and grow in faith. When a church gets fired up about reaching and giving up our lives then great things begin to happen. Passion is rekindled. Giving of time seems the least we could do. Freeing up resources to help others becomes a normal part of our lives. There is something compelling about a church that is going all out. In addition a lot of “dead” is removed and new growth begins to happen. When the church is alive, great things happen.

    The church has delegated evangelism and care to para church ministries for too long. It is time for us to do what God has called us to do and to be the hope of the world. What could God do through your church that so impacts your community that the community longs to find out more about you? What could a 50 member church do to rock their world? Seek God and he will show you. Your church can change the world whether you have 15 or 1500. Seek God, step out and do it.

  2. Oct 6, 2009 at 6:40 am

    Thanks for this: I have been praying and praying about casting a vision. I do not want too cast a vision that is too small and I do not want to cast a vision that God is not going before and preparing the way. I wannt to see God do something through his Chruch

  3. 3Chuck Dennie
    Oct 6, 2009 at 6:48 am

    It’s time for leaders to believe in the local church like you Craig. Many leaders grow tired and lose hope in the church and turn to para church ministries. I became a Christ follower through Young Life and will always believe and support para church ministries, but I have given my life to serve Christ through the local church. I believe in the church and love serving it. Thanks Craig.

  4. Oct 6, 2009 at 7:56 am

    Very practical advice Craig. I too have wondered why the people are so drawn to televangelists instead of the local church. Several reasons I think but this does appear to be one. Finding that “sweet spot” of vision is hard work for sure. Thanks for the post.

  5. Oct 6, 2009 at 8:25 am

    I remember when I first started in ministry it was by accident. I was in my home town and started talking to a bunch of teenagers on the street. The conversation turned to Jesus and 10 of them gave their lives to Christ. This started happening every week and they wanted to do a Bible study. I went to every local church in that town and tried to get them to accept these kids, but none wanted them. They didn’t look or act like “church kids.” I started something on the side and was really disappointed by the church. I would have given up on the church but I read in the Bible where Jesus talked about building His Church. I thought if it was Jesus Church then it was worth being a part of. The problem that I have is I don’t know how much we look like Jesus Church.

    I agree with you Craig. We should have a compelling vision. How do we do that and do many things? How do we do them all well?

  6. Oct 6, 2009 at 9:16 am

    Good stuff!

    Man, God is using you to empower leadership! So cool being a part of it!

  7. Oct 6, 2009 at 9:37 am

    Unfortunately, in some cases this is a result of the church being unwilling to support such ministries. My brother leads a para-church ministry aimed at meeting the needs of the poor in our area. This ministry started as a part of the church he was a part of. However, part of his vision is to meet the needs of these people and then use this as a door to present the gospel. From there he wants to be able to connect these people with a church that is right for them. However, he did not feel he could do this as a part of a church. Now, as one of the pastors of my church I would not have any problem with this. I think that we have a great church and would love for everybody in our area to be a part of it. However, it is more important to me that people be involved in church then it is which church they are involved with.

    Another problem I have seen is that churches will not support such ministries if they are not a part of the vision for the church. Now, certainly if the vision for the ministry conflicts with the vision of the church, then it can not happen. At the very least the vision for the ministry would have to be re-evaluated to make it line up with that of the church. But, if the vision of the ministry does not conflict with that of the church, then we should be in support of it. I see no reason why such a ministry couldn’t be a part of the church, and as you pointed out, it should be.

    As the Pastor of Ministries at my church, it is my dream that such ministries would be spawned by our church and would have an impact our community as a part of the church. I believe that even as God calls people to be pastors, that he calls people to lead these kinds of ministries. Now, I believe that he calls them to lead them as part of the local church. However, if these people are not allowed to lead these ministries in the context of the local church, we have to expect that they will go outside the church to follow their calling. After all, if you couldn’t find a church that would allow you to do what God has called you to do would you just give up?

  8. Oct 6, 2009 at 9:49 am

    Tom, your experience is exactly what I have seen. It definately explains why some people move to para-church organizations instead of the church.

  9. Oct 6, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Hi Craig

    Firstly, love your blog!!! You influence me so much.

    Secondly, I am not sure that I agree with where you are coming from in these posts. Let me explain…

    It seems to me that you are treating the church like an institution. Why do we always feel the need to connect service to formal programs, rather than what happens informally?

    What if, rather then trying to get people to serve the church (through formal programs) or serve the world (through formal programs), we said to our people… “YOU ARE THE CHURCH. EVERY MOMENT, EVERY DAY, FORMALLY, INFORMALLY, INSIDE THE CHURCH, OUTSIDE THE CHURCH, YOU ARE CALLED TO SERVE!!!”

    So rather than get people to attach their ministry to a program, they simply saw all their life as ministry?

    Anyway - this may not make much sense.

    I have done up a diagram which might explain this better.

    And once again… You have no idea how much you impact our church and leadership. Thank you so so so much!!!

  10. Oct 6, 2009 at 10:45 am

    As the pastor of a new church plant I am most interested in the local church. My relationship with Christ began in the local body of believers over twenty years ago. Something fabulous happens when people with sincere hearts and motives rally around a clear and engaging vision. That vision must be Christ centered, creatively delivered, and people focused for our culture to shift in a Godly direction. Great blog Pastor Craig.

  11. Oct 6, 2009 at 11:53 am


    I have worked on both sides of the fence, having my start in a powerful student ministry that worked in urban missions. Today I am the pastor of a fast growing church in our stream. Here is a thought: Maybe they are so excited about their ministry because they have been ignited locally. I believe that the local church is a base or a launching pad for ministry to a dying world. But the world is much bigger than our Jerusalem, as you already know.

    What you and your team are doing is so powerful, that it is empowering and inspiring others (like me) to work in our own vineyard to the glory of God. If people are moving away from your local thing, God is positioning them for another need. You are fulfilling the great commission whether or not you are doing it intentionally. I have learned that my church is not my church, it belongs to God under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Keep up the great work!

  12. 12Charlie F Stanley
    Oct 6, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    “It doesn’t matter who you are, what you believe, or what you’ve done—there’s a place for you in the local church. It’s not a building. It’s a movement of people following a loving God and serving each other.”

    This is crazy. If you are describing Christs Church your nuts!
    Is going UNIVERSALIST?
    If you are inviting a other religions and non-christians into your local church you better preach the Gospel.
    No wonder the attendance numbers are so big the Gospel is not being preached. Its really easy to stay in a church that has absolutely NO discipline and a bunch of blind leading the blind.
    Your the next Hillsong Church, say hi to Word Faith Liberal Theology. Prove me wrong Craig, let me hear the Gospel proclaimed by so-called Christians of Most have no idea. See all the people drowning? You gonna let em drown?

  13. Oct 6, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    I don’t know that I can recall a time where I questioned something that you put out. But this one, I believe may be a little off. Maybe I’m misunderstanding where you are going on this one.

    Either way, discouraging people from serving at or giving to parachurch organizations is pretty shocking to me, coming from you.

    In parachurch ministries, people can serve and minister in ways that are not present in local churches. People have schedules that allow them to serve in a parachurch, and may not allow them to serve in their church. Do churches have shelters, rehabs, domestic violence centers????

    If you want a big vision, how about you encourage local churches to stop wasting money trying to develop ministries that someone else is already doing in the community, and go and partner with organizations that are on the front lines of outreach??

    Wow…this one is just out there.

  14. Oct 6, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    Fortunately we serve a big God and a rare few are willing to follow God’s leading into uncharted waters. Lead on my friend, lead on.

  15. Oct 6, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    [...] read something today that really agitated me, on one of my favorite ministry blogs.  The author says that he is always hearing people talk about their “outside the church” ministry.  He [...]

  16. Oct 6, 2009 at 6:59 pm

    Hey Craig,

    Brother I could not disagree more with you about this post and that is such a rare thing! I usually love everything you post and the innovative ministry you guys do. Here’s my challenge - instead of circling the wagons and creating a new silo in the local church for Christians to launch from, why not challenge Christians to engage non-profits as missionaries, living as Christ did, a sent people?

    If you cast vision for the people of LC.TV to live missionally, they could partner with Christ to redeem their culture instead of seeing the local church as the hub for ministry. In reality, our lives are the hub for ministry. Let’s build a bridge to organizations (both christian and non) that are already doing God’s word, partner where he is working, and leverage our churches two most valuable resources - our people and our finances.

    Love you brother and respect you greatly!

  17. Oct 6, 2009 at 8:42 pm

    Hi Craig.

    You have no idea how much respect I have for you and your ministry. I believe that you are truly seeking God’s will, so I am sure you have thought of this, but have not heard it yet in the comments.

    I really think that “casting a vision” has gotten way out of hand. (Please don’t think of this as criticism, it’s an admonition from someone much less experienced and less intelligent, so I could be wrong.)

    The more I have studied the scriptures, the more I believe that God has already cast His vision for His church.

    Jesus left the disciples with this admonition before he ascended:

    “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

    So, we must ask ourselves,

    Are we baptizing people in the triune God?
    Are we creating true disciples?
    Are people following God’s laws as a result of the ministry?

    So, with all the respect and Christian love I can send over a blog comment: The Church’s vision can never be too small or too large if it is a Biblical vision. It has been set two thousand years ago. Any attempt at improving on that vision has created frustratingly unbiblical members of churches.

  18. Oct 7, 2009 at 3:47 am

    Hi Craig, being a pastor working full-time in a local church here in Sweden, my church gives 10% of my time to a parachurch ministry so that I can travel, preach and promote their vision for the world. I believe this blesses my church for their generosity at the same time as it blesses the parachurch ministry (I hope!). But at the same time, as a pastor, I constantly face the problem of “the best” young people leaving the church to work with other ministries because the local church is not exciting enough. How do I deal with it? Preaching about the local church with more zeal than ever, at the same time as we try to nurture a generous spirit towards parachurch ministries. I don’t know any other way. Is there one?

  19. 20Dee
    Oct 7, 2009 at 7:04 am

    I thank God for people who were born again through the efforts of a parachurch ministry, but I do believe the same conversion could have taken place through the local church where they could have been discipled. I believe accountability is an issue with many parachurch organizations.If local churches are not supporting them where do they get their support? Most apply for faith based funding and when that happens sometimes funds are spent in dishonest ways.A few years back a we knew a couple who attended a local church but one of the pastors was also a director of a specific parachurch organization (Pastor Jody) the couple was moving and asked the church to pray for their financial situation,Pastor Jody made a visit to the couple telling them they were going to take care of their first months rent and issued a check to their landlord.The couple found out later the money came from the parachurch organization (domestic violence funds)the couple were not domestic violence victims.Why not take up a collection? Why not give from the church? I agree I also would like to see the church rise to it’s calling. There should not be a need for a welfare system if the local churches would rise.We need to follow the examples of the local churches that do have shelters and rehabs and centers (and some do)What would happen if we all came together (like minded) and each local church supported one another all over the world?! Awesome! Anyway sorry I took up so much time. Be blessed and be a blessing

  20. Oct 7, 2009 at 12:55 pm


    You know, folks wouldn’t have been turning to parachurch ministries if local churches were doing their job to meet needs - there would have been no reason to.

    At the church I pastor (well, network of house churches, really) we give half of the tithe each week back to that house church location to meet needs in the community as they deem best. It is a great way for them to see how their tithe matters. Granted, without some of the overhead costs of more traditional churches they are better able to see where their tithe goes.

    But I do think it is important that the church and her leaders praise the fact that church members are giving, whether it be to the church local or not. God is not confined to the addresses of what happens or is put on at church buildings.

  21. 22Terry Harding
    Oct 7, 2009 at 3:37 pm

    Love the Church, but para church organisations are the church also. Jesus builds only one church.

  22. Oct 8, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    I love the para church, but I see them having to step up because the church hasn’t. I contend there is nothing that is happening in the para church ministry that couldn’t be happening in the church if we (in the church) would get out of God’s way.

    One big difference between the two worlds that is starting to shift is in the area of governance. For years, groups like Campus Crusade, etc. could make decisions quickly and move at a speed the church could not. In many churches, you couldn’t get a “yes” to be able to respond to opportunities. But this is changing. Many missional church ministries today are reorganizing for speed and agility.

  23. Oct 9, 2009 at 12:55 am

    Great post Craig. The way I think of it is like this…people would rather give to a single ministry where they can see direct dollar impact on specific lives than give to a conglomerate of ministries (the church) which seems more fuzzy in shape and less warm fuzzy in emotion.

    When people think of church, they think of a building and location. When they think of a parachurch ministry, they think of the ministry activities themselves.

    Reminds me of the challenges we face regarding designated giving in the church. Everybody wants to give to help our children’s ministry, but no one wants to give for air conditioning repairs and roof maintenance…they say people give to their how do we create a healthy Body of Christ where the Foot and the parts with less honor get supported as sufficiently as the Eyes and those with greater honor?

  24. Oct 9, 2009 at 8:03 am

    [...] The Church’s Vision Is Too Small - True in so many cases. [...]

  25. Oct 19, 2009 at 11:08 am

    May I be honest with you? As a long-time fan (and emulator) of such parachurch organizations as the Navigators, I have never been as excited being involved in something as I am, right now, being involved in the FW Campus. When a network pastor in Australia prays for the offering, when pastor from another (non-network) church takes the pulpit, when I hear of changed lives in London and across the world–when I look into the eyes of the people streaming into our little campus–I feel an excitement I’ve never felt before.

    I go into my week confident I’m on the winning team, no matter what the dominant media voices or the culture around me say.

    We have Christ, we’re doing what he says do, and we’re going to nail this thing.

  26. Nov 16, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    I’ve been thinking about this myself. Most of what we do in church as “outreach” is to reach out to people we hope will come sit, shut up, and tithe. So even our “Great Commission” work (where it exists) is self serving.

    God help us all to be a church that is inseparably linked to a vision and mission we need God to accomplish!

  27. Nov 17, 2009 at 10:44 pm


    This is so on point!! A compelling vision does send shockwaves through people. I have been thinking about what actually separates large ministries from their smaller counterparts…the answer I came up with: vision. This post is just a confirmation.

    Thanks again!!

  28. Nov 20, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    Great post - Ephesians 3:10!

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