Church Impossible

Have you ever seen the television show “Restaurant Impossible?” The gist of the show is a professional restaurant practitioner who goes into restaurants that are about to go bankrupt and turns them around in 24 hours into a profit-making situation. Every time I watch it, I can tell that the process will be 1) painful for the owners/operators, 2) confrontational, 3) a huge amount of work, 4) require a new menu 5) involve marketing and promotion, and 6) have a grand opening.

It is stunning to me the number of parallels between the show and leading a church and there is a lot to be learned from this sequence. First, the star of the show, “Robert,” has had a successful restaurant career and knows how a successful restaurant works. He knows that with hard work and attention to detail there are great benefits to owning a business in the restaurant world. It’s painful to the owners because he is brutal about the truth of what they haven’t done or should have done to prevent the business from dying. He confronts them about bad food, poor sanitation, poor management, and conflict resolution in a very no-nonsense way. If there are family members or partners involved, he challenges them about their commitment to the restaurant and each other.

Sound familiar? If you want to turn around your church, here are some things you will probably have to consider.

1. Confront the sin of making church all about the church. Repent of the sin and begin a new life and commitment to be the church that Jesus has called you to be. Is it fair to say that if your church is not carrying out the great commands and commitments of Scripture it is disobedient? Maybe it’s time to admit, confess and repent of disobedience.  Ask for forgiveness. It will be painful but soon will it be a time filled with hope and excitement.  Begin to form prayer groups that would focus on reaching your community for Christ.

2.  It won’t happen overnight and it will take a lot of work. Enlist leaders who will help carry out the vision. Talk about what could happen. As you hear of stories of transformation, share them often in many contexts.

3.  Learn a new menu. Ask God to give you ideas and creativity. Think about  your service and ministry. Visit other churches who are actively serving their communities.

4.  Be determined to know your community leaders. They love their community. I have always been amazed at how many pastors are not involved with their community. Take your local newspaper editor out for lunch. I would do the same with the Mayor, school principals, the police chief and other leaders and build relationships with them. Show them your commitment to the community. This is incarnational ministry.

 5.  Do a makeover of your church. Even if it is just one room, new paint might help. Clean up your yard around the church. Make sure your signs are clear and clean.

 6.  The best marketing and advertisement your church has are your people. Encourage them to understand their role as disciples of Christ and that living for Jesus in the community is the best attraction to Christ they can be. It is worth 100x whatever you spend in advertising.

I would encourage you to watch the show and watch it with your leaders. You will come to a quick understanding of what needs to be done. Discuss how it parallels the church! Share the dreams of people being baptized every month because you dared to do the impossible!

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