My father left the church when he was in high school, seeing no reason to belong to an organization whose only purpose seemed to be self-perpetuation. I never thought he would join anything, especially after serving in the US Navy for over 20 years, but several years ago he joined the local Lions Club in his community.
When I was visiting my parents recently, I heard about the current Lions Club membership drive. My dad had been talking to new people in the community about joining the Lions, about what the Lions do, and who the Lions are. In fact, while I was in town, Dad successfully convinced a couple who had moved into the area to attend the next club meeting and join.
I was amazed. Not only had my dad joined an organization, but he believed enough in their mission and work that he went out of his way to talk about it with other people. He is proud of the work the Lions Club does, proud enough that he started the high school equivalent, the Leos, and goes to the high school every week to meet with a group of interested teenagers in addition to the weekly main meeting.
My dad is an evangelist, just not for the church. He's an evangelist for an organization with a clear mission statement, high expectations of its members, and an ethic of helping other people locally and internationally. He pays dues, helps with fundraisers, serves in leadership, and makes a difference in his community. In fact, he's such a great member of the Lions Club in his community that he was inducted into the Melvin Jones Fellowship Program in recognition of his service.
So what does the Lions Club have that our churches don't have? Why is my dad giving his time, talent, and treasure to the Lions Club and not a church?
The Lions Club has a clear purpose that centers on helping other people in tangible ways. When I asked my dad if I could write this piece and talk about him, he said that it is easy to invite people to participate in activities that benefit other people. He thought that churches involved in outreach ministries shouldn't have any problem attracting new members; that's partly how the Lions Club does it.
The Lions Club has a motto: where there's a need, there's a Lion. They know what that means and the club my dad joined actively seeks to meet the needs of their community. I'm amazed at how much mission they do! It's more than the local churches do, and that's hard for me to admit.
They also know what they believe, and new members take an oath of service. Their ethics and purpose are upheld and lived into, with clubs holding members accountable for their actions.
What would it look like for our churches to have a clear purpose? While the Westminster Catechism tells us our chief end is to glorify and fully enjoy God forever, I'm not sure that gives us much clarity. Jesus told us to go and make disciples, but that also leaves us with a need to be more specific. What is our clear purpose? How are we sharing the Good News we have received with our neighbors in such a way that their lives are changed and their needs are met?
If we can't answer that question clearly, it's no wonder we're less than eager to invite people to worship and other church activities. If we're not sure why we're doing what we're doing, how can we begin to explain it to other people in a way that will excite them about joining us? What difference does being a part of the Presbyterian church make to us? Answering that question is essential, and the first step in being eager and excited to ask people to join us.