3 Cs

A few weeks ago a friend of mine passed along a tape (prehistoric MP3) of a talk he had heard many years ago by Jim Dethmer, a former pastor at Willow Creek Community Church who summarized his learnings in ministry for a group of pastors.

Primarily, the focus of this particular talk was a description of the local church existing as three things simultaneously: Cause, Community, and Corporation. According to Dethmer, these three circles exist together with some overlap but also with some independence.

As a Cause, the church is on mission like a soldier. The cause is the ultimate end of the organization and is worthy of any sacrifice.

As a Community, the church is like a family. Belonging, transparency, caring, and nurturing are the name of the community game.

As a Corporation, the church is an organization. Structures and systems that are effective and efficient are necessary to the church's survival.

Though there are some notable breakdowns in Dethmer's illustration and it certainly isn't comprehensive (these three traits could also be said to define a social organization that doesn't hold the Gospel as central), Dethmer's illustration is helpful, primarily in helping the leader discern which hat he is wearing at any given time.

The leader might put on his "corporate" hat as he attempts to motivate an employee toward better performance and then immediately switch to his "community" hat by inquiring about that employee's family. The wise leader will maintain a balance between all three circles. If he only wears the "cause" hat, the church will be cold spend much of its time chasing its tail. If he only wears the "corporation" hat, the church will get lost in a sea of metrics; nickles and noses will eclipse the cause. If the leader only wears the "community" hat, the church will be the most loving place of pointless wandering a person could ever experience.

Understanding these three important traits of the local church can go a long way in helping leaders lead a focused, balanced church.