One of our core Summit principles is that we are not building an audience, we are building a church. We believe, you see, that Jesus did not die to make converts, but disciples, and living out your faith in Jesus in the community is a greater sign of true salvation than church attendance is. Carrying the cross is something you do primarily outside the church, not inside. Which is why we often say “the week is more important than the weekend.” Throughout the week is when you live as a disciple. Weekend Christians are not Christians at all, regardless of a prayer they prayed to “accept Jesus.”
Furthermore, we believe that the church’s true power is found when each member is released to minister in the power of the Spirit. Scripture teaches that each member is blessed to be a blessing. We believe that the greatest acts of ministry, therefore, will happen outside of our walls. The New Testament vision of a church is not simply one group of people gathering around one anointed leader, but a congregation of people filled with the Spirit, all ministering in His power. Thus, we believe that our greatest work is equipping believers and releasing this. I would add that there certainly is a role for a group of people being blessed by anointed leaders—God has always raised up leaders in his church, both locally and nationally. But while Peter and Paul preached some important sermons in Acts, the longest and most powerful sermon was preached by Stephen, a “layman.”
Ultimately, we believe that this strategy is more effective, long term, than simply gathering an audience around an impressive production. Contemporary church wisdom holds that the single-most important factor for growing a church is the quality of the weekend program. Quality programming indeed builds an audience, but will it build a church? The real power of Christianity—the life-changing, though not necessarily audience-building, power—is in the preached word, not in the amps of the soundboard. Likewise, what truly impacts a community is not the quality of the performance but the beauty of Christ’s body on display in and through the church.
This is not to say that there is no place for production quality—there certainly is, just that it should be properly balanced with a focus on building disciples. Production quality is important in enabling people to hear the message, and it can also, in some ways, adorn the gospel. We believe you should do it as much as you can. We just believe that with the limited resources you have, you should not spend a disproportionate amount of your money on it, to the neglect of disciple-making and empowering.
Thus, we have made strategic decisions over the years to spend money on discipling pastors that we could have spent on production improvement. There’s a very pragmatic angle to that for us, too: we believe that transformed lives and empowered ministry is more effective, in the long term, than a slick production. There is no disputing that life-on-life discipleship is a very important dimension of true discipleship. So, we spend money on production, but we balance that with development of disciples. We believe this is the New Testament vision of a church, even if it is out of step with contemporary church growth wisdom. God’s ways are always best.