Identity. If you were to make a list of values common to many leaders, words like “achievement,” “integrity” or “confidence” might come to mind—probably not “identity.” Yet in talking with New Hope Christian Fellowship founder and New Hope Christian College President Wayne Cordeiro, you quickly discover that the universal value of knowing who you are and what you’ve been called to do has become integral to the highly respected pastor’s view and practice of leadership—both personally and throughout the church worldwide. In his September/October 2011 interview with Outreach, a passion to cultivate an awareness of the presence of God and our relationship with Him was woven throughout the discussion.
As leaders, we have to constantly ask ourselves piercing questions that reveal. One of the questions God spoke to me about was, “Do I think my assignment is to alleviate problems, or is it to welcome the presence of God even though there are problems?” God said to me: “Wayne, you’re more interested in the absence of problems than you are in the presence of God.”
Sometimes as churches and church leaders, we think our role is to remove problems in our community. Now, that’s wonderful. But if you removed every problem in your community, I bet the same amount of people would still die with a Christless eternity and maybe even more. It is problems that really bring people to the cross and cause knees to bend and ears to hear the voice of God.
When lives aren’t being changed in and through our church, I see the hand of God lifting from it. We are maintaining and doing services. We’re being benevolent and doing counseling, but something isn’t taking place. People aren’t being attracted to the cross, and I’ve got to reinvest. I just don’t want to forget the church’s core assignment. We can do the other things, but boy, don’t forget who we are. The identity of the church is the place where the presence of God dwells. It’s like the temple. It was there the Shekinah glory shone and people would draw near. The presence of God is critical! And I pray for that often.
What tells you that the church is abandoning or has already abandoned its identity?
Lack of fruit. We have 375,000 churches in the United States, and the country isn’t getting any better; it’s getting worse. I was with a church two weeks ago because they are losing members. I told their staff that you grow by conversion, and the assistant pastor looked at me and said, “Wayne, I don’t think there has been a conversion here in eight years.” Matthew 7 says that by their fruit shall you know them. So we have to identify fruit. To Christ, fruit is people’s lives being transformed by His power. I know of several denominations that recorded zero salvations last year because they don’t do [invitations] anymore. A church grows by people’s lives being transformed. We must offer many, many, many full chances for people to step over the line of faith and come to Christ.
I was with a pastor the other day. He had the best salesmanship principles of follow-up down pat, but I thought, You know, we’re not going to grow churches based on best practices of the world. We’ve got to ratchet back to Jesus and the anointing of God and His power.
We can plant another 100,000 churches that are based on corporate principles of salesmanship and follow-up, but this country will not be influenced until the anointing of God is there. It’s almost as if we’re saying, “Jesus is not enough,” that we’ve got to figure out a new way to attract people.