Published: 4 years ago

Is Your Church a Landmark or a Lighthouse?

Not long ago I was having coffee with a pastor friend who mentioned that in his church, not one single member lived within a fifteen minute drive of the building.

Think about that: not one person from the neighborhood shows up on Sunday. Not one from the adjacent neighborhood. Or the neighborhood adjacent to that.

Drive in any direction for a quarter hour, and you wouldn’t find a single person connected to the church.

I don’t know if it’s always been that way, but I’d suspect it hasn’t. I’d guess that at one point, the church was a lighthouse in the community: people knew it was there, knew what it stood for, and were both cared for and drawn in. I would guess there was a time that the church was both attractional and missional.

But at some point, something changed. Something shifted. The community inside no longer connected to the community outside, and as the commuting times changed, so did the mission.

The lighthouse became a landmark.

Rather than being a place known for its love to the community, it became a place that wasn’t known much at all. “Just head down this road until you get to a church, then hang a right.”

Every lighthouse can eventually become a landmark. Every community inside can cease to reach the community outside.

How about your church? Are you a landmark or a lighthouse?


(click for photo credit)

  1. Dean says:

    “Every community inside can cease to reach the community outside.” That’s a great conversation piece right there. How does the inside community reconnect to the outside community? Ironically we have a dead church in town called Landmark Baptist!

    • Danny says:

      Dean, thanks for the comment! In our context, our church (Summit Church, Durham, NC) went through a period of severe inward focus in the late 90s. A missions-minded interim pastor began leading us to focus on the nations (not just by prayer and giving, but by going and sending). While I didn’t start attending until a few years later, I found it ironic that when the church started looking to the nations, they couldn’t help but focus on our neighbors as well.

      A couple of books may help here: The Externally Focused Church by Rusaw and Swanson, and Comeback Churches by Stetzer.

      • Billy Mitchell says:

        Speaking of “outward focused”…I’ve hoped for years we’d end the “church as a lighthouse” metaphor. Lighthouses are fixed and immovable. How about a group of lanterns instead? Lanterns give off light and can travel easily. Something for your consideration.

  2. Steven Kopp says:

    Not long ago our church was definitely a “commuter”, where most of the people drove around 15 minutes to come (including me). Once we started intentionally reaching into our neighborhood, most of the new people that joined lived within a 2-mile radius. Since I’m a pastor, this also provided incentive for me to move closer as well. I am grateful, though, for the commuters who continued to have a missionary mindset and who drove our church from the “landmark” to the “lighthouse” mentality.

  3. Kris Chandler says:

    Danny, I would love to use this post at out Leadership Retreat this Saturday as a point of focus. May I get a copy of it? Of course I will credit you and the include the picture credit. This point really hits home for us.

  1. […] Is Your Church a Landmark or a Lighthouse? — Danny Franks […]

  2. By Points To Ponder – 2.27.15 « Jason L Sneed on February 27, 2015 at 7:15 pm

    […] Is Your Church A Landmark Or A Lighthouse? – Danny Franks […]

  3. […] Read the entire original post here. […]

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