The Three Letter Word that Will Make or Break Your Church


A single three letter word can completely alter the identity and actions of your church.

It has more power than an excellent service. It brings more focus than a great mission statement. It’s more inspiring than a powerful preacher.

It could drive people away and wreck your church’s programs. It could create space for people who are looking for Jesus, and haven’t seen him anywhere else.

The word?


For vs. What

Most of how we “do church” is about the “what.” When we plan our weekend services, build a children’s program or prepare a sermon, we are worrying about the “what”. We get caught up in improving our what. This inspires worship wars and drives people to “get fed” by different preachers.

for the world

The “what” is always determined by the “for”.

If you are committed to being for the aging founders of the church, you will use preaching, music and programs that are also aging. If you are committed to being for a certain target racial or socioeconomic group, then you may or may not reach them while alienating everyone else.

The story of the people of God begins with the promise that all peoples on earth will be blessed through Abraham. God calls Abraham for the sake of the world.

Who the Prophets and Jesus Were For

One person cannot be for the whole world. Abraham revealed God to ancient Canaan, Moses to Eygpt, Elijah to paganized Israel. This is all set up for Jesus to arrive, the incarnated second person of the trinity, in the garb and language of first century Palestine.

Yes, Jesus came for the sake of the world. He did it in a time and place, dressed for a time and place, eating the food of a time and place. While the crucifixion and resurrection are for the sake of the world, Jesus came for “the lost sheep of Israel.”

Who you are for determines what you do and how you do it. Who you are for teaches you how to be incarnational—in other words—how to be like Jesus.

The Locals

Chip and Dan Heath tell the story of a non-profit committed to providing simple, life changing plastic surgeries for children in impoverished countries. Over time, the organization developed competing priorities: provide a life changing experience to American doctors, or train local physicians to help their own people. The organization shifted when the question was raised “are we for the kids or for the doctors.” Today, thousands more children are being helped by well trained local surgeons.

An incarnational church is radically focused on a certain time and place. It is constantly reviewing their actions, Sunday gatherings, community services and budgets, through the question “how does this serve the people the people we are for?”

Who is your church for?

This post was originally published on the site ChrisMorton.info.


Chris Morton

Chris works across the organization to help get new projects off the ground and into the world. He also helps to manage our email, social media and other digital communications. He helped plant Austin Mustard Seed, where he served for five years as Community Developer. He also works with several other non-profits and businesses to tell their story with content and social media. In 2012, he graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary with a M.A. in Global Leadership. He lives in Austin, Texas with his wife Laura.


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