I had my choice between the window seat and the aisle seat.

Sitting by the window offers a great view, but it makes me feel cramped, if not trapped.  There are benefits to the aisle seat. You have greater freedom to stand or move when you like. You can stretch at least one leg into the aisle.

I chose the aisle. I chose comfort.

It is the decision many churches face.

Eric Swanson and Rick Rusaw explore such thinking in The Externally Focused Quest—Becoming the Best Church FOR the Community. It’s a good read on getting the church into the community. They believe “incarnational churches” go to the people, not waiting for them to come to the church. These churches are focused on helping all believers live out their calling, especially among people who do not yet follow Christ.

Such churches are window-seat churches. They are externally focused. They have an eye for others, not just themselves.

Such vision garners buy-in from its members. They see success not by the number of worshipers on Sunday but by the impact and time spent in the community offering love and hope to a world desperately searching. They strive to be Christ beyond the walls. They pray for and care about what God’s doing in the world as they find creative ways to partner in it.

I haven’t walked into a church yet to hear members willing to say it is a waste of time being incarnational (taking church to the people). What I do hear people saying is that it is the role of the pastor to primarily care for the people inside, to meet their needs.

No doubt churches still need to be places where people are comforted, cared for, as well as inspired. But it doesn’t have to be either/or.

Statisticians are all in agreement. The 21st century American church is at a crossroad. We have a decision to make.

Will we choose the window seat or the aisle seat?

At CHC we find that the spiritual, emotional and organizational health of churches often comes when our attention is focused beyond ourselves.

In pure market terms the church today has to be more socially aware and responsible. The church must be more interested in making an impact in the community as opposed to almost exclusively focused on increasing returns for insiders.

  • I wonder what the church might be if a new leadership model emerged where the pastor becomes a coach, facilitator, even community organizer and not simply a person responsible for the church’s well-being?
  • I wonder what the church might be if we choose possible discomfort and started dreaming about what God’s doing in the world and joined Him there?
  • I wonder what might church be if our metrics focused more on impact outside the walls as opposed to simply “nickels and noses” within?
  • I wonder if our communication strategies (social media, web presence, etc.) were focused on those outside our normal patterns and relationships?


Healthy congregations in the 21st century gather around…

ministry not the minister,

kingdom issues not comfort,

on matters of justice not just us.

At CHC, we encourage pastors, leadership teams and congregations to choose the window-seat!


Bill Owen
Dr. Bill Owen is a Congregational Consultant and Coach for CHC after a 32-year pastorate at Mt. Carmel Baptist Church in Cross Plains, TN, just north of Nashville. Bill is an experienced, certified leadership coach. He also works as a cognitive coach among educators, particularly secondary school teachers with a focus on innovation and personalized learning. He brings these skills and experiences to his work with and love for congregations and ministry staff development. He is a consultant for CHC and the coordinator for CHC-Southcentral.