If you want to lead a healthy church, you need to know that bowls, colanders, and funnels are not interchangeable tools. For those unfamiliar with kitchen utensils, here’s a primer:

Basically, a colander is a bowl with many holes, and a funnel is a bowl with one hole. A bowl is designed to contain stuff, a colander is designed to leak stuff, and a funnel is designed to channel or direct stuff.

I have a friend in the home repair business. He told me a funny story about a kid who was confused about the difference between a bowl and a colander. My friend was repairing a storm-damaged roof. The homeowner had put bowls under the leaks to preserve the carpet and furniture. When the repairman discovered another leak, he asked the kid who lived in the home to find one more bowl and place it under the last leak. The kid returned with a colander, which he placed under the leak—obviously an exercise in futility.

Many pastors are like that kid with the colander; they are leading churches that leak people. Other pastors have plugged the leaks and are building bowls, bigger bowls, and mega-bowls to hold more people than the church across town. The pastor with “bowl vision” feels important if he has a bigger Easter bowl than last year. The youth pastor with bowl vision feels successful if he has more teens in his youth bowl today than last semester. I suggest we stop obsessing with big bowls and full bowls. What really matters is not how many people we crowd into our bowls, but how many people are being discipled and how many are being equipped and empowered to make disciples.

I guess a bowl church is better than a colander church, but there is a better, more biblical way. It is time to toss the worthless colander vision, the carnal bowl vision, and embrace a biblical FUNNEL VISION. Bowl vision is about getting as many as possible to a church service. Funnel vision is about making disciples and getting those disciples out of the bowl and to the world.

Rather than accepting that we will always leak or plugging the holes (“closing the backdoor”) so we can pack more people into our bowl, we need to become a funnel that channels people toward the discipleship journey.

Here’s what funnel vision looks like:

As the above drawing illustrates, with funnel vision, EVERYTHING we do as a church must help people move forward on the discipleship journey. If it does not serve as a catalyst for discipleship, don’t do it. If it only fills a bowl or plugs holes in our bowl, don’t do it.

Toss the bowls and colanders and embrace the funnel!

Jesus said he would build his church. He told us to make disciples. He is doing his part. Are we doing our part, or are we trying to help him with his part?