What is Your Church’s DNA?


Early in my ministry I was greatly influenced by Rick Warren’s book, Purpose Driven Church. I still live by the principles outlined in that book and try to build my church around the five characteristics of a purpose driven church: worship, discipleship, evangelism, fellowship, and ministry. Several years ago I had the privilege of receiving a “Church Health Award” from Pastor Rick on behalf of the church I was pastoring at the time. The reason I am saying all this is so you will know I am not being critical. I believe Purpose Driven Church is one of the top 5 books every pastor should read.

The purpose of this blog is to challenge you to go deeper than that seminal work. There is another question you need to ask before asking the purpose of your church.

Years ago, as I was eating breakfast at a local McDonalds with a fellow pastor, he asked me, “Kevin, what is the DNA of your church?”


If he would have asked me what our purpose statement was I could have told him. I could have quoted for him our vision statement, mission statement, core values, and strategy. But he didn’t ask me for any of those. He asked, “What is your church’s DNA?”


I had never considered that question before.


After several years of contemplating on that question, I am convinced it is the single most important question a pastor can ask about his church. Figuring out your church’s DNA is more important than the wording of your church’s purpose, vision, mission, or strategy. Why? Because DNA comes first, and DNA will be the deciding factor about purpose, vision, mission, and strategy. No matter how unique, creative, or profound your other statements may be, if you don’t know your church’s DNA, you will never fully be what God has created you to be.


Until you know your church’s DNA, you will try and copy other churches’ purpose statements and vision strategies. No two churches are alike. Every church is unique. Churches cannot be manufactured or franchised.


Until you know your church’s DNA, you will be continually frustrated and discouraged by lack of growth, or slow growth. Things will never run smoothly. Ministry will seem more like work than service.


Pastoral burnout, staff conflicts, leadership struggles, and grumbling members, I believe, are all symptoms that a church does not know its DNA.


Worse still, until you know your church’s DNA, you will fall into the trap of comparing your ministry to someone else’s. And comparisons are unbiblical. The Bible says:


“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” (Galatians 6:4-5, The Message)


I am 6’ 4”. I have brown hair and green eyes. I am not artistic, and I have no rhythm. That’s who I am; it’s part of my DNA. No matter how much I wish I were 6’ 8”, or 5’ 10”, or blonde hair, blue eyes, artistic, or an excellent jazz musician, I can never be those things. No amount of training or mentoring will make me something I am not, and I will develop a low self image if I compare myself to what I am not.  Maturity is accepting who I am and who God created me to be, becoming comfortable in my own skin.


The same is true for your church.


Your church’s DNA is how she was created. Built into that DNA is what she can do, and what she cannot do. If it’s not in your church’s DNA to be a mega church, no amount of trying, conferences, or programs will make it a mega church. So quit trying to be one. On the other hand, if your church’s DNA is to be large, than be as large as God has created you go be.


If your church’s DNA is to be a family church, emphasizing relationships and meeting personal needs, then celebrate your uniqueness and be all God created you to be. Don’t try to be the church down the street.


If your church’s DNA is to be a giving church, then give. If it is to be an evangelizing church, then evangelize. If it is a church of mercy, be merciful; of service, serve.


Be who God created you to be; and base your purpose, vision, mission, and strategy on your DNA, not what some church growth expert says you should be.


How do I figure out my church’s DNA?


Here are some suggestions:


  • Pray. God created your church, He knows your DNA, so ask Him to reveal it to you.
  • Study your church’s history. More than likely, what God wants your church to be was what He created it to be in the first place. If you planted your church, this should be easy. Why did you plant it? What need did you envision your church meeting? What is your passion? However, if you are pastoring an existing church, look back over the church’s history, talk to the older members, discover why the church was planted in that community in the first place. In the same way I baby is born with all his or her DNA in place, so a church, at conception, already has her DNA.
  • Find out what your church does well. There is something your church does better than other churches in your area. Whatever that something is, you will be far more effective improving on that something than trying to change it to something else. God doesn’t need 10 churches in the same area doing the same thing. Your church has a niche. When you discover what makes your church unique, you will be a long way toward knowing your DNA.
  • Talk to other pastors in your area. Chances are they will see things about your church that you don’t see.
  • Evaluate your own spiritual gifts. If God has called you to your church, then there is something about your individual gifting as a pastor that will further the church along. Your DNA will compliment your church’s DNA. (If not, you may be at the wrong church, but that’s another blog.)


I am telling you from personal experience, that true satisfaction and contentment in ministry will come from recognizing your church’s DNA. In the same way you need to be comfortable in your own skin, you need to be comfortable in the skin of your church’s DNA.


12 thoughts on “What is Your Church’s DNA?

  1. Kevin,
    I wrote a course for that was to be for the Missional Church (taught it once)- it dealt with the mDNA of a church – missional DNA. The core textbook was The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating The Missional Church [Paperback] Alan Hirsch Author, The Living Church Convictions Of A Lifelong Pastor – John Stott Author (his last) and Giving Church Another Chance: Finding New Meaning In Spiritual Practices -Todd D. Hunter Author. IT was the most fun in preparing (actually I loved all that I did in teaching…). But the guys 8 of them they ate it up – Christian Church, Baptist, 7day Advent, Reformed Pres, Charismatic, simi-baptist. I will send you the course okay. I will be teaching it a CCU this fall, they even like the course.

    Here is the intro…
    This course will explore the Church and the nature of the “Apostolic Genius.” We will see things remarkable and wonderful about the apostolic genius and the Holy Spirits empowerment. “Albert Einstein said that when he was peering into the mysteries of the atom he felt he was peering over God’s shoulder into things remarkable and wonderful.” We too will be looking into the same remarkable and wonderful spiritual foundation of the Church so you can bring renewal, leadership to emerging and or existing Church into a living kingdom Church mode.
    To recover the spiritual practice of being a Christian, practice of being the Church, complete reorientations of the mission of the Church. By the end of this course the student will:
    1. Understand the biblical mandate that should motivate every church effort.
    2. Pre-Constantinian and Constantinian model and what are the major issues facing the Western Church.
    3. How to grow spiritually as the pastor, leader, teacher, prophet, evangelist and apostle.
    4. Clearly articulate the three modes: Apostolic/Post Apostolic, Christendom, Post Apostolic – Living Authentically (the end of the Constantinian era).
    5. Discover the Apostolic Genius by returning to our primal rootedness (mDNA) of faith.
    6. Increase in his/her ability to trust God who can do all things to give life to your strategy to build His Church for today!

    • Steve,
      That sounds great! I would love to see a copy of all your notes. I have read Hirsch’s book. I think you and I are on the same page and need to figure out how to work together.

  2. Extremely relavent Kevin. I use that phrase a lot in our church. I will say missions is in our DNA or the loving family feel is in our DNA. Like you said the wonderful thing about church planting is being able to determine much of wha the DNA looks like. I get to create the culture in our church instead of trying to change it. If one trys to change the DNA in an established church it takes many many years and must be done slowly. One needs to ask themselves if it is worth the pain and the trouble to change it or can one take the pressent DNA and run with it. I think the latter is almost aways the prefered route unless the church has a totally disfunctional DNA. Thanks for this blog. I will be reposting it.

  3. Great bog Kevin. I am finishing up the five purposes here in Springfield this week. I must say that I have not asked the question of DNA, bad pastor lol. I am going to do some serious praying and looking into our DNA. Thank you for posting this. Blessings my friend.

  4. The bible says nothing about DNA of the church. In biblical terms the identity of the church is derived from the head – Christ. We have our identity in Him. We follow Him. We are His body.

    DNA is a code, fixed for a lifetime, that defines some of our characteristics. DNA doesn’t grow or develop or adapt to its surroundings. It is a very poor analogy for our identity as a church.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s