Studies have shown that 80% of churches in NAD are either plateaued or in decline[i], so it’s very probable you are either in one, just left one, or are on your way to one. Yet, we all want our organizations to grow. As you look to the future, these three things get in the way of reaching your God given potential.
All churches have disagreements, discussions and things they fight about. The problem comes when those are primarily composed of side, peripheral issues and not fundamental beliefs, biblical principles and core values. If the leader is not watchful, the side issues can wreck your progress.
For example, in one church a small but vocal minority was very convinced that Christians should not take ANY medicine. Ever. That recommendation was given to a member who was suffering from what became a terminal illness. Not only was it bad advice, it could have resulted in litigation.
I compare this drift concept to a boat that is put on automatic pilot. In order to change its course the captain (that would be you) needs to do a manual override. The good news is that it can be done. The bad news is that usually, when you let go of the steering wheel the boat drifts back to its course. I have found to that to be true with churches.
Leaderless churches drift.
The dictionary defines it as “to transform or be transformed completely in appearance or character”. One quote from Dr. Joseph Kidder has stuck with me. He stated in a recent presentation that in the NT church, if the Holy Spirit was not involved, most of what they were doing would cease and people would notice the difference, yet in the modern church if the Holy Spirit was not present most of what we do would continue and people wouldn’t even notice.
As you take a look at your congregation, ask these questions that were true of the NT church:
a. Are new people coming?
b. Is prayer and fasting taken seriously?
c. Is the preaching biblical?
d. Is the mission central?
e. Are people being transformed?
f. Have we morphed into a club that has religious verbiage or is the mission God gave us central, consistent, and never compromised?
The worst enemy of future success is past success. When a church is successful and is growing, the tendency is to settle. But times change. People change. The community that surrounds the church changes. Demographics change. The country changes. The needs change. A thriving organization will look for ways to innovatively minister while at the same time remaining faithful to its core values and principles.
You would not teach a class on dating or breast feeding in a nursing home. No matter how well you prepare, how catchy the graphics, and how snazzy the delivery, it probably would not connect. Likewise, it’s hard to effectively reach the Google generation with Guttenberg methods.
I call on you, leader, to stop settling for good when great is available. I challenge you to take the next step. To reach more people, to change more lives, to transform more communities with the everlasting gospel of Jesus.
The Adventist church was created for more. Let’s do this.
[i] George Barna, Barna Research Online, “Religious Beliefs Vary Widely by Denomination,” June 25, 2001.