Monday, April 02 2018
With Easter upon us, my mind has been drawn to the question that I am so often asked, “What causes some churches to grow and others NOT?” There are a lot of different ways to approach that, but ultimately, I find the basic distinction is a loss of mission…churches are designed and designated by the Savior to “seek and to save that which is lost”…to “make disciples.” The local church is one of the only missions on the planet that exists for the sake of its non-members. I believe churches have forgotten why they exist.
The truth is, there is a “gravitational pull inside almost every church to sacrifice the church’s mission by catering to the church’s members” writes Pastor/Author Carey Nieuwhof. As a pastor, you can’t ignore the needs of your members, but all of Scripture indicates clearly to us that the BEST way to become spiritually mature is to stop focusing on YOUR needs and begin focusing on CHRIST and OTHERS! My friend L.D. Campbell, minister of the First Church of Christ in Burlington, Kentucky once remarked to a woman who complained she wasn’t being fed, “It’s time to take off the bib and put on an apron!”
Simply put, churches have become more focused on INSIDERS than OUTSIDERS. How can you tell? Here are a few suggestions that Nieuwhof gives:
1) LONG announcements. If they are longer than 3 minutes, then you are probably geared more to insiders than you realize.
2) Trying to get everyone to do everything. Practically speaking most people can only do one or two things beyond regular attendance, Bible Study, and giving. If you want most people in your church to do nothing, keep suggesting they do everything.
3) SAVED SEATS. Nothing says church is for insiders quite as loudly as “you can’t sit in my seat.”
4) INSIDER SPEAK I find that Christians often have a language all their own….If somebody has to learn code to join your church, you likely won’t have many people joining your church. We need to consider OUTSIDERS and talk clearly and talk the same way at church we do on Monday at the office, or while shopping at Kroger. Our challenge INSIDE the church is to REDUCE the human barriers that keep people from Jesus, not to erect new ones. Being weird doesn’t mean you’re being faithful. It just means you’re being weird.
5) MUSIC that lacks GUTS. Every generation has a heart song. Sometimes it is style, but often it is more substance and genuine passion. In an attempt to please everyone in a church many church leaders please no one and the outside world is left with the impression that we simply don’t care about them.
My hope is that we just stop and consider some of these elements. Not to argue, but to genuinely reflect, is our language, our music, our surroundings reflective of the “WELCOME HOME” that God wants people to feel and sense? WE need to be doing everything within our power to make sure that from the way we keep our grounds, to the signs we put out, to the way people are greeted, to the elements and language of our services to help people find their way back to God. THAT is what really matters, not our preferences.