Friday, December 2, 2011

Growth can lead to problems

This week I met with a pastor and had a conversation with a church leader from another church.  Both conversations centered around pastor problems.  The pastor I met with had recently been confronted by a member who was very unhappy with something the pastor had recently done.  The lay leader asked if I could meet with a contingent from their church who were also upset with their pastor.  An interesting fact about each church is that each pastor has been there for four years or less, and each church has grown by at least double since the pastor arrived.  My hunch is that in each case the problems are due to changes the pastor has made that led to the growth but upset the long-time members.  I'll know if my guess is right in the next week or so.  But, history has taught me that just because small churches say they want to grow that doesn't mean they will be happy about the changes such growth will require.

Virtually every small church I work with tells me they want to grow and reach new people.  Few of them are happy when I tell them that if what they have been doing would grow their church, the church would already be growing.  If they are serious about wanting to reach new people they will have to be willing to do some new things that might reach those people.  Even fewer are happy when I tell them that such change might mean that some of the long-time members might leave, and the church might actually get smaller before it begins to grow.  A woman in one church told me that there wasn't anyone in their church she was willing to lose as that church decided to not implement the recommendations I might make even before hearing them.

Of course, we can't always blame church members who simply don't want any change in their churches.  Sometimes the way a pastor presents possible changes almost assures their rejection.  There is an art to recommending changes in a small church that every small church pastor needs to learn and follow.  The worst thing such pastors can do is to try to force change on a small church or rush it.  It's also a mistake to propose signficant changes without first running them past the lay leadership for their input.  BTW - each church member will decide which changes are significant and which are not so it helps to have been around for a while to know what's important to each member before trying too many new things.

There is another aspect to such problems.  As I mentioned to the pastor, his church is growing so he should expect that Satan will try to find a way to stop their growth.  Because much of their growth is from new believers, Satan is even more committed to stopping this church from reaching into his territory and helping people find freedom in Christ.  I find the only churches the devil doesn't bother are those that are not doing anything.  They are not a threat to him so why should he waste his time on them.  But in the case of a church that is reaching new people, it seems he can always find some button to push to try to disrupt everything.  If your church is growing, and you are starting to sense resistance, just know you are involved in spiritual warfare, and the only effective weapons will not be flesh and blood but spiritual.

At this time, I don't know if the pastor will remain at his church or not.  I'm scheduled to meet with the other congregation next week so I'll know more about their situation then.  What I do know is that two churches that have enjoyed some exciting growth in the past couple of years have been slowed down in their efforts because of problems.  I would call upon each of you to continually be in prayer for all churches as they seek to represent Christ to the world and reach people for the Kingdom of God.

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