Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Churches must be willing to ask themselves the hard questions

We are told by researchers that 80 percent of the churches in North America are plateaued or declining.  Personally, I believe the larger percent of them are declining because when you look at a life cycle you find that the plateau phase is relatively short.  Most of these churches do not want to see their doors close, and many of them express a desire to see new people come into their churches.  The problem is that a large number of these churches are unwilling to change anything they are doing to make that happen.  I frequently tell church leaders that if their churches could grow by doing the same old things they would already be growing.  A church that is serious about reaching new people with the gospel will have to examine everything it is doing, identify the walls it has created that are keeping people away from God, and tear them down.  I believe it is important to begin this self-examination by asking and honestly answering some tough questions.
  1. Who are we here for?
  2. Is what we are doing here today worth the life of the Son of God?
  3. Do we love people as much as Jesus does?
  4. Who is Jesus to you?
  5. What price are you personally willing to pay to reach people with the Gospel?
These are not easy questions to ask and they are even harder to answer honestly.  Too often we are tempted to answer such questions with the responses we believe people expect us to give.  We say the right things, but our actions reveal the truth.  Still, I believe these are questions the leaders of every church needs to ask themselves and those who attend the church.

It may be best to have someone from the outside ask these questions.  Such people can often explore the answers more deeply than someone from within the congregation.  A pastor search committee recently told me the church wanted someone who could grow their church, and I responded, "Really?  Are you sure about that?"  They looked at me like I had just come into town on the back of a turnip truck.  I began to explain what might have to happen in their church for growth to occur, and I asked them, "Are you sure you really want a pastor who will do the things that will enable your church to grow?"  At that point they admitted they now weren't so sure that was what the church would want.  The pastor of the church might not be able to challenge growth statements a congregation might say without getting into trouble with the leadership.  A coach, a consultant, or a denominational leader might be the best person to ask these hard questions and lead the discussion that will follow.

Seldom will a church get unstuck or off a plateau unless it intentionally makes the effort to do so.  To begin that intentional process it's important that the church begins by asking the above questions.  Some of the answers to these questions may make you quite uncomfortable.  That's OK because it is revealing some walls that need to come down in your church, and once those walls are removed people will have much easier access to God.

1 comment:

Tom said...

Great post. More churches, both with and without pastors ought to read it. It is unfortuante that most of our churches are "insane", trying to get different results while repeating previous actions. Tough questions force self-evaluation, a most painful experience. It is also the experience that is demanded of everyone who seeks ot leave the world and follow Christ. Churches have to go through the same process. Thanks for the words.