For the past few months my mind has been on mission and reaching folks who are lost. There are some of you who are like, “Dude, I thought that is kind of your job.” It is but the fact of the matter is that there is more to ministry than mission but that is another post. The teens and I have gone through some discussion on Sunday morning about mission and this has really got me thinking a lot about it. The term “missional churches” has been a Christian buzzword for close to a decade now. I love the way Ed Stetzer defines it in a post he wrote for Christianity Today:
Being missional conveys the idea of living on a purposeful, Biblical mission. Mission is the reason the church exists and the church joins Jesus on mission. And, this mission is from everywhere to everywhere.
I like that definition for mission. Using that as a definition I want to share some things where I think the church is missing the boat. There are other posts that parse it better but this is where I see our churches struggling when it comes to growth (see “Further Reading” below). Feel free to disagree, clarify or add in the comments section below. Also, I give a confession below that I need you to read.
Your Church Cannot Grow Because:
- They lack clear vision. Andy Stanley said, “Everybody ends up somewhere in life. A few people end up somewhere on purpose. Those are the ones with vision.” If I were to go up to a member in your church and ask them, “What is the vision of your church?” what do you think the answer would be? Vision doesn’t solve everything but it does give you clarity on where you want to go.
- They are stuck in the past. Whether it is antiquated theology or reusing old ways of doing things, churches that remember the “good old days” might not make it to new days. Insert “gospel meetings” right here folks. They are done along with other programs that used to work.
- They allow power hungry folks to steer the church. I have never met a growing church who said, “We have this one elder who continually stalls votes or puts out negative vibes.” As long as you have that one person steering the ship because they are power hungry then you will not grow.
- Their programs are internally focused. From the youth ministry, to children’s ministry to bible class, to preaching; all seem to gear themselves toward the members. Again, this goes to “lack of vision” but when we start thinking with the members in mind then we might need to evaluate if we have mission in mind.
- They do not spend time with the unchurched. I read a book years ago called They Like Jesus but not the Church by Dan Kimball. In that book he made the observation that the longer folks are Christians (in years) the less time they spend with the unchurched. Number four above is part of the reason this is true but it also has to do with our comfort level. It gets messy dealing with the unchurched and it is a whole lot easier avoiding it (we pay the preacher to do it right? SMH).
- They do not understand what the gospel really is. I wrote about this a while back but the truth is that our churches have not done a good job at sharing what the gospel really is. We have truncated the gospel making it akin to salvation (i.e., “obeying the gospel”). Worse, I am afraid our theological gymnastic approach to the text (verse hopping and proof texting) has made us more biblically illiterate than ever before. We have zero clue about the story. Another post for another time.
- They have no urgency. From visitor follow-up to implementation of new ideas, many churches refuse to act swiftly when it comes to mission. There is more to this but sometimes churches are the slowest to become proactive. We wait and usually are ten years behind the curve on this. I understand change takes time but often it is time that is a luxury.
I have not done well at this over the years and have even contributed to the problem. My heart is for a solution on this instead of whining about problems. I am still learning the missional life Jesus exemplified in the gospels. If I were to open my journal and allow you to read it you would see scores of entries on times where I missed an opportunity or lacked the right courage. I can only get better and do work. I also admit that I have curtailed deeper explanation for my answers above. Meaning, they are too simple and need further explanation. Such is the nature of a blog as one is forced to say what needs to be said and move on. I am sure you understand.
- 10 Very Possible Reasons Your Church Isn’t Growing by Carey Nieuwhof. Anything Carey writes is gold.
- 7 Reasons Some Churches Don’t Grow by Greg Stier
- Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 11 Things I learned by Thom Rainer
- Urgent Church: Nine Changes We Must Make or Die by Thom Rainer