A church that is going nowhere is one of the most painful things to watch. Forward motion had stopped a long time ago but no one noticed. There is always enough blame to go around. By this I don’t mean everyone has a part in the problem but instead everyone is blaming someone with the hope they themselves won’t get blamed. As numbers dwindle, the push to look outside for new attendees starts; but what type of church will they end up attending?
If you want to continue to be important to the church, don’t join it.
I guess I’m about to lose some readers when I say this but it is not that far off from what I have experienced in many churches. I have observed numerous churches in various stages of stagnancy and decline and there has been one common undesirable trait, the lack of love for the people in the church. Even more concerning about this trend is the way people are treated when they bring up this issue. Those who feel the church is not loving or caring for their needs are often called selfish traditionalists and emotionally needy people who are not interested in reaching the community around them.
Many in the church who seem uninterested in showing God’s love to the community haven’t been shown His love in the church.
Programs are started to shore up the falling numbers. Sermons are preached to inspire the congregation. Bestselling “how-to” books on church and outreach become the blueprint for success. Lost in all of the drive to survive are the people who have been most effected by the stagnation of the church, those who are already attending. If I start programs and have not love, if I preach inspiring sermons and have not love, if I adopt bestselling “how-to” books on church and outreach and have not love; I do a lot of stuff, make a lot of noise, copy a lot of ideas but the church is still going nowhere.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (NIV)
Leaders leave before you can no longer love.
I am a pastor. I am a human. When I allow my human side to guide my pastoral role I will view my life in terms of position not calling. I will use worldly means to maintain my position and worldly measures to define my leadership. When I embrace my calling in light of the One who has called me, empowered me and placed me in each specific leadership role to serve Him, I must love like He loves. It is not my job to stand alone where I believe God is leading the church, it is my job to stand with the church, loving them and walking with them as together we seek God. If I am standing alone I am not leading and I can’t be loving if there is no one with me.
Church goers leave before you can no longer love.
I am a Christ follower. I am a human. When I allow my human side to guide my reactions to leadership, I will use worldly means to attack those I do not agree with. When I embrace my calling in light of the One who has called me, empowered me and placed me at this church to serve Him, I must love like He loves. It is not my job to stand alone or form a group to champion the cause of where I believe God is leading the church, it is my job to stand with the church leadership, loving them and walking with them as we together seek God. If I am standing alone I am not supporting those who lead and I can’t be loving if there is no one with me.
This is an abridge version of a post from long before I started this series.
Recently I have been reflecting on the things pastors and leaders say in defence of themselves, the things I have said, the things I now try to correct as I work with churches in transition. (see: The Shepherd Focuses on the Sheep – Consumer Christianity and the Church Hopper – Church Worship Fails – On Whose Authority? Duty or Desire)
This I know to be true, not all situations will be solved, not all churches will recover from stagnation. I know that the most loving leadership cannot stop a church from going nowhere. I know the most loving church goers cannot stop a church from going nowhere. Until leadership and church goers love each other, the church will be stuck going nowhere.
Is my church going nowhere?
- Is there genuine love and caring for the people who attend?
- Is there genuine love and caring for the leadership?
- Do new attendees seem to be replacing those who have left (people don’t stay once they get to know the church)?
- Are you serving those outside the church from the overflow of the love you have as a committed collective of Christ followers or just because it is what you have been told to do?
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:10 (NIV)