It is a well-known quote frequently attributed to Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, or a number of other people who probably never said it, the definition of insanity is, “Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Has the North American church gone insane?

After decades of “how-to” church books based on same the approaches…                    

…why do we keep implementing the strategies they contain expecting a different result? I understand that the programs and procedures can lead to improved functionality for the local church, but why do we look at these books as if their contents embody the key to unlocking God’s power to build His church?

It doesn’t have to be a “how-to” book.

Denominational and church leadership as well as church consultants and transitional pastors (my job involves the latter two) all have ideas on how to make the church better, more efficient and grow. The presentation, wording and even the specifics are as different as the individuals but the overall ideas are the same. Employ these methods, programs and procedures and you will find success. With each new leader comes a new way that is really an updated version of the old way, maybe a little better or maybe a little worse but in the end it is the same thing all over again. We must stop the insanity.

We keep reinventing programs and procedures while missing what really needs to change.

As I consult for churches and/or take on the role of transitional pastor, I am required to present new ways of functioning that will better incorporate Christ followers in the work of the church. There is nothing wrong with taking my experience with many denominations, programs and procedures and creating a better system of a church but, this on its own is insanity. It is addressing something that has most likely been addressed before and expecting a different result.

Right now this insanity is playing out in churches everywhere.

I had the opportunity to create a transitional path for a church needing a new direction. I presented a new leadership model that would encourage more congregational involvement while improving functionally of the leadership model but here’s the difference: it did not rely not on the new system but instead the foundation was a change to the church culture. The church leadership embraced the system but never implemented culture change. They had it in place within a few months but the people were still the same leading to the same lackluster outcome. They had done it before and now they have done it again but doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result is insanity.

Stop the insanity

We have changed the process and programs, it’s time to allow God to change people!

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 (NIV)


  1. Familiarity often trumps turning to God and having God change people. In 1994, I was unemployed the entire year until 20 December, the exact day I had been swept up in a NASA site closure. In the summer of 1994, a headhunter called and said he had the perfect job for me. I went to the Lake Charles general area of Louisiana for the interview. The potential employer described the last 2-3 people that had done the job I was interviewing for. They described how these people had performed their job and how everything had gone wrong. I explained that what my predecessors had done was poor technique. I would not do that. I explained the proper way of doing that work. I spent the entire day, the next day, driving back to northern Mississippi, as I entered the house, the phone was ringing. It was the headhunter. I had not only failed in getting the job, they refused to use him in suggesting anyone else. He screamed at me for ten minutes demanding me to explain what was wrong. I tried to explain that the potential employer knew what they needed was something different. I knew in what way it needed to be different. But they were familiar with the wrong way of doing it, thus I could not meet their “wants” although I exceeded their “needs.” In a way, I was lucky in not getting the job.

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  2. Amen! Our church had a radical idea: Let’s do church the way the Bible says. The emphasis in our church is the preaching of the gospel, praying for one another, helping one another in every imaginable way, sharing the gospel with the unsaved outside the church, and even exercising church discipline as instructed in the New Testament. Our biggest problems now are not enough space for everyone on Sunday morning and parking.

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