Sometimes you and I make life out to be more mysterious than it actually is.
You ask why you keep getting speeding tickets (why me God?!?) when the simple truth is you usually speed.
You ask why your friendships are so conflicted when the truth is you gossip.
You wonder why your kids don’t talk to you when the truth is haven’t been around to build a relationship in the first place.
Often problems whose origins seem mysterious to us are really not that mysterious to others. We just can’t see the truth.
The same is true for many of us who want our church to reach new people and are puzzled why that just isn’t happening.
Maybe it’s not as mysterious as we think.
A Few Things First and a Motive Check
Every time church growth surfaces as a subject, some leaders defensive. What’s wrong with small churches? Why are so many people obsessed with growth? And then people go hyper-spiritual and start quoting scripture verses to justify why church growth is a bad thing.
I write posts like this because I love the mission of the church, and I truly believe Jesus is the hope of the world.
I have met with countless church leaders who want their church to grow for great reasons (because they love Jesus believe people’s lives are changed by him) but are puzzled at why their churches aren’t growing. That’s why I write posts like this. (If you want more posts on growth, you can check out 8 Reasons Most Churches Never Make it Past the 200 Attendance Mark and 6 Keys to Breaking the 200, 400 and 800 Attendance Barriers).
And, yes, I have also met church leaders who want their church to grow for questionable reasons too. God knows the hearts of people, and just because some people might want a church to grow because because of ego does not mean all growth is bad.
And, in the end, healthy things grow. The mission of the church at its best throughout the centuries has been an outward mission focused on sharing the love Jesus has for the world with the world.
That’s why this matters to me (and to so many of you).
10 Very Possible Reasons Your Church Isn’t Growing
So with that in mind, here’s a list of ten things that might be holding your church back from realizing the potential of its mission. We’re often the last to see what so many others see, and once we see it, we can deal with it. Progress often ensues.
Here are ten very possible reasons your church isn’t growing:
1. You’re in Conflict
Ever been in someone’s home as a guest only to have your hosts start to argue with each other? It doesn’t happen that often, but the few times it’s happened when I’ve been around have made me want to run out the door.
Why would church be any different? If you’re constantly bickering and arguing, why would any new people stay? It’s not that Christians shouldn’t have conflict, but we should be the best in the world at handling it. The New Testament is a virtual manual of conflict resolution, but so many of us prefer gossip, non-confrontation and dealing with anyone but the party involved.
Growing churches handle conflict biblically, humbling and healthily.
2. You’re more in love with the past than you are with the future.
This can be true of churches that are in love with tradition and churches that are have had some amazing days recently. When leaders become more in love with the past than they are with the future, the end is near.
If your church is a museum to 1950 or even 2012, the likelihood of reaching the next generation diminishes with every passing day.
3. You’re not that awesome to be around.
Fake. Judgmental. Hypocritical. Angry. Narrow. Unthinking. Unkind.
Those are adjectives often used to describe Christians, and sometimes they have their basis in truth.
There are certain people who are energizing to be around. Unfortunately, too many Christians today don’t fit that description. Jesus was mesmerizing. Paul caused conflict for sure, but he had many deep relationships and incredible influence. The early church was known for compassion and generosity.
If people truly don’t want to be around you, don’t let the reason be because you haven’t let Christ reshape your character or social skills.
4. You’re focused on yourself.
Too many churches are focused on their wants, preferences and perceived needs. They are self-focused organizations and self-focused people. It should be no surprise that outsiders never feel welcomed, valued or included.
If you want to reach people, you can’t be self focused. After all, a life devoted to self ultimately leaves you alone.
5. You think culture is the enemy.
If all you ever are is angry at the culture around us, how are you going to reach people in that culture? Christians who consistently expect non-Christians to act like Christians baffle me (I wrote about that here.)
If you treat your unchurched neighbour like an enemy, why would he ever want to be your friend?
6. You’re afraid to risk what is for the sake of what might be.
Let’s face it, at least you’ve got something going for you. You’re paying the bills. You at least have X amount of people.
And if you’ve had any modicum of success recently, you’re going to be hesitant to risk what is for what could be. The greatest enemy of your future success is your current success.
When you’re perpetually afraid to risk what is for the sake of what might be, you might as well cue the funeral music now.
7. You can’t make a decision.
Governance will become a major issue for future churches. When your decision making is rooted in complex bureaucracy or congregational approval for every major change, it makes decision making difficult and courageous change almost impossible.
To get a glimpse of the kind of constitutional set up effective churches will need in the future, don’t miss Jeff Brodie’s awesome post on what every church constitution needs.
8. You talk more than you act.
Most church leaders love to think and love to debate issues.
Effective leaders add one more component. They act.
Most church leaders I know overthink and underact. If you acted on even a few more of your good ideas, you could possible be twice as effective in a very short timeframe.
9. You don’t think there’s anything wrong with your church.
I still run into a surprising amount of leaders and church members who love their church but can’t figure out why anyone else does.
Well, those churches are on their way to soon having not much more than a small club for the already convinced.
10. You’re more focused on growth than you are on God.
Some leaders get so jacked up about growth that they forget it’s about God and his mission. This is just a danger every motivated leader needs to keep in mind.
We’re leading people to Jesus, not to ourselves or our awesome church. Keeping the focus on Christ ensure genuine life-change happens and lasts.
These are 10 things I see holding our churches back.
What would you add to the list? Leave a comment!