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9 Things That Worked in the Church A Decade Ago That Don’t Today

So you entered into church leadership full of enthusiasm and fresh ideas.

And for a season, a lot of those ideas worked.

You saw your ministry grow, people come to faith and the mission advance.

But times change.

And—these days especially—culture is changing faster than ever before.

As a result, the shelf life of ideas, assumptions and approaches is shorter than it has ever been.

What used to work, doesn’t. Not anymore.

The challenge is to know what’s stopped working and what hasn’t.

Not everything that worked a decade ago in the church was great. But the truth is many churches saw growth anyway.

And that’s changing and will continue to change.

What got you here won’t get you there.

Here are 9 things that used to work in ministry a decade ago that aren’t nearly as effective as they used to be.

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1. Relying on an automatic return to church

There was a day when you could fairly safely assume that once young adults got married and had a child, they would automatically come back to church.

Those days are gone or largely gone. (You can catch more about what’s changed in Episode 24 of my podcast where I interview David Kinnaman, President of Barna Group).

The average unchurched person doesn’t think about going to church anymore than the average Christian thinks about going to synagogue. It just doesn’t cross their mind.

Having an exceptional next generation ministry that reaches out to the community is critical.

Want a better way to impact families? I know of no better approach than this.

The Orange strategy is the strategy we use, and our kids’ ministry is the fastest growing ministry at our church.

You can’t assume families will reach out to you, so you need to reach out to them.

2. Appealing to people out of guilt or obligation

The number of people who feel guilty about not being in church on Sunday shrinks daily.

Ditto with the number of people who will serve at a church because they feel they should.

Interestingly enough, Jesus never appealed to people out of guilt or obligation. He invited people.

The future church will as well.

3. Simply being better than other churches

When people went to church, being a better church than other churches got you mileage.

Most people no longer go to church.

Saying “we have a better church” is kind of like saying “we have better, organic, locally grown watercress” at a burger cook-off.

Most people just aren’t going to buy.

Better isn’t going to get you the mileage it used to.

Different will.

The church is an alternative. And an alternative, clearly and effectively presented, will do far better than simply saying we’re better than something you weren’t interested in in the first place.

4. Gimmicks

So true confession. A decade ago we drove a car on stage to get people’s attention.

We also built elaborate sets for every series hoping it would captivate people.

And all of this did. For a season.

But I also came to realize that whatever you use to attract people is what you need to use to keep people.

‘Gimmicks’ every week get old fast.

If you play the ‘next Sunday will be better than last Sunday game,’ you eventually end up losing and lying (because it can’t be).

In addition, eventually people ask “So what? So what if next Sunday is a little bit better than last Sunday? What’s this all about anyway?”

Don’t get me wrong. We still have fun moments, powerful moments, surprising moments and memorable moments, but they’re moments. 

We’ve stripped down our services and moved back to more of the basics: the Gospel, engaging moments and engaging messages.

We can sustain that. And the basics, done really well (with a little extra from time to time) really do engage people.

Why? Because Jesus, authentically and clearly presented, engages people.

5. Inauthentic leadership

People’s fake detectors are set at a higher level than ever.

In a culture that markets everything to death, people are longing for authenticity.

Fortunately, that’s the at the heart of the Gospel.

What has to die, of course, is the leader who acts like he or she has it all together: the plastic veneer we put on hoping nobody sees the real us.

Well, none of us has it all together. And while there shouldn’t be any gaping unaddressed character holes in your life, letting people see the real you (even if it scares you) is essential.

These days, letting people see you’re human is a prerequisite for ministry to fellow humans.

6. A self-centred mission

You have to be careful not to make the mission about your church.

When your church has had a little success, it’s easy to become self-centred.

The people you’re trying to reach aren’t interested in your church.

What they’re interested in (whether they realize it or not) is Jesus. And his mission.

Churches that are obsessed about how big they are, how many programs they offer, and how much better they are than other churches have a limited shelf-life.

The true mission isn’t about your church. It’s about THE church. THAT resonates.

7. Random programming

The bigger your church, the more you will be tempted to add programs and ministries.

Why?

Because people demand them.

Leaders—afraid to disappoint people or lacking an alternative strategy—cave and allow dozens (or hundreds) of random programs to emerge in their church.

These programs can be counter-productive for numerous reasons:

They compete for money, time and attention.

They lead nowhere in particular.

They cause more division than unity (ever try to shut down a women’s ministry or men’s breakfast?).

They become their own mission and compete with the overall mission of the church.

Why does random programming not work?

Simple: because random programming pleases insiders but rarely reaches outsiders.

Instead, be strategic and focused. Do whatever helps move people the most clearly and deeply into a growing relationship with Jesus, and do whatever advances your mission into the city.

Make no mistake: What people become involved in becomes the mission. So choose carefully.

Make the mission your mission.

8. Assuming people know what their next step is

A decade ago, in a more churched culture, it was commonplace to assume that most people knew what they needed to do to become a Christian or to grow as a Christian.

That era is gone.

Now the average unchurched person arrives knowing almost nothing about Christianity, what to do to become a Christian or how to grow as a Christian.

To understand how radically things have shifted, imagine you converted to Hinduism.

How would you know you’ve actually become a Hindu?

What’s your next step?

Exactly.

Just remember that the next time a completely unchurched person begins to attend your church.

At Connexus Church, where I serve, we reorganized our approach to new people around two key phrases: “I’m New” “Take a Step”.

We’re doing everything we can to ensure people understand how to become a Christian, how to engage in spiritual growth and what steps they can take to help them grow.

We even set up two hosted kiosks in the foyer under the phrases “I’m New” and “Take a Step”. Our trained guest services people help orient guests around what step might be best for them to take next.

Leaders, if you’re not clear, no one else is clear either.

9. Relying on what you’ve learned in the past

I suppose at one time there was a day when seminary adequately trained church leaders for what was ahead.

That day has long since passed.

The basics—biblical knowledge, theology and the likes—don’t change dramatically. And shouldn’t. That foundation is reliable years, even decades later.

But there’s a growing gap between what leaders need to know about the culture and what they actually know.

Some seminaries are catching up, but with change happening faster than ever, every leader needs to become a self-learner.

So how do you keep up?

Here are three ways I keep up and try to help you stay current, both as a fellow learner and a content creator.

1. Podcasts

18 months ago, I started a Leadership Podcast…largely because the conversations I was having with key leaders were changing how I approached leadership and ministry.

First, I wanted everyone to be able to hear what key leaders were telling me. And second, I wanted an excuse to have more great conversations with key leaders. Hence, the podcast.

You can subscribe to my leadership podcast for free on iTunes or Stitcher. It’s an interview format in which I interview top leaders about church trends on a weekly basis to stay sharp personally, but also to help you.

Other leaders also have their own leadership podcasts: Josh Gagnon, Craig Groeschel, Andy Stanley, Perry Noble, Rich Birch, and the great people at Church Leaders. I personally listen to ALL of these podcasts. They help me stay sharp.

2. Conferences

Conferences that really dissect practical leadership are also essential.

Rethink Leadership is a brand new conference in Atlanta I’ll be a part of in Atlanta April 27-29th. You can sign up now for an intimate, senior leaders-only gathering with today’s top leaders like Andy Stanley, Pete Wilson, Reggie Joiner, Jeff Henderson, Leonce Crump, Jon Acuff, Brad Lomenick and more live and in-person.

You can register for Rethink Leadership here.

3. Current Reading

I read a lot of books. Many are timeless in nature (great leadership is). But there are also few can help you digest changing trends in leadership.

That’s exactly why I wrote my latest book, Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Can Help Your Church Grow. It’s all about what’s changing in the church and how to respond.

You can learn more about it or pick up copies here.

Bottom line?

However you decide to stay current, you have to stay current.

What’s Not Working For You?

So let’s help each other. What’s no longer working for you that used to work?

Scroll down and leave a comment.

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  • Rod Pickett

    I’ve read many significant books over the course of my 40+ years of ministry that have caused me to rethink many of the assumptions that have become “baked-in” the Evangelical culture. Perhaps one of the most important was The Crucifixion of Ministry: Surrendering Our Ambitions to the Service of Christ, by Andrew Perves. It addresses many of the issues in this post and the comments.

  • Wesco

    This is all true, and has been. Nothing new here (which isn’t a criticism). Back in the 70’s a best selling leadership book was “The Gospel Balloon.” it was about a mythical church which used a Hot Air balloon as “promotion.” The book was about gimmicks. The social media of the day was newspapers, which everybody read. They had big religion sections filled with half page ad’s of large, bigger, better churches and preachers. And the same is true about change and growth, authentic leadership, engaging sermons, energized worship. But there wasn’t TV or the mountains/beach to tempt you away on Sunday mornings. History is just repeating itself. I’ve been in ministry 41 years, hopefully in the forefront. My gifts it seems was taking tired, old and broken congregations and bringing them to growth and grace.

  • I would love to get rid of the line… “Other churches do (or don’t) —fill in the blank—“.

    Instead of deciding what we do or do not offer based on other churches in our area, size, etc… we need to simply look at the question “Does OUR church need —fill in the blank—?”

    A church in S. FL doesn’t need to base it’s decision on having a Women’s Ministry b/c of how a church equal in size based in Seattle WA has decided. A church in New York City doesn’t need to base it’s decision to have a strong Youth Ministry based on how one in S. CA has decided. Even a church one county over shouldn’t decide to offer a singles ministry b/c of our decision to offer one or not.

    Each church needs to decide what it’s members and community needs.

    • I also think that #8 is really important. If your staff has grown up in the church they understand how it works. So, for a new member that’s been in church their whole life, they too know the routine. Visit. Join. Bible Study. Volunteer.

      But in an unchurched area, or for visitors/members who have no past experience with church, sometimes we need bridging activities that help them navigate the waters. Larger corporate events are a great way for unchurched people to get to know the body and build familiarity and trust, that will eventually lead them to the small groups/bible studies.

    • An additional thought on #7, I think different programs are great additions to engage people into the body of believers, but the key word used in the article “random” is important.

      Any program must be intentional, not random. Even a women’s brunch or men’s breakfast must have a purpose and fulfill the mission of the church.

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  • Julio Roberto Vega Sánchez

    Even this written article is irrelevant! Jesus (Immanuel) came to this world to be among the sinners, people’s lives were transform! We keep making the same mistake, the church doesn’t change people, that institution in the year 2016 is irrelevant for most of the people in our western world. We every single christian are the church and you and me just as Christ did, have to be able to be the salt among the sinners, many of us are scare of what is out there in the “world” so we must bring the people to the church, to our own world of entertainment!

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  • Miles Hall

    10. Man centered, therapeutic worship.

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  • Tammy Hallam

    I appreciate this forum Carey. I think its important to delineate between programs for program sake and creating transformational spaces for discipleship, healing, spiritual growth, etc. Gimmicks were not needed as we see Jesus ministering and the church after him because they were helped to experience the very presence of God, the real. No-one had to tell them to go to others and share grace, because they experienced the love of the kingdom as Jesus touched them in that very personal place of need. Developing a leadership and a people that are learning how to connect with Christ, heal from their wounds, have healthy spiritual rhythms and ongoing relationships that encourage authenticity and transformation is the church focusing on making disciples (which of course is the one thing Jesus told us to be about). We need to have as part of our DNA that we reproduce ourselves. Meaning we need to invest time, care and spiritual coaching with at least one person. You can have the most amazing worship and do all the “big” things and yet the individual is ignored and opportunities to help a person experience God and explore their gifts and purpose are overshadowed by “big” events and that can even include mission. Mission and outreach is a natural outcome in the trajectory of spiritual formation. I see at times we push people into serving without any real foundations. Many end up not being able to sustain what they’re doing “for Jesus” because they themselves have not experienced him. So he ends up passing on what he knows, which is a powerless religious exercise. Let’s be about this important work of discipleship (which might be doing abuse ministry at the local shelter) and see the rest as options depending on our context.

    • Barney Strange

      I’m with you all the way on this approach. As members of the body work into each other’s lives we grow together in spiritual maturity and become more equipped for kingdom work. This is the example Jesus sets for us and means for us to follow.

  • Dan Martin

    Regarding gimmicks/programs, I am tired of investing time and energy into things that aren’t producing results. I refuse to do that any more! Since when is the Gospel not enough?

  • synthmeister

    I’m of the opinion that most of those things you mentioned weren’t really working 10 years ago. Sure, they might have put people in the pews, but they weren’t transforming lives. If those things had actually worked, we wouldn’t be in this predicament.

  • Scott Peters

    Define working.

  • Rev. C

    Great thoughts Carey, would love to see you put out a list of top ten books for ministry leaders.

  • Wonderful, it hits the points, even concerning european churches! Thank you!
    Now, write 9 articles to change each aspect and have an effective ministry. Michael

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  • Top article Carey.

    I think #8 is crucial but also hard for pastors because it calls for a laser like focus on what is central to mission. There are so many distractions today!

    I think also the challenge moves to the next stage of ‘next steps’ when some one has connected, started serving and even moved into leadership.

    The path can get fuzzy at this stage so I’d be interested in any thoughts you have on ‘next step’s for developed, mature leaders or is it a matter of keeping on, keeping on?

    Hope that makes sense!

  • Auto Pilot.
    When you’re making a deep water passage across oceans (I recently did a reverse Transpac from Honolulu to Santa Cruz, CA) the auto pilot allows the captain and crew to leave the tiller from time-to-time to perform other maintenance. If you’re sailing solo or short-handed, the auto pilot will even let you get some sleep.
    But when you encounter storms, following swells in a headwind and other unfavorable conditions, you need to grab the tiller for a bit – until things smooth out.
    In today’s American culture, you cannot afford to let your church run on auto pilot. Back in the 1950s you could do that – write up your annual planning calendar, develop a three year strategic path – and then just work through the objectives.
    Those days are gone.
    Pastors who are not continually scanning the horizon for changing conditions and new opportunities are being of disservice to their churches. Make sure that you are putting your hand to the tiller FREQUENTLY and REGULARLY to make midcourse corrections!
    If not, you’ll end up drifting off your way points and miss your destination.

  • jeanmbaker

    I LOVE the Global Leadership Summit sponsored by Willow Creek Association that’s held every August. Lots of great leaders – both church and secular – and everyone who is a leader can attend. It’s not “exclusive” to senior leaders. I learn so much every year, and consider it a nonnegotiable – I’m going to be there.

  • Leslie

    Carey, I clicked on the link to check out the Rethink Leadership conference and I am disappointed that none of the communicators shown on the website are women. This feels out of touch and sexist. It is difficult for me to take this conference seriously as a female pastor when female leadership is not included.

    • Catherine MacDonald

      That was exactly my response as well.

    • Thank you for your feedback. I appreciate it. We are still adding speakers and this is not a final list.

      • Leslie

        Thank you Carey. There are plenty of amazing female (and trans*) leaders out there who would certainly have wisdom to contribute.

  • BrotherRog

    It is a very good article — as far as it goes. However I am surprised to see
    that it doesn’t address needed changes in Christian theology.
    Particularly American Christianity. Examples: a needed move toward fully embracing the insights of contemporary Science -including embracing evolution and homosexuality; the needed shift away from substitutionary atonement (which most people find ludicrous and untenable) toward the moral influence theory of the atonement; and the needed shift away from Christian exclusivism – and toward recognizing and honoring that God is fully at work in other world religions as well.

    Roger Wolsey, author, “Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don’t like christianity”

    • Soooo…the “needed shift” toward not-Christianity. [Napoleon sigh]

      • Craig

        exactly!
        (Maybe there are good reasons why Carey didn’t include these “needed changes” as Top 9, or Top 90).

    • Jon Cleland Host

      Wow, I was looking over the comments and seeing a lot of denial about the fact that all the changes in the article are just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic unless the real issue is address – which is that many aspects of Christianity aren’t based on reality and are just repackaged bronze age superstition. Until I read your post. Yes! You show a path to a future where Christianity still exists. Thank you.

    • David

      I guess I should just shut off my mind and accept whatever the materialist culture tells me is true and then adapt my christianity to that to make sure it is relevant. The underlying assumption for evolution is that only material causes can be considered. But the start of life demands more than any material causes, it demands a mind. Homosexuality is a wrong use of the body at the very least and being dishonest about this does nothing to help. It is currently cool and chick but horribly destructive to the persons involved (medically as well as physiologically). Why should I embrace what harms others?

      • BrotherRog

        I don’t know, why do you? Anti-Science, bigotry, and homophobia harm many others. Some because they don’t vaccinate their children, and many gay people are beaten up, killed, or driven to kill themselves – because their families and churches don’t accept them.

        • David

          Anti-science? Are you saying that there is an evolutionary explanation for the origin of life? I would love to see the link to that discovery. That there is an evolutionary explanation – in detailed step by step fashion – for the existence of DNA and the several other codes in the cell? I would love to see a link to that description as well!

          Bigotry is alive and well and I suffer from it as well as do many others. Working outside of the USA I see many people who are persecuted from bigotry, anti-christian bigotry. It is hardly limited to homosexuals. But you are avoiding the massive health issues that come with practicing a homosexual lifestyle. We are dishonest with people when we avoid telling them about this and urging them to celibacy.

          So, you are blaming families and churches for the suicides of some homosexuals? The lack of acceptance? I know that in some places this is a popular meme, but you do have any studies that do actual comparisons between the suicide rate of homosexuals and that of other marginal groups? Did you know that one of the fastest growing suicide groups today are white males over 50?

          I have been a minister for over 30 years. I have spoken to hundreds of churches and traveled across dozens of countries. I don’t see the bigotry and hostility you claim coming from local churches. I do see a rejection of that lifestyle as healthy and normal. That is not bigotry, but simple biology and I would be Anti-science if I did not notice it.

          Are you saying that only if we accept all aspects of the homosexual lifestyle as “Christian” can we be relevant to people who suffer from those tendencies?

        • ConservativeAmerican

          I don’t know what your source of authority is , but I do know that it isn’t the Bible and anything else is only so much heresy. The Holy Scriptures alone are the only source of absolute truth. What you propose is diametrically opposed to scripture. You sir, need to repent and ask the real Christ into your heart for I fear you have never known Him.

          • BrotherRog

            Fundamentalism is just plain stupid. Jesus wasn’t a fundamentalist, why would you want to be? The Bible is great. So are many other books – including science texts. I highly recommend that you read some.

        • RWilliams

          So you are saying that Christianity is to blame for gay people being beaten up, killed, and driven to kill themselves? Seems like quite a stretch….

  • Carey, your post drove me all over the map with a host of different emotions. I’ve been in ministry for 30+ years and I have seen all your points as you’ve mentioned. These realities are both good and bad. Good because it is important for the church to keep moving forward and not become stagnant. Regardless of where we are or where we minister, culture is ever changing – if we don’t adjust to the culture around us, we become ineffective.

    Having said that, the sad news is just as you said: “The church is an alternative” That’s exactly what it has become. The reality, however, is that the church is the life of the world – especially of the believer. Without the church you wouldn’t have much of Christ exemplified. The church was never meant to be an “alternative” it was meant to be “the body of Christ.” Various services and activities are always methodically different, but “the church” and its services/outreaches have become one and the same. Thus, much of what worked before (which are essentials to the body of Christ) are not working today.

    Partly, most of what used to work in suburban America for me, has not worked at all in rural America. I’ve pastored in both and both are distinctively different. One thing, however, will always remain true and will work every time – in anything we do, regardless of our different cultures and approaches to ministry/outreach, authenticity reality and demonstrating the gospel of the kingdom works every time. It must be embedded into every outreach/idea we can craft next. Without the kingdom of God and its authenticity as well as the reality of our faith, the best approach will always fall and fail.

    Thanks for your great posts, brother. Much of what you post helps me generate conversations with my staff and sometimes my bible studies 😉

    • Thanks Alex. Appreciate the comment and your faithfulness over 3 decades. Inspiring.

  • RJ

    One thing that I’ve seen not working for the church is separating youth and adults for the primary worship service. It is possible to build a big youth group that way, but when they go off to college, the youth who are taking a big step toward adulthood find that the service is no longer designed specifically for them. They often drop out at that point.

    I guess that might be part of a larger pattern of treating members like consumers, which is part of the gimmicks thing. Consumers are not part of the organization. They come to purchase what the organization is selling. Members need to be seen as part of the organization (or better yet household). We serve each other and we serve the world.

    • Paul Willis

      RJ, we have an intergenerational worship. It works because we weekly incorporate youth and children into the actual worship order.

  • Good points. I agree with most of them.
    I have found that the trick is when you know that “church is not working anymore” but have no clue how to make it work/attract people again.
    As I see it, there are some serious issues at hand where I live:
    1. As a UMC pastor in Norway/Sweden I live in a culture heavily influence by a centuries old state church (Lutheran) where “free” churches including the Methodist church had their “good old days” 80 years ago. That makes a big impact on how we do church and relate to society. Not to mention how it has colored what people think about when they hear “church” or “Christian”.
    2. We are small, to the point where 70 people in church on Sunday makes you a big church. That is a challenge, to say the least.
    3. Norway and Sweden are the most secular, or openly atheist/agnostic, countries in the world. The “Humanist” association of Norway has around 80000 members, the UMC has around 4500 confessing members.
    To be honest, I am not sure what would work over here to attract people to Christ. I am thinking that the only thing that works is people in love with Jesus, for real, living out their lives much like missionaries do.

    • I think you hit the nail on the head in your last paragraph Andreas. Also, I have become good friends with Martin Daland. He’s leading a growing church in Norway. You may want to look him up and connect with him. Amazing guy!

      • What’s the name of his church?

        • Skien Misjonskirke. 🙂

          • Ok, thanks. I know where that is. I have a local Misjonskirke closeby that also does good stuff. It seems that it is either them (Mission Covenant) or the Pentecostals that make it happen :).

          • John Redmond

            Andreas I am the pastor of the only English Speaking UMC church in Prague, CZ. I was wondering if you know of any resources for new pastors like myself with church planting? My family has been here for 18 months and trying to do just as you said above has been challenging. I would love to talk and brainstorm with you sometime soon. I will be going to a Migrant Leadership Conference in Germany next week. Not sure if you would be going or not. Peace

  • Butler

    Church in general some are born and raised and obligated to go. I agree with your post some things need to change the way we look at church. Maybe I’m just tired of the same O’le mundane routine, ritual.

    • Jesus is anything but boring!

      • robb1952

        He is far better than the alternative!

  • Ryan

    Hi Carey, I don’t know that I’ve ever commented on a blog post in my life and I’m sure I will regret breaking that tradition. This is the second post I’ve read of yours in the past two days and I feel compelled to respond. For context, I’ve been a pastor in a lead role for 8 years and our church is growing. So I don’t think I’m looking to excuse away not wanting to change. There is always areas that we need to improve on. However, as I look over the headlines of your posts that get retweeted and shared on Facebook most of them have such a negative connotation to them. As you know pastoring is very difficult and the lies the enemy tries to pass off as truth can affect us even on our good days. I’m curious what benefit comes from telling a leader he had “peaked”? Does that mean God can’t use him for greater things? Although I don’t disagree with the content in this post and im sure there are things i can improve on as a pastor, I would love to hear “5 ways the church is making a difference in this world”. Or “7 reasons to keep pastoring your church”. When people read your headlines, it feeds a sense that everything is wrong with Christians and the church. Why not give people some hope as to why they should be in a church community? I haven’t read all of your blog posts so maybe it’s more balanced than I realize and so I may be out of line. I guess what I’m trying to say is I’m aware of areas that need improvement I just need someone to say “you know, what you do has eternal significance and it has come at a great cost and sacrifice to you and your family. Keep pressing on” “5 reasons why bi-vocational pastors are the real heroes of ministry” (im in a full-time vocational position) I hope that makes sense and I mean no disrespect to you just a thought I had two days in a row reading your lists. Blessings, Ryan

    • Ryan…thanks for this. I appreciate it and I’ve thought about the same issue myself. Here’s the sad reality. I write the optimistic posts regularly. They don’t get shared nearly as much as the others. I write both because I want to help leaders, and I hope that you always find hope in whatever I write. But people behave in specific ways and the negative gets outshared significantly. I’m not saying that’s good. I’m just saying that’s true and real. I hope you know that what you you do has eternal significance and the cost and sacrifice are worth it. I try to point to the hope we have in every post and I am a HUGE optimist about the future of the church. We just have to overcome our obstacles.

      • Ryan

        Thanks for responding. I followed up and looked at some older posts and I do appreciate your insight. I especially liked your post on adapting/borrowing/stealing mega-church models. I plan to spend some time reading some of your other insights. I do find it terribly unfortunate that people tend to latch on to the negative. I understand it and I know the Church has wounded many in the process. Maybe its the Lord challenging me to do something myself about it. Blessings to your church and ministry – Ryan

  • TMac

    The whole concept of “what works” is troubling to me. I doubt that Peter and the boys got together after Pentecost hit the upper room and devised a model for how to make church “work”. If the Holy Spirit is on fire in a leader’s soul, simply letting him burn will build a church. Anything less means church becomes what we see just about every week in the vast majority of Sunday services…..a religious exercise. I’ve done religion and I’ve done relationship…..relationship is better.

    • I hear you. I think the reality is that we are always changing, and what was effective in the past isn’t effective in the future. While there are some differences for sure, reading Acts is like reading a constantly changing strategic playbook, with a major reorganization in Chapter 6, and a massive shift in direction when Paul went to the Gentiles and broke up with Barnabas and planted more churches. What worked on the day of Pentecost isn’t where the church stayed. It kept using new methods to advance the same mission. We’re trying to do the same.

  • Bob Cleveland

    I would observe something. If those things you mentioned were what the church has been doing for 10 years or 20 years, then they are what built the church today. The one in which 30% or so of the members actually participate in the church, and in which no Baptist I’ve spoken to can tell me why one must be baptized to join a Baptist church. So my thought would be that they never really did work, and we can go on doing them and produce the same results if we want, but if we want to fix it, we’d best start making disciples.

    • Good points. But I think all of these gave some kind of lift to churches at some point. It just ain’t the same anymore. Thanks Bob!