5 Tell-Tale Signs Your Church Is Geared to Insiders, Not Outsiders


Pretty much every church leader I talk to says they long to reach their community. After all, the church is one of the only missions on the planet that exists for the sake of its non-members.

But there’s a strange tension to which leaders are often blind: as much as they say they want to reach outsiders, their services and the entire organization are geared toward insiders. As a result, when someone they’re trying to reach shows up, it’s easy for them to feel like they don’t fit in or like this church simply isn’t for them. And most leaders simply miss the signs that this is the case. So they scratch their heads and wonder why outsiders don’t flock toward their church.

The truth is there’s a gravitational pull inside almost every church to sacrifice the church’s mission by catering to the church’s members.

And while you can’t ignore the needs of your members, there’s a strange paradox that’s true about spiritual maturity: the best way to become spiritually mature is to stop focusing on your needs and begin focusing on Christ and others. Some church leaders drown in the sink-hole of trying to satisfy the escalating demands of their unpleasable members while they watch the real mission go up in flames.

Worse, others think they’re geared to outsiders when in reality, they’re not. At least not really. They’ve given in to the subtle but relentless pull of the needs of insiders.

With that in mind, here are 5 tell-tale signs your church is geared to insiders, not outsiders, despite your best intentions.

There's a gravitational pull to sacrifice the church's mission by catering to the church's members. Click To Tweet

1. Long announcements

I know this is a weird one to start with, but really, how long are your announcements?

If they’re longer than 3 minutes, you’re probably geared toward insiders more than you realize.

The purpose of a welcome is to welcome people, not announce 18 things.

Churches often feel the tension of announcements as their church grows. If you have a church of 30, there’s probably not much going on. But if you’re a church of 300, you feel the pressure of everyone trying to get their message across.

What about really big churches, you ask? Well, you’ll likely never get to 3,000 if you don’t solve this problem first.

Why is this such a trap for smaller and mid-sized churches? Here’s why. Leaders feel torn, trying to please everyone, and so they cave to the ‘one more announcement’ syndrome because they fear the wrath of whoever they left out.

But think about it. If you’re coming to church for the first time, the last thing you want to hear is a long laundry list of things you’re not interested in. You want to meet Jesus, or at least learn more about him.

And if the welcome isn’t geared toward that, you’ve missed the opportunity to connect your first-time guest with their most important objective: what to do to take a next step in their journey.

And the answer to taking a next step is not to do 18 things. It’s to do one thing.

How pivot ready is your team? Take my Agility Quiz here to find out. 

If you don’t know what that one thing is, you’re not geared to outsiders. You’re likely just catering to the needs and wants of insiders.

The purpose of a welcome in church is to welcome people, not announce 18 things. Click To Tweet

2. Trying to get everyone to do everything

All of this leads us to the second issue insider-focused churches struggle with in their bulletin and announcements: trying to get everyone to do everything.

I remember when our church was at this stage. We had about 400 or 500 attending and we were a program based church at the time.

Every group was fighting for new members, so the pressure was on to get people to join. The people who led each group were also convinced that their group was the best thing for people, so it deserved a prime spot. And if you left them out, they got mad because their program didn’t grow.

That creates this strange dynamic where you’re trying to get everyone who attends your church to do everything.

Look, people can’t do 20 things. They can probably do one thing, or maybe two.

And if you don’t tell new guests what the one thing is they need to do, guess what they’ll do? That’s right—nothing.

Ditto with asking regular attenders to a lot of things. If you ask people to do 20 things, most people will do nothing.

So—just to be clear— if you want most people at your church to do nothing, keep suggesting they do everything.

As we prepared to break the 500 mark, I actually led the church through a year-long rethink which led to us shutting down most of our ministries and our Wednesday night service so that we could focus on a few key strategic steps that led the greatest number of people (including new people) into spiritual growth: serving, giving, inviting friends and groups. And we run an orientation called Next for new people and invite them to take Starting Point before joining a group. The goal? To find a few strategic engagement points for people that would help them find faith and grow in their faith.

When it comes to leading people into transformation, simplicity is your friend.

If you want more on this, read Tony Morgan’s guest post about programs v. path, and this piece I wrote on why engagement is the new church attendance.

If you want most people at your church to do nothing, keep suggesting they do everything. Click To Tweet

3. Saved seats

This is a small thing that’s actually a big thing. I was at a church last year where no one on the guest services team ushered me and my wife to our seats. We were just handed a bulletin and made our way down.

When I got a row that looked quite open, I headed in and asked the elderly woman a few seats in whether they empty seats were taken, she said “Not yet.”

I had no idea what she meant.

So I asked if I could sit a few over from her. She just looked at me, didn’t say a word and moved further away by two seats. Welcome to church.

Nothing says church is for insiders quite as loudly as ‘you can’t sit in my seat.’

Interestingly enough, her friends did show up halfway through the service one by one. None of them smiled at us…they just kind of brustled past and sat even further away.

No idea what that was about, but I doubt I’d go back if that was my first time.

You should train your guest services team to walk people into a seat and let them do the work of cheesing off your grumpy members.

Nothing says church is for insiders quite as loudly as 'you can't sit in my seat. Click To Tweet

4. Insider speak

Christians often talk weird—from the front and with each other.

Too often, we use unnecessarily strange language—like this:

“This is good coffee, brother.”

“Amen. Hallelujah.”

“Let’s fellowship together.”

Um, none of this is good. Why not just talk at church the way you talk at the office or at a football game or on a Saturday by the pool? (Actually, if you talk like that normally, you probably don’t get invited out too often.)

Here’s what’s actually at stake: if someone has to learn code to join your church, you likely won’t have many people joining your church.

Our challenge is to reduce the human barriers that keep people from Jesus, not to erect new ones.

And, no, being weird does not mean you’re being faithful. It just means you’re being weird.

If someone has to learn code to join your church, you won’t have many people joining your church. Click To Tweet

5. Music That Lacks Guts

Many churches have made the move toward a more contemporary style of music. But most churches haven’t moved far enough. The reason? Fear.

Your church is too contemporary to make insiders happy, and your approach is still too dated, irrelevant and unengaging to capture the imagination of unchurched people. You’ve made as many changes as you think you can navigate without alienating your existing membership, but not brought about nearly enough change to really engage outsiders.

As a result, you are in no man’s land. In an attempt to please everyone, you have pleased no one.

A lot of leaders often compromise what they want to do because of fear of the backlash of their core members. So we convince ourselves we’re contemporary, even if we’re not. We’re just holding off the war over music as best we can.

If you think your church is contemporary, just check out the current Top 40. My guess? Your definition of what sounds contemporary and the average 30-year-old unchurched’s person’s understanding of what sounds contemporary are world’s apart.

I’m not saying we need to sound exactly like today’s top 40, I’m just saying don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re culturally engaged when you’re nowhere near it.

If your church is still feeling the tension over music, here’s a piece that might help.

In an attempt to please everyone, many church leaders please no one. Click To Tweet

Any Other Signs?

Any other signs you see that churches are geared for insiders?

Scroll down and leave a comment!

5 Tell-Tale Signs Your Church Is Geared to Insiders, Not Outsiders


  1. Tamieka K Williams on September 13, 2021 at 2:07 pm

    This article resonated with me in so many ways, After attending a small ministry with less that 20 people for 17 years that closed due to the Pastor not wanting to continue. Our family was faithful to the end. My husband and I both were in leadership positions in our old church. I was a worship leader and teacher my husband was a teacher and minister. My husband, son and I were forced to find another church. We began attending a much larger congregation 50 miles from where we lived about three years ago. We both had always loved visiting this church and thought it was an ideal place for us as a family. We even considered relocating to the area so that we could become more actively involved with the church prior to Covid. We went there with a willingness to work and add to the ministry particularly through giving. And as discerning as the Senior Pastor says that he is he always went out of his way to blow us off. We have gone to the alter for prayer and have watched him purposely avoid praying for us. He has successfully prayed for us as a family once at church and once over the phone when my husband was experiencing some health problems. But he is so distant in church from us as compared to other members. My son, who is Autistic thinks the world of him and my husband adores him as well but he only speaks to us at church if he comes face to face with us and really has no other choice. We have even tried to make time to speak with him but he tells us things to blow us off for a while such as “I’ll get around to making time to talk to you”. I have confided in him about struggles that I have been through but he is so short with me that I have just quit bothering. The Pastor’s wife and the co-pastor’s wife who both are pastors originally took an interest in me and asked me to become a part of the women’s ministry there at the church. I became involved but it seemed very limited and not everyone seems to get the same amount of support. The church has a clique or a social circle of ladies there that are limited and seem afraid to go outside of the circle. Its amazing how we pray together virtually on Saturday for meetings and on Facebook but on Sunday these individuals act so cold. My husband and I have signed up for some small groups but got little to no feedback. We have not asked them to accommodate us being that we are from out of town. However in the three years that we have been there very few people except the ushers and greeters have gotten to know us. We are basically just going to church every Sunday. We have bible study and prayer in our home weekly. I’ve never been in a church like this before. Not only am I missing my old church that I can’t go back to but I am not adjusting well here. I am discouraged and I’m lonely. My husband does not do well leaving churches so I feel like I’m stuck. He is okay with not carrying on the gifting and ministry that was in him from the beginning however I am not. They asked us from the beginning where we would like to be placed and we told them where we worked in our old church but we also make it clear we weren’t there to occupy positions. However, opportunities have come for us to become apart of some of the ministries that we told them about but they were occupied by people that were already there. I can understand that in a large congregation sometimes you don’t know the difference between people who are coming to occupy space and those who are coming to become established on a firm foundation. I try to tell myself that maybe people just aren’t attaching to us because they think that we are eventually going to run but my thing is this….we have been laboring among these leaders for three years, there should be some kind of discernment by now of whether or not we are in for the long haul. IDK

  2. Melody on August 19, 2021 at 1:25 am

    I totally agree with your article. I visited a particular church the second time around, the first time was fine. But this time was a little different. I had some heavy things on my mind when I entered the church sanctuary, and was hoping to talk and pray with someone, or they pray for me, etc. Anyway, walking through I had to literally force the guy to say good morning. No one to usher me or anything. I found a set on my own. Only a few were sitting in seats, the rest were on stage trying to rehearse songs and sound good (!) despite trying to find the right key! Anyway, I sit and wait for service to start. In the meantime, the pastor’s wife comes over and hugs me, smiles and is glad that I came, she said. We talk only for a couple minutes and then she’s gone. So it’s back to sitting alone listening to these “singers” struggle to sound right. So after five more minutes, the pastor comes and says hi, hugs me and says how good it is to see me again. We chat a little bit, then he’s gone. Back to sitting and waiting. Alone. So then, this guy, not sure if he’s a member or what, but probably was. He’s going around chatting, high-fiving, fist bumping, smiling at everyone in the audience…but me! He sees me, then does a total 360 and heads to the back. No hello, no welcome, no handshake, fist bump, nothing. So after picking my mouth up off the floor, the service is about to begin. A guy gets up on stage and is about to pray. At the same time, the “singers” have finished so now it’s time for them to claim their front row seats. Not go around and say hi or welcome anyone, that’s only set aside for the people they already know. So, the pastor’s mom, wife, daughters, pregnant daughters boyfriend, their friends have already claimed those seats loud and clear. So the guy on stage is starting to pray and asks everyone to stand. As he starts to pray, I suddenly start hearing a bunch of loud talk, giggling, laughing and playing around from the first row. Suddenly distracted, I open my eyes and see this first row just cut loose, loud and disrespectful chatter, giggling, pregnant daughters rubbing on her boyfriend…and all during prayer. In God’s house!!! Well that did it for me. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Something unexplainable just rose up inside of me and literally convinced me that I did not want to be there. Then during the guy’s prayer, he prayed for all evil spirits to be driven out of the church, and right there I knew in my heart that was my cue to leave. I couldn’t take anymore. The loneliness, the isolation, seeing this disrespect from the pastor’s family, drove me right out the front door. So after the prayer, I grabbed my bag and headed towards the exit and out the door to catch the bus home. And I haven’t been back since. I watch the services online, but I know and feel that I probably do need a church home somewhere. Not sure if I even want to go back at this point. God still blesses no matter what. Church is only a building but God is in my heart and in my life no matter if it’s at church or at home.

    • The Sparrow on September 11, 2021 at 10:48 pm

      Dear Melody, I am sorry this happened to you. Sadly, that is the way of the American church. We are an isolated, independent people who do not know what hospitality is. I am one of the few that is different (I don’t say that to sound proud). When I come into church, I set down my bag and bible on a chair, then I start walking around to greet people I don’t know. I tell them a bit about myself and ask them about themselves. I also look for opportunities to invite newcomers (well, women) to my small group that I lead, as well as telling them about other groups should they not be interested in mine. And, I ask if I can pray for them. But Melody, the reason I am like this is because I was abused as a child. And God used that abuse to glorify Himself — I know what it’s like to be rejected and harmed by those who are suppose to protect you. So, when I look at people, I seem to be able to see pain and loneliness. It is that that causes me to care about the stranger, to show hospitality to the stranger. Please stop expecting it from the American church because you will continue to be disappointed. Instead, you be the one to welcome and love strangers. Amen!

  3. Barbara on August 2, 2021 at 11:48 am

    Hello-I was just perusing through the internet and this article caught my eye. It is concerning to me the author of this article seems to place more importance on numbers and being culturally relatable than what kind of teaching and preaching and exegesis of the Word the congregants are getting. The church is not here to cater to “unchurched”. Its main purpose is to be a supportive body to glorify Christ and educate and support and edify believers. Last time I checked that is what Scripture says.

    Of course unbelievers are welcome to come and we want them to come. But the idea that churches need to be more like the world and get with the times in order to lure in unbelievers to satisfy them is not what Christ’s church is about. (Contemporary music is fine and some of what we sing is what we would consider to be contemporary). In my opinion the author sounds like he has lost sight of the true purpose for the church. The trend for putting non believers in the judgement seat over the church is very troubling. YES I believe churches should have outreach ministries. YES we are to go out into the world and minister the Gospel to the unsaved. YES we are to welcome those who are being drawn to Christ and need Christian support. But God’s way not the world’s way.

    • Jeff Myers on September 6, 2021 at 9:10 pm

      This is my thoughts exactly. Nice to hear I’m not alone

    • Tam-may on September 21, 2021 at 7:41 pm

      Hello Barbara. I don’t believe the author was talking about unbelievers. From what I read, he is saying when a believer visits a church, and that members who have been there for years are comfortable. They are usually not open for new people to come in and that could be a major reason why the numbers are low (people are not staying or would rather not join the church.)

  4. Vickie Bailey on July 17, 2021 at 1:26 pm

    I am commenting on the “church hoppers” comments. I see nothing wrong with church hopping. Why would someone want to stick with a church if they didn’t like the pastor’s way of talking, his sermon content, etc. And how about the all important music? I think music really helps to make the church. Good hymns that everyone can relate to and sing with. What’s wrong with that? And the pastor? He should be friendly and totally into God and talk about the bible and Jesus and all of that instead of political stuff – we can hear that on tv. I just don’t get it – I will continue to hop until I feel comfortable and satisfied with the pastor, his sermons and the people that go there. These things are important! I read somewhere recently that Billy Graham and Charles Stanley are the two greatest preachers we have ever had and I agree. They both pack the house and people really get something out of their talks and I watch them both all the time. They leave you with something real to think about.

  5. lh on April 18, 2021 at 7:00 pm

    Im struggling with my pastor and church at the moment. I am part of a church of about 20 adults and twenty kids (big families) It is a very small church. we have started meeting in someones house now to save money from hiring the community centre.

    I am the only believer in my family so come to church alone. Jesus is all I want to talk about. I want to surround myself with brothers and sisters all day every day and just dissect scripture and worship and be part of a christian family. I want community apart from this world. I want to help them and support them in life and be their for them at all hours
    id love for them to help me to. I live alone on a property as my husband works in china and have not once had an offer of anyone to help me with heavy work that I struggle with, perhaps I should ask? My 70 year old dad helps where he can but is a angry atheist and notices the churches absence which breaks my heart.
    Church is sundays for my church as they are all very busy with large families and business’s they own. Ive tried so many times to make friends and serve, but Its very one sided and very hurtful/deflating.
    The leadership are in a click, and looking to expand the church but to me it seems that they struggle with creating disciples with what they have.
    My pastor now doesn’t even respond to biblical questions i send him. I know he reads them as can see that but i just get ignored.
    Am I expecting to much from my church, I cant help but think we are to be a body and to me it feels very individual. This also happens in the woman group. People ignore my questions. I am cautios to forgive and let it go, problem is the hurt just keeps coming back and its a bit of a stumbling block. I dont want to leave unless its Gods will for me and after much prayer and handing things over to Him He has not shown me yet, so I wait patiently for HIm

    • kd on April 28, 2021 at 6:17 pm

      Sorry to hear. Going to church by yourself is difficult. Many cannot see that Gods Word is more than a pew, pen, and ink. His Word is alive, lifted off of the pages by the Spirit, to the seeking heart. A sword to conquer, an anchor to hold onto,
      a refuge to hide within, and a light to reveal. His Word is also a measuring tape,
      a plumb line, a standard, to utilize. In 2 Corinthians chapter 13 , we are told that love is patient, love is kind, love does not seek self, love is not rude….We are to judge within the Church. How well is the alignment?
      In 1 John 4:8 we are told that God is love. God IS love.
      If a person says he belongs to God but does not move in love, he is out of alignment and is therefore a liar. A person cannot be in Christ if he makes it a habit, to walk outside of love. It is impossible. The Church is an assembly of “called out ones.” Just because a person sets up a building, places a name on it,
      smiles nicely, and calls a meeting, does not mean that it is of God.
      Holy ground is found where Gods presence dwells. The Church is not a clique or club, nor is it a brick and mortar building. The true Church is the body of Christ – not a bunch of programs, or to-do lists, devised by the flesh. (And yes, we are called to use our spiritual gifts, talents, and abilities). We are brothers and sisters. Ask for help. Be discerning. Strengthen the weak. Encourage the downtrodden. Find wisdom – She is said to be calling. Forgive. Don’t allow sin to block your prayers or progress. Follow His Word and you will follow the LORD.
      Have no fellowship with works of darkness. Be as a Berean and seek scripture.
      Weigh everything on the accurate truth of God and then walk accordingly.
      Just keep on keeping on. 😊

  6. William on April 13, 2021 at 1:12 pm

    I have been is a fairly small church ever since getting married and at the time I never really minded it. But, after some time my wife, son, and I decided to go to a much larger church. It was a church with a concert style stage and more contemporary worship music. We loved it. Unfortunately my wife died from cancer and I began going back to the small country church we started out going to. One thing I have noticed now that I am alone and no longer have my wife’s opinion influencing my feelings (that’s not a bad thing), I have noticed a lot of her family, who also go to this small church, advising what we should do and always making comments about leaving being a bad thing. I have figured out that when a church has leaders who are all family and have control of everything going on in the church, that it leads to a church that suffers from lack of growth. There is no outreach to outsiders. Unfortunately, it appears to me that if you come to church you will find God but if not then you miss out. To me this kind of mentality doesn’t work. I want more work with in the church and many members are elderly and the others are too busy. I have since decided to leave myself and my son followed which has caused a lot of problems between the family and me but my salvation has to be sought by me. So in terms of a church being driven towards insiders, the control factor of the insider members seems to be pretty relevant and strong

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 13, 2021 at 3:17 pm

      Hey William,

      I’m so sorry to hear about your wife. I hope you can find a community of people that really rally around you in your pain.

      I think way too many churches are in a similar situation to what you describe. I’m glad you got out.

  7. Judy Kay on March 28, 2021 at 3:19 pm

    I’m a single adult without family in town. I just visited yet another church. This one was a small church of about 25. The music was good. The message was Biblical and solid. I am a mature Christian that doesn’t need to be taught the basics. I’m mainly looking for community, friendship, or at least inclusion. The person that invited me stopped by to say thanks for coming, then sat with his family, leaving me to sit alone. The pastor came over to meet me and gave me a hug (after asking permission.) That was very nice. But the conversation never went past, “Hi, how are you? Thanks for coming.” The problem? – the entire congregation vanished after the last amen. They were so busy to go on with their day or get to the restaurant, that I left as alone as I came. It takes courage for a single person to visit a strange church alone. Please don’t make it worse by treating me like a customer instead of a person. It may not be fair, but I judge a church by what they DON’T DO. If I don’t get included in conversation or an invitation to join a small group or meeting during the week, I don’t go back. I ask myself “Would I ask my best friend to come here if they treated her the same way I’ve been treated?” Most of the time the answer is no. I’ve been in this new town for 3 years, visited many churches and still have no church home. One church I went to for almost a year – I jumped through all their hoops (background check, membership class, etc) to become involved and all they ever wanted me to do was keep the nursery so they wouldn’t miss the service. Sorry.. I don’t like church anymore – AND I’M A LAY PASTOR!

    • Val on March 28, 2021 at 7:46 pm

      Your story is my story. I have lived in a new community for over 3 years. I have not one friend from church. I am thankful for the non church friends I have made in this new city. Not one is a church goer. I don’t blame them. The upside is, in getting to know these notches, (as in no churchers) I find that caring and sharing leads to conversations that are open to sharing and learning about each other’s values and opinions. I think this experience has taught me a lot more about the verse, “…where one or two are gathered in my name, … you know the rest.

      Sometimes busy churches are not humble churches.


      • Crysolyte on June 18, 2021 at 11:25 am

        Same here. Single adult in a different country from my own, no family, few friends and thought that the church would provide me with a “family” and a feeling of belonging. There’s been very little interest from anyone to get to know me despite me trying very hard. Conversations are always surface level and awkward and everyone looks like they rather be somewhere else than talking to me, including the pastor.
        Worst of all was getting absolutely no support/pastoral care from my church after my father passed in 2020 back in my home country. Nothing.
        Now the pastor doesn’t even talk to me and completely ignores me because he found out that I mentioned to a lady in church that it would have been nice to have some type of pastoral support through my experiences.
        I refuse to return there.
        But I still need a church to call home and a Christian family to fellowship with.
        May God lead us all to the right people.

        • Stephen on August 8, 2021 at 9:18 am

          You’re the kind of person that real christians seek out to help and comfort. I understand where you’re coming from. I’ve been in churches where everyone can’t wait to leave and go home. It’s usually the bigger churches in my experience. But I’m sure a lot of the smaller churches can be very clickish also. The only church I’ve been a part of that actually made an effort to bear one anothers burdens, was a Mennonite church. Only problem was, that I didn’t agree with all their man made rules that they wanted their members to follow. I’ve found the rest way to make new friends in a church is to look for the new visitors who are in the same situation as you. Seek out those in need. If they’re really born again christians, they’ll appreciate you and will also seek to comfort those in need.

    • G. Mori on April 6, 2021 at 7:58 am

      Thank you for sharing your experience. We moved from CT to Alabama last November and began volunteering at a local thrift store run by Christians with the hope of establishing relationships in our new land. The owners special needs aunt asked my husband
      If he would make her a cheesecake for her birthday party that was originally planned to be at the store but then we were told it would be at their house and it was just for family. My “always singing about Jesus” boss is always posting on FB if someone would be willing to help her with something and I always volunteer but she never takes me up on my offer. This morning she posted if someone would be willing to meet with her for maybe an hour after work to explain how a particular app works and I responded with, “I offered to help you”. To which she replied, “she didn’t want to take me away from my family (its just me and my husband) to which I replied as a sister in Christ “I thought we were family? ” her reply 🤣😂🤣😂
      I find it sad very very sad that no one seems interested in building relationships outside their circle. There has to be a way to rescue the lost without neglecting and overlooking the lonely. 💔

  8. Theresa on March 1, 2021 at 8:01 pm

    This is sort of a question and I would love a response. I just visited a church a few times. I thought it had a good vibe and was intrigued. However, no one greeted me at all. The only person that I spoke to was the person at the coffee counter. I went back a second week and again the only person that spoke to me was the person at the coffee counter. They also had no information table or any greeters. They didn’t even have a bulletin. It said on the website they had Sunday school, but I had no idea what classes were offered or for what age groups.

    The first week the pastor had a great sermon and it seemed like he was compassionate about the community and having church members care for each other. The congregation seemed involved and loving each other. The second week the sermon started out fine, but then the Pastor said strange things. He had been to a pastors conference where the pastors were complaining about growth from church hoppers. Hmmm……I am now wondering, what is a church hopper and am I one of them. He was talking about how the other pastors said they were always complaining about things. He expressed concern that he though the church was going to really grow now that covid restrictions were easing up and he was worried about it growing in numbers but not in depth. He was worried about losing the church community. He mentioned church hoppers several times in a negative light. Then he talked about the unsaved and how he wants to grow through conversion, not church hoppers. Then he paused a minute and said he was getting word from the Spirit on which way to take the sermon. He ended up sharing a weird analogy about birds. We recently experienced a snowstorm and he said that his family bought bird seed to help the song birds. He said they put it in their yard and had lots of song birds come. Then he said he started seeing a bird that he hadn’t seen in awhile. It was a red-winged blackbird. He described it like he was excited to see it. Then he said all of a sudden they had a whole lot of the black birds. He was worried because he was worried that the black birds would eat all the seed that was meant for the song birds. He equated the song birds with the unsaved. I was left assuming that the black birds were the terrible church hoppers that he mentioned.

    I actually felt very offended. I do not think that I am a church hopper. I moved to the area only two years ago. I have recently gone through a lot of reevaluation of my beliefs and was looking for something different. Also, a large part of the two years I was not even attending church because I was separated from my husband and really struggling to come to terms with all of that.
    However, I have been a christian a long time and did come in toting a bible and a notebook ready to take notes. I guess I sure could of looked like a “church hopper.” I left there almost feeling like he was singling me out. He probably wasn’t, but I felt that way.

    The service ended and everyone started to head to Sunday school. I had intended on trying to attend Sunday school that day, but of course I still didn’t know what the classes were and how to get info on them. Everyone seemed happy and invested. At this point I just awkwardly walked out the door and went to my car and zoomed out of the parking lot.

    I was so shaken by the encounter I had to drive around for awhile before going home. I really felt rejected.

    I finally emailed him to clarify who the black birds were in his analogy because I was really confused. I got no response.
    What the heck is going on there?

    I am wondering if it is just really focused on lost people and therefore doesn’t want people that are already saved. Was he actively pushing me away? It really hurts to be rejected by a church.

    Or maybe he just spoke a nonsensical analogy because he was unprepared and he didn’t really think it through and he hasn’t checked his email yet. However, do I really want a pastor who says crazy unplanned stuff that leaves me with such confusion?

    What do you think of this situation?

    • Carey Nieuwhof on March 2, 2021 at 4:09 pm

      Hi Theresa,

      I’m so sorry you went through this. I would like to give the pastor the benefit of the doubt and say that maybe he didn’t intend to alienate you, but instead meant to show his passion for non-Christians. I hope they get back to you and you are able to understand what they meant.

      • Theresa on March 2, 2021 at 4:13 pm


        Thanks for responding. The pastor did get back to me, actually. He explained his point and it was pretty much along the lines of what you said. He cleared it up and I get it now. Thanks so much!

        • Carey Nieuwhof on March 3, 2021 at 5:17 pm

          So glad to hear that!

    • Jace on March 5, 2021 at 7:03 am

      I understand the point about church hoppers although I wouldn’t consider you one or anyone that switches churches for Biblical reasons , location etc ….I think he was probably talking about people who cause strife and division that lead to “church splits “ and he didn’t want that type of behavior leaving one church and coming into theirs .

    • Alisa Joy on April 8, 2021 at 10:31 am

      I think the thing that was the most compelling about your story is no one came up to you to invite you to join one of the Sunday School classes. Sunday school, and bible study is where you really get to know people. Sunday school offers a tremendous opportunity to make friends in a new church.

  9. Joy on February 21, 2021 at 12:19 pm

    Church seems to be much more about being a business these days rather than a focus on the worship of Christ. There’s superficial teaching/preaching/reaching instead of genuine care for the souls of man. I grew up in a pastor’s home. I was in church every single week. My father was one of the most caring, giving, soul-winning pastors that I ever knew. I have never found a church like it since he passed. He visited people and called people daily up until he passed away. I’ve never found a church or pastor who cared that much about people since. He was real. He prayed. He gave. He led by example. I would give anything to have my father back as my pastor again. Not because he’s my father, but because he was a true shepherd…he was a pastor for insiders and outsiders alike. He was the same with everyone.

    • kd on April 28, 2021 at 3:04 pm

      Hi Joy, The mainstream “churches” have payrolls, pensions, and retirement plans, along with government affiliation, thanks to 501c3. A raised platform for the feet of the hierarchy and set hours of operation – sounds like a corporation to me.

  10. April User on February 1, 2021 at 11:13 am

    I didn’t know that “church“ is for outsiders. I thought it was a place where the people of God meet to worship God and to rehear the story from the Scriptures and to take of the bread and cup that are life-giving. I don’t see in the Old Testament that God shaped worship of him with the modes of the nations that were around Israel. He had certain and specific requirements for worship of him.The worship service is not an outreach center. It is a holy time with the Holy One.

    • VicciP on February 10, 2021 at 3:29 pm

      The church is not a fraternity. Jesus didn’t stop anyone from coming to him, in fact, he went to the cross for the entire world, not just a select few. If you exclude anyone from coming in your saying you disagree with the great commision. “go into all the world and preach the good news to everone.” Mrk 16:15 and in Matthew He says “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations….28:19. Yes, church is also a refuge for those who are already on the path of discipleship themselves. It is a place we come and worship our Lord with other believers, and it is Holy, not because of the style or age of the songs we sing or listen to. It is Holy because of whom it is directed to. Biblical holiness is simply being set apart for God. Speaking Christianese doesn’t make you righteous, nor does being involved with every program the church has to offer. Affraid to break it to you, but you don’t achieve righteousness any other way then by accepting that Jesus is the Son of God, born of a virgin by the works of the Holy Spirit, and that his finished works on the cross cleansed you from all your unrighteousness. You must also believe that he was raised from the dead and that he is seated at the right hand of God. How are you to believe that if you cannot go to the very place that teaches these things? The church IS and always will be an out reach center, and when it fails to be one it is no longer a church of God, but rather a gathering with good music, speeches, and dues.

  11. David on January 14, 2021 at 7:41 pm

    ( See added verse reference below)

    I think 🤔 you get where I’m coming from.

    This is a symptom of a larger problem. The Levite’s sample was they had a calling and were the center of the other 11 tribes in the order of marching and camping during their Exodus.

    The other 11 tribes did there part by supplying all the Levites food and animal sacrifices ( much like working people’s offerings today).

    Did the Levites keep pressing the other 11 tribes o do “ministry” .

    No, in fact they couldn’t. Because if others not in their Tribe even stood in the area of the moving temple (that only the Levite’s could), God killed them ( those other table a Levite). Numbers 1:51

  12. David on January 14, 2021 at 7:19 pm

    I largely agree with the article. It is also why men’s “ministries” fail.

    Church leadership’s focus on “getting you right with God” which will be evidenced by your doing some type of “serving”.

    Because they say, “You were not saved to sit” and serving that God is working “in and through you.”

    The problem is that is discouraging to the poor working man or woman (and other categories) who thinks following God by faith may “only” be as a husband, wife, worker, friend etc…. and that just isn’t enough.

    That person without some kind of organized or especially church (insiders) activity involvement is simply still apparently waiting to learn how to be led by God’s Spirit or get right with God.

    When was the last time you ever sat through a sermon as “just” a working man or woman (no extra ministry involvements at all) and felt affirmed in your life’s faith walk calling and more encouraged to go back to work Monday through God’s acceptance and grace.

    I think 🤔 you get where I’m coming from.

    This is a symptom of a larger problem. The Levite’s sample was they had a calling and were the center of the other 11 tribes in the order of marching and camping during their Exodus. The other 11 tribes did there part by supplying all the Levites food and animal sacrifices. Did the Levites keep pressing the other 11 tribes o do “ministry” . No, in fact if they even stood in the area of the moving temple that only the Levite’s could, God killed them.

    • Alisa Joy on April 8, 2021 at 10:45 am

      I was attending a church where they strongly asked for help in different ministries. My problem was, and is, I am care giver to small grand children full time while parents work. On the weekends I was struggling to catch up on rest, house work and get to church. I joined a stitching group to make prayer shawls, and fought hard to get there every other week to meet with the ladies. I spent the other time making the shawls at home. Once Co-vid hit, and I couldn’t be at church any longer, I never heard from a single person at this church again. I spent a year there, but I guess in that time I made 0 friends or connections. People started attending church again a few months ago, but I didn’t go back to this church. I miss being involved in a church, but right now I don’t have a lot of time in my life to devote to ministry. My ministry is my family now. Does that mean I meant nothing to this church? I’m guessing not. I’m praying now for new direction in this matter.

  13. Paul on January 7, 2021 at 6:23 pm

    Pastors telling me I have the Holy Spirit in me and then showing me my gifts and saying maybe this isn’t your place, so hungry to be used kinda like Stephen but always shot down never had a place for me. Always chose insiders unless the outsider had a theological degree.

    The Amazing thing is each time I was rejected I went to God and asked Him to teach me and Holy Spirit has in many ways.

    But because I challenge misinterpretations of man teaching. I’m quickly pushed aside.

    The hardest thing is the more you want Jesus the less friends you have around you because they don’t want to hear truth.

    The more you ask to be discipled your left hungry for more

    Your never unteachable it’s a demonic lie.

  14. Zi Yan on December 31, 2020 at 11:58 pm

    This is a horribly written article, barely any biblical basis for what is mentioned here. The ROLE of a church is to feed the believers, not cater to the unbelievers. This does not mean we do not reach the unbelievers, as that is clearly one of the (larger) GOALS of a church, but it is not and should not be the main priority to the extent that it overshadows the needs of its own flock. Seeker-sensitive worship such as more contemporary music presume that men are seeking God, which Romans 3 clearly tells us otherwise. Being like the world will never win the lost.

    • cheer on January 18, 2021 at 6:39 pm

      Jan. 18, 2021
      I beg to differ. I’ve joined a non-denominational Christian church back in Jan. 2020 before COVID/self quarantine hit. I felt like an outcast every Sunday. I joined their women’s bible study his past Summer & the cliques persevered where I sat by myself as the other women talked among themselves. I was disappointed when I left, no one noticed. This happened twice, so I left early, avoiding being treated like the elephant man. One year later, still cliquey not just on-line, but also during the in-person svc. I realized that all churches do this. I might as well worship God at home.

    • LizTan on February 5, 2021 at 1:43 pm

      Can i ask something? Our Pastor leave our church! But we still have Sunday Worship service with the help of our deacon…now im asking if it’s proper for a church not to have a Pastor?

    • Danielle M on March 5, 2021 at 3:44 pm

      Thank you! Amen.

  15. Ali on December 15, 2020 at 7:20 pm

    When the person said the seats weren’t taken yet – that was an invitation to sit down – to take the seats.
    How did you miss that?
    Of course they looked confused and moved over.
    Welcome to church indeed – that’s exactly what she was doing.

    • Vicki G on December 18, 2020 at 2:12 am

      That’s not how I interpreted it.
      It was an ambiguous response, not plainly understood and not the language I am familiar with either. The woman should have recognised the confusion clarified what she meant….with a smile!
      I would have been confused too.
      We can’t anticipate that everyone speaks the same language!

      • Vicki G on December 18, 2020 at 2:14 am

        should read: “…the confusion and clarified…”

        • Ali on December 18, 2020 at 9:56 am

          You described a misunderstanding, not a victimization.
          There was no offense.

      • Anita on December 31, 2020 at 1:59 pm

        Yes she should of! With a warm welcome!

  16. GREGORY COATS on August 30, 2020 at 11:42 am

    I used to attend a church in Fremont Cal. At that time I was donating to two different christian organizations where I new that the donations made were being out to use for those in need in this country. The church was non denomination, at first I thought that I would get what I needed to be closer to GOD by learning his word from the bible. So sad to learn that I wasn’t welcome from the pastor, at least that was how I was made to feel. Strange to find out that the pastor, family and senior pastor are no longer there. It may come down to that they talked the talk but not walk the walk!

  17. Jess on June 4, 2020 at 5:19 pm

    thanks for the article, when you mentioned code speak those words are in the bible. I get what you are saying tho… thanks again for highlighting things

    • Leigh Simpson on June 8, 2020 at 6:44 am

      Unfortunately,as a convicted felon there are not many people within the church willing to encourage you to serve in a formal capacity. I did volunteer for a minor role in a theatrical performance and was refused the opportunity because of my past crime. I naively thought as a Christian the only qualification to serve others is to be a ‘New creation in Christ’. I left the church feeling very hurt and reluctant to look for another church. Church should be a refuge for the broken, not the spiritually elite.

      • Richard W Tarr on December 26, 2020 at 8:11 pm

        Try again hang out after the service a little while. There are good people in all churches. You got it right! Rick Tarr

    • John Radison on June 11, 2020 at 3:05 am

      You are right about the music. Also, if you are over 35 and the stage the music is performed on doesn’t make you uncomfortable, there is something wrong. Lights and visual effects are really important (look at when artists in the top 40 perform live). Don’t fool yourself about engaging the culture if the stage is BORING!!!

      The last church I went to made me feel completely unwelcome…like I didn’t belong. There was no lights, they used power point presentations from 15 years ago, they wore pants and a shirts. No tattoos, no video announcements, no piercings, jut the bible. BORING!!

      • kaziklu bey on November 24, 2020 at 8:24 am

        when jesus was in the wilderness tempted by satan how did he react? by quoting that boring book the bible. man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds feom the mouth of god.

      • Marie on December 20, 2020 at 2:39 pm

        Vicki, I agree with your stance…I would’ve felt confused by her ambiguous response as well! To me, it’s like she was letting you know in a roundabout way that others would be there soon and that those seats are usually taken.

  18. theartist on May 18, 2020 at 9:46 am

    Due to COVID-19, the church I am a member of is currently streaming online. A couple of weeks ago, after the online Bible study concluded, NOT ONE MEMBER said “We were enlightened by God’s Word” or This lesson encouraged me” or “This Study convicted me” or “This is a message I need to pass on…”

    What I did hear was “Thanks Pastor!’ Great messsage Pastor!” “We love you Pastor!” WE appreciate you Pastor!” “We miss you Pastor!”…..hmmmm.

  19. Ecumenigal on May 16, 2020 at 12:57 pm

    I don’t know, y’all. To me, saying that one style of music is better or more holy than another is like saying that music is good but dance is inappropriate or less reverent. It’s just a different art form. Different things move different people. As a church musician who has done both classical solos at liturgical churches and rock music at charismatic services, I see how music moves people. I love it all, but I don’t think one church can be all things to all people. I don’t see the rock music as “entertainment” at all. I see jumping up and down, singing and shouting “Amen” as a full-body way of worshiping. It’s interesting and worthwhile to discuss the “best” way to do things, but in the end I don’t think there is a “best” way.

    I think the Hindus are on to something when they express 5 paths to enlightenment as almost “personality types”. Some are devotional, some are intellectual, some are service-oriented, some grow most through contemplation, and some through austerity. All five are good to participate in. But we tend to be moved most by one or two.

    I heard about a pastor in a country where Christianty is illegal. His ministry grows only by word of mouth as people find Jesus and their friends notice a change in them and want to know what it is. They get touched by the Spirit and convert. It’s not an intellectual thing. They don’t read the whole Bible and decide it’s true. They have an experience. If you have spiritual experiences that are the best thing that ever happened to you and that feel more real to you than anything ever has, then it is good and right to move in the direction of that experience. That experience comes to people through different means – emotional music, intellectual teaching, the practice of loving, the comfort found in quietly praying and hearing the still-small-voice, or sacrificial doing-without as a contemplative practice.

    When it comes to music, what moves people is highly personal. Someone above said that when people go through a trauma they want to come back to the familiar church experience because it is comforting. I was raised atheist so there is no familiar to come back to. There is only what moves me and what doesn’t. I think as our culture becomes more and more secular, that becomes more and more common. I don’t think we can any longer assume that nearly everyone in our culture has a Christan background.

    • Tammy Hallam on May 16, 2020 at 3:40 pm

      Those are important points. You should write a book Ecumenigal!

      • Ecumenigal on May 16, 2020 at 3:43 pm

        Haha. Thanks. I sure have enough opinions to fill a book!

    • kaziklu bey on November 24, 2020 at 8:27 am

      so how do you test whether your experiences are genuine or not? is it not by the bible?

  20. Randi on May 16, 2020 at 10:30 am

    My family recently (within the last year) left a church we had attended for almost 4 years for many of these exact issues! I tried to volunteer in the children’s activities (we have an 8 year old son) and was basically shunned. At the children’s nights no one spoke to me other than to tell me to clean up as they left the room. My child got hurt while in their care and no one asked about him or followed up later. After almost 4 years no one approached us about joining the church or got to know us in any real way. All these things pushed us to feel unwelcome and unwanted so we have left and are still looking for a new church home. It’s most upsetting for my because of our son, he has a lot of friends there but when I saw how little the adults wanted to help or get to know him, because they don’t want to know us, we had no choice but to leave. Really sharing the gospel, huh!

    • Ecumenigal on May 16, 2020 at 1:15 pm

      Hi Randi, I’m sorry you experienced this. I am a leader in a church of about 100. We haven’t had a Minister in a few years because we haven’t had the money. We just have a business council and a ministry council, making up 13 leaders. About 50% of our people have a volunteer job. My current frustration is that even with COVID-19, nobody but me seems willing to help out trying to create community online. I’ve begged the leadership to help me call all the members to ask how they are doing, but they’re afraid of violating members’ privacy by giving out their phone numbers to all the leaders so we can make calls. Plus, everyone feels over-extended just doing their part and doesn’t feel like they have anything more to give, no matter how important it is.

      I truly think that these types of situations where people don’t reach out to you happen because volunteers feel like they’re doing everything they can do. They over-look people and needs, and/or they don’t feel like it is theirs to do. People tend not to want to volunteer because in the past, if they are involved at all, they end up getting asked to do more and more, and it’s very hard to stop volunteering because there is no one to step up to take their place.

      In most cases, I truly believe that people want to welcome others, but they’re just too overwhelmed to notice. In a community like that, if you do stick around long enough, there will be an opening for you to serve in leadership, and then you can take steps to turn the culture around. Just a thought. I felt actively pushed aside for years when joined my new husband’s church, but now I’m one of the top few most active leaders, even re-writing the bylaws of the church. And…I’m doing my best to call all 100 members myself. Many of them probably feel cast aside right now, but I am over here trying my best to reach them.

      Just some food for thought. 🙂 Bless you.

    • Marie on December 20, 2020 at 2:49 pm

      Hi Randi,
      I could’ve written your post! I’m sorry you also experienced this. We moved to a new state, joined a church, I put my two older children in everything from choir to plays, and my youngest was enrolled in their preschool. After 4 years of being largely ignored ( probably b/c we were from a different state and we’re not familiar to the small-town folks who grew up in this church), as well as an abusive teacher or two on the preschool (to which I was absolutely horrified; they were verbally unkind to him and he was merely 3 going on 4!!) my husband and I pulled the kids from everything and stopped attending. We tried a couple others but just never found a place that truly felt like home to us. Best of luck to you!

  21. Louise on May 16, 2020 at 9:20 am

    One of the biggest struggles is biblical literacy. We teach pastors to preach as if the people in the pews (on their couches, now!) understood our references to “ the flood” or “the exodus” or “the Good Shepherd.” For lots of people, biblical, theological and liturgical literacy is wanting. Preaching and liturgy are designed for the faithful who have grown up learning the stories, images and metaphors of scripture. But for those who are new or peripheral, the references and images are at best confusing and at worst insiderish. I find this a particularly difficult thing to navigate. Any ideas?

    • James on May 19, 2020 at 3:23 pm

      That’s really true. I’m young in ministry (2 years, 23yo), and find myself referencing things like Peter in the house of Cornelius, the woman with the issue of blood, something inevitably David related. And it hadn’t occurred that, “how many people are actually getting the connections?”.
      In one sense it’s important for people to hear these accounts (be they events or parables), and how they connect to the wider body of scripture and their own lives. At the same time just saying “like the woman who touched the hem of Jesus’ garment…/like when the prophet went to David to tell him of his sin…”, only communicates a message to someone who already knows the reference off hand.
      What do you see as a solution? Dropping that element of preaching style, actually explaining/short summary of the thing being referenced as opposed to a cursory mention or something else?

    • kaziklu bey on November 24, 2020 at 8:28 am

      read your bible for yourself. dont let others do your thinking for you

  22. Tori on March 29, 2020 at 11:17 am

    I attend a fairly large church that had some troubles in the past with the Pastor (among many other things) advancing his own agenda and his own family as staff. Again, there were other things. My problem is that, with that Pastor gone, it appears to be happening again. While in both cases, I would say, the Pastors children seemed to be godly Christians, but there is this underlying sense that they are using the Church to advance their own families. And then it creates this tight circle.
    It’s absolutely wonderful that a pastor can manage to care for a church and then have his children desiring to walk and work in the Church.
    So why does it feel so very wrong?

    • Carla Tirrell on May 16, 2020 at 7:46 am

      One thing the bible warns against is favoritism. A church bible should equally empower and release everyone into a God designed purpose. When a tight group forms the God squad, the church exists for them, instead of them reaching out to the world.

  23. Enough Of This on December 22, 2019 at 1:38 am

    People go to church to get away from the World – not to be reminded of it. If I hang around a group of Christian men and they’re talking about worldly things in a worldly style of dialogue, what are they doing in a church to begin with? They belong in a lodge, not a church.

    Same thing can be said of those who put their cultural traditions and cultural up-bringing ahead of the Scriptures. This is nonsense. If we are to have Ukrainian Christians with Ukrainian ways of thinking or Italian Christians with Italian ways of thinking, go join a secular lodge within your own cultures to do that. Don’t throw any culture into the church pot. Sorry. Christ isn’t looking for any “add-ons” to the name Christian. He’s not looking for Ukrainian Christians, nor Russian Christians, nor Japanese Christians etc that reflect their heritage. There should only be one heritage – the Christian heritage with no pre-names before it.

    On another note, what about if several handfuls of people don’t like you at your church for absurd reasons and thus don’t want to make it work? Should that not in of itself be a reason or a sign that it’s not a very mature church, especially if the pastor doesn’t address any issues of gossip or backstabbing in the church? Isn’t that some for of spiritual negligence? Why is it always “my problem” or the problem with anyone else, if I walk away from such negligence.

    Maybe the church should stop blaming those who leave as the problems with those who leave and maybe realize that maybe the church itself has the problem – especially if the pastor doesn’t want to address it over the pulpit for fear of “upsetting” a church board member with clout, losing his seat because of it and then having to look for another job. Churches need to stop being so lazy to fix the kinks and start looking after their interior problems, instead of blaming those who leave in disarray. Pastors, stop putting your feet up and filing your nails. Start doing some real work for a change instead of dipping your big toe into the pool and then calling it a day. Pastors, grow a pair.

    • geoffrey bishop on February 8, 2020 at 4:02 am

      i agree with you. Same issues in the church i attend, and on the brink of leaving. Have had enough of being excluded from things. and i am an Elder !!

    • John on February 8, 2020 at 6:00 pm

      I’ve been going to the same Baptist church for 33 years. I don’t enjoy going but I go out of habit. Every once in a while, I will go to a Catholic mass so I will feel like I am in a real Church. The church I go to is about cultural diversity and liberal politics. It’s really boring.

      • Almark on October 17, 2020 at 7:09 pm

        Isn’t it sad that Christ has become divided in the minds of people?
        It’s no wonder the Holy Spirit has left the church (buildings) the love of God.
        The love of the world, the troubles of life have pushed God away from people.
        It’s good you find the reverence of Christ somewhere at least.
        He’s in our heart, first and foremost, even when people are indifferent in church congregations. 43, lived it, seen it all in churches, found Christ because he found me first in 2004, without a building but by the Holy Spirit. Without his direction I would be nothing.

    • Sherrie Bronson on February 26, 2020 at 8:27 pm

      Amen! And Amen! It’s so sadly disturbing that the church is one that glorifies each other, the pastor has become as a god, and every kind of unjust, evil ungodly behavior has integrated the church, along with the demonic spirits by which this come and dwell.
      Putting God first- loving Him first, neighbor as self; has a perfect reasoning- humility.
      I agree. People are become so lazy- they no longer study to know the Lord nor to receive revelatory truth from the Spirit of God.
      No if pastor said it- that’s it. Done deal.
      Does not matter if pastor, teach, deacon, minister, etc. have the knowledge nor wisdom, nor understanding of a knat, and integrity of a maggot. Oh, I do my homework.
      Like Paul, I from time to time go out and just observe. Even where my membership is, I would not wanna be responsible for any soul being hurt, or abused, much less deceived by their accepting an invitation from me.
      While all things are not spiritual, such as diet, the plether of auxillaries, respect of persons- yet, to think we can operate according the rightly interpreted word of God outside His Spirit, in us as the interpreter of His every meaning, and intent is just plain, right out foolish, conceited; not to mention being gravely decieved, and deceiving. Father, help us your children to return back unto to you with our whole hearts in Jesus name Amen.

      • Almark on October 17, 2020 at 7:10 pm

        Paul said it best. If I have no love, and I can do all these things (paraphrased) then I am nothing. Love is lacking greatly in all churches. Jesus is love, and where there is no love, there is no Holy Spirit comfort.

    • 30-year Pastor on May 18, 2020 at 11:06 am

      “Grow a pair”??? Seriously?
      As a pastor with 30 years’ experience, it is painfully obvious to everyone but you, that you do not have a clue what Pastoral Ministry is like.
      Shame on you.

  24. rpsabq on July 13, 2019 at 9:21 pm

    Newsflash: People come to church to see church, not to see church doing what they think the world wants to see. Do what you do well. If choir and organ is your strength do that. If a band is your strength do that. If all you have a is a piano do that. Whatever you do, DON’T do what you think the world is expecting you to do. Anything but authenticity will cause you to fail.

  25. Thyatira on May 31, 2019 at 2:31 pm

    Musings on music. I wonder sometimes what music style we will hear when in our heavenly home?

    At Pentecost everyone heard the message in their own language. Might it be that everyone of us will hear Heaven’s melodies in the style that so suits each individual need so as to best fill our thoughts with perfect praise for our perfect Lord?

    And meanwhile, since we all need to be stretched and learn to make room for the preferences of others, could it not be that we each give up our ideas of what would make us happy at church, give up our expectations and be willing to listen to a mixture of music styles from a variety of cultures?

    Could we not all make room each Sunday for a variety of music styles? Hymns for me, songs, rap, Asian, African and so on, styles for them?

    The content is what’s matters. And think of all the filth and “me” focused worldly songs that God listens to all week. Words filtering up to Him that at least try to bring Him honour and glory, sung and led by those whose lives also honour Him, must be a sweet perfume.

    Hymns mostly put me in a better frame of
    Mind to worship God than Christian rock and rap however, since my Lord and my God are breathtakingly Creative, it is to my benefit to be stretched and challenged by diverse styles, forms, cultures and people. Paul speaks of psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, and the instruments of the day were varied.

    Let’s be more willing to be Holy Spirit-led and let go of man-made traditions and personal preferences. I’m not talking about letting go of theological truths. That’s a given. (Verse by verse, book by book expositional teaching is my favorite way of learning and I think the safest way of keeping the preacher from speaking personal opinions or visiting personal favourites or running from dreaded passages. I digress).

    Why not every week make a space where the 80year olds can sit alongside the 20year olds and enjoy one hymn and one song and one psalm, with organ, brass, strings, singing traditionally and contemporarily, and then listen to, if you can’t sing that fast, some rap that praises and glorifies God Almighty, Lord and Saviour and Holy Spirit.

    It takes a mature church to do this. People who are willing to let go of their desires. Willing to serve others by giving up their idea of perfect church. Willing to experience God anew.

    Music is just another language enabling us to bow before our Creative King in another creative way. We will better understand each other if we willingly participate in each other’s preferred style of worship once a week. When we refuse to unite in this way at church, when we worship only with those who look and think and smell and sound like us, we miss out on Who God is. Our Father, our ABBA is multicultural, multidimensional, multiethnic, He is so diverse that we need an eternity to get to know Him. We miss out on so much of Our ABBA, when we huddle together only in our little comfy-zone groups of people with whom we agree. We need our tribe. Of course we do. But we also need to step out of the comfy zone. If we are not willing to do that within the church, how are we going to do the scary, intimidating work of sharing Christ with everyone we meet and giving up our lives for the making of disciples?

    Want to grow spiritually?
    Want deeper communion with our Saviour?
    Ask God to show you/me what you’re holding onto which is preventing you from deeper communion with Him. Ask Him to reveal through the power of The Holy Spirit what it is that you’re holding higher and loving more than Him or His desires for you. Ask Him to help you get out of the way so He can do His work in you.

    Ask God daily to bring into your life, people who look and sound different from you and who worship God differently so you can learn more about Who He is. Since we are all made in His image and we are all born wrong / all came out wrong (as Jesus told Nichodemus) and since we all need Jesus to give us new birth, to born us again His way, with His covering, we all are important to Him. The eighty year old who you think doesn’t get it and who is stuck in his ways and the twenty year old who you think knows it all but knows nothing and therefore neither of you have anything to learn from the other …. if we cannot see the image of God in each other how will we ever unite at church? Let’s show our community how much we love one another by respecting and including each other’s preferred styles and by growing as we each let go of ours.

    I agree. We are to go out and make disciples, and In small groups meet together regularly to build one another up in Biblical Truth. To be poured into and then go OUT of that group and pour into the lives of our neighbors and communities.

    Thanks for the article and ideas. May God convict and grow us each as we try to do a better job of communicating The Good News by loving God first with heart mind and soul and then loving our neighbor as ourself.

    Who is my neighbor?
    How can I be Christ to her?
    How might I serve this person made in The Image of God, just like me. Messed up. Just like me.
    How might I bear the Family resemblance of ABBA today?

  26. Kevin E Marsh on May 30, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    I think that a good sign that it is geared to insiders is that no one is bringing new people in. They are content with who is there and have no desire to invite anyone who might muddie the works.

  27. […] 5 Tell-Tale Signs Your Church is Geared to Insiders, Not Outsiders by Carey Nieuwhof […]

    • Linda S on April 14, 2019 at 10:32 am

      I once saw two guys come into the church I’d been attending for twenty years.
      I’d never seen them
      before and they wore earrings and tatoos, and both had long hair. They dressed
      in I guess you’d say hippie attire, but they were clean.
      I immediately felt joy over seeing
      them there, looking for a seat and wanted to go over and say hi
      but they were engaged in conversation
      with each other so I decided to wait so I wouldn’t interrupt them. At the same
      time I looked over and saw a few guys that
      were regular members looking over at them and laughing with each other, instead of going over and
      making them feel welcome Those two guys already looked unsure of themselves, and they noticed those
      guys. After a few minutes they got up and left and I never saw them again.
      I even tried to stop them to say hello,
      but they went another way and I couldn’t reach them through the crowd of people.
      I’m not one to believe just anyone should LEAD a
      church, since people living in sin are not qualified. The bible says that so I agree with whatever Gods word
      says. But all people should be accepted in church, and what better place for them to be? Unfortunately
      it’s not always that way. My pastor used to say he was glad he grew up in church because he didn’t turn
      out like other people did, and all it did was remind me of the pharisee and the tax collector, one bragged on
      himself and thought he was better than others, and the other humbled himself and admitted his sinfulness.
      I’ve since left that church because I felt the pastor was self-righteous, even though I really felt he
      loved God and was a faithful man, I just got tired of seeing people not feeling welcomed to the fold. I’ve
      visited other churches myself and I know the feeling of not being welcomed by the people that
      regularly attend that church. It’s a big problem sometimes it seems pastors not only
      don’t get it, but sometimes they’re worse than some of the members who see the problem
      but don’t get listened to.

      • Tamara on December 16, 2019 at 4:25 pm

        How do you know they were worldly because they had tattoos and dressed like hippies? (not you specifically, the general “you”) How does anyone know another person’s heart?. The world has it’s share of criminals who wear suits and have nice haircuts, and it’s saints who go around barefoot. A person’s actions speak louder than their appearances… the church needs to stop being so judgmental and petty

        • Jennifer on March 13, 2021 at 5:38 pm

          The people with the biggest hearts that the Holy Spirit has lead me to speak to were the ones in big tattoos and like extremely different from perfection. I loved it because it showed me that lots of church people judge a book by its cover. I was very welcome in a church I recently started going to. I was only allowed be a prophet for my pastors though. This was strange felt wrong because I felt used . The minute god spoke to others outside the church. They put an expectancy on me to bring them to church. They said that’s god using you to bring them. In reality it wasn’t they came from all over all shapes all sizes all believers. I did notice it was always a person that had being praying for god to answer them. They would cry when the Holy Spirit spoke. I would tell them things only god knew about them . They would cry thank me and start believing again. I always gave god the credit I’m just his messager . But most pastors unfortunately want to change the way god operates . We are all different. Being pushed to engage in the church activities 4-5 days a week litterary killed my spirit. I fell into depression because if it wasn’t about there church it was the devil. No right. Prophets were loners everyone can read this in the Bible to magicians or tarot readers on demand. One day god sent me to write a sermon for the so call youth they were trying to reach . I wrote this with tears in my eyes. I would have never had the courage to do such thing but when god speaks i obey . When I finished I sent it 3 days past I asked what they thought. The answer broke me they said it so powerful we can let the elder read it so it sounds better. It spoke about abuse confusion acceptance rape how can someone else tell my story when it was god who allied me to go through it so today I can relate to the youth. 3 weeks now there is sending people to call me. To come back. I haven’t is all more about money and images.

      • KP on December 21, 2019 at 11:40 pm

        Hi Linda S.

        I Completely understand and am relating to your story above there. I have been attending the same church for 4 years. People have always been nice and polite to me, but at coffee/ fellowship time which is 20 minutes following each morning service, where the pastors generously provide free quality coffee and snacks, which is to their credit. I just find that I cant find more than two women out of 90 to want to stop and visit with me with any sincerity and Im just at the point where Im just really so sick of it now is all. Please keep in mind that I have approached eight different ladies (I’m a lady myself,) over the course of Four Years, my age and way older even too, .. to just visit and chat, for a few minutes and to a couple people, to maybe meet up sometime to do a tea of coffee hang out time, and doing the latter like 4 times a year would be plenty. So no ‘”neediness or anything on my part, lol, because Im actually so swamped with stuff to do myself. Still,.. having being raised in a hostile non Christian, home, and today, having No family of my own, but my husband and 11 year old, .. I really am feeling the need for what my bible says at least, about the command to “love one another fervently.” I have been rebuffed, told they are too busy, and “you really need to find friends who are in the work force, since I am older and retired,” plus every excuse you can imagine has come down the pike. Two women whom led me to believe they were trying to form a real friendship with me, finally admitted a month later, that they only met me for coffee that day to tell me not to marry my husband unless I was absolutely sure, and that “he was not my intellectual equal, and that they saw the aspbergers in him as well” as me and that I had a right to be concerned. Good advice, but gee whiz, I thought we were meeting up because they actually, I dont know, liked me as an actual human being as well? Well, I guess that wasnt the case. I was really hurt. I had asked a couple times previously, were they mad at me, or had I possibly unwittengly offended them. “Oh, no, silly, Im just so busy.” Well congratulations and Im really sorry I forgot to deliver you the Status banner of Ms. Important of the year for being as busy as we all, are but you are nothing without love for the brethren” in sincereity according to 1 Corinthians 13. I was finally fed up and wrote them a letter. They delivered me to the pastors. The pastors dragged me into a room and I felt I was about to be interogated by the CIA it felt so tense. The pastors wife yelled at me in angry discusted tone for 20 minutes straight and when I attempted to clarify myself, and I was really trying to be open and listen to her too, .. she turned to the pastor and said “honey, you’re going to have to talk to her because shes being too defensive.” I didnt let her use that tactic as I calmly replied everything that she had just said to me. I proved I was listening. She looked embarrassed but still only ragged on me about how I would have my nursery ministry taken away if I didnt repent for standing up for myself with the two fake friend women discussed previously. Really. I just couldnt belive this. Then a realization came to me that day, after they humiliated me in this way for 30 minutes in front of my now husband, trying to get him on board with them against me. The realization was, that the woman whom I had written too, and whom had ran and tattle tailed to me to the pastors, instead of just talking to me directly like a grown woman, was the same person who had donated 800.00 in catering food and done the catering themselves for none other than the pastors daughter’s wedding. So with special interest groups, achoo!.. I mean church goers who give to pastors like that, how can the pastor even be objective and hear me clearly??? It was horrible!!! I only mentioned in GENERAL terms only. I NEVER said anything about this church specifically, but I raised some concerns about who every new person who ever attended this church who was over 40 just seemed to be ignored by Everyone there. And so naturally, these souls who are so loved by God, left the church. I am just so angry and disgusted. I was told my general posts on fb were being secretly reported to the pastor apparently. Just so disgusted. Please pray for me that we can find a healthy good church that we can afford to drive too twice a week. Thank you very much brothers and sisters. Thanks.. I have a real heart for winning souls. . Thanks. I have a real heart for winning souls, no matter their age, ethnicity, or walk in life. I have always been comfortable around people from every age and every walk of life. I am good at people to want to come to church. I just need to know I have other people I can refer them too to welcome them in and be a real friend to them too. That is often the hardest part. No One will be bothered to talk to them at this church. One other woman even admitted to me. She said “you’re right. They are really nice, but people are just Very Comfortable in their long time friendships or cliques.” Boy that word Clique sure enraged the pastor’s wife who is ex cheerleader. Perhaps it was she who was being defensive in that office that day, and hence the nerve that was pressed. K P

  28. […] 5 Tell-Tale Signs Your Church is Geared to Insiders, Not Outsiders by Carey Nieuwhof […]

  29. Arne on April 21, 2018 at 11:44 am

    The Great commission, Go out and make disciples. We the people, the congregation are the ones to go out. Remembering we all have failed and fall short of Gods expectations, yet in Gods love, he receives us, doesn’t condemn us. Through teaching, it’s the job of the Holy Spirit to convict our hearts and mind to change. Salvation is a process until we die. John st because you’ve been in the church 25 years, you maybe just as screwed up if you’ve been there for 1 month.

    It’s our responsibility to point to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. It’s not our job to change people…and too often the pride or phariseeism drives people away. They aren’t allowed to come as they are.

    I know, I’m messed up, a sinner who loves Jesus. It’s because I’m an messed up that I need a Savior.

  30. Phil Siebert on April 7, 2018 at 5:16 pm

    Carey, I feel that your article reinforces the idea that ‘church’ is Program and a Performance, happening in a designated Place and at a Prescribed time, led by by Professionals who need a Paycheck and like their Position and Publishings, with general neglect for the justice and the poor. I realize that it is hard to have a reality check when you are in the “Bubble”. Once again, I hear a pastor promoting the organization and a book – under the guise of ‘church’. How is it that we call ourselves “Christian” and have strayed so very far from Christ and his message and practice? Did you know that Jesus had no desire to see ‘church’, as we have come to know it? Jesus talked of an “Ecclesia” – a gathering of called out ones – Kingdom followers coming together to build each other up. (No edifice, no salaries and secretaries, no order of service, no music tensions no program, no leadership hierarchy) Sadly, it appears that over the centuries we have tagged what we do as ‘church’, with all the assumptions and trappings and traditions of worship/preaching/program and organization and missed the whole point.

    • Dr. Mike Hopper on April 10, 2018 at 8:14 am

      Phil Siebert:
      Let me see if I understand your church model correctly. The true church is a group of people standing outside in the current weather ( no edifice needed), with no one to inform people about the meeting (no secretary needed ), with no plan for the content or organization of the meeting (no leadership/pastor needed), with no money to provide utilities (aka toilets/sewage, electricity, water, etc. needed), no music (aka instruments, leaders, books or sheets needed).

      Your model sounds like a colony of termites……but they at least have a common plan of action and carry it out very well – eating anything that is wooden and reproducing baby termites.

      I was a pastor for more than 40 years, and your hyper idealized model of “church” has never existed. Even the day after Pentecost, people were meeting in homes (edifices), sharing meals (utilities), singing (psalms and spiritual songs) listening to the apostles (leadership), and changing their world. Our only problem now is lay people who claim to love Jesus, but do not have enough love for other people to go out and tell them about a risen savior who died and rose again for them – which is the exact problem Carey Nieuwhof has described.

      • Lewis on August 8, 2018 at 9:04 am

        I think there’s a balance here. Yes, I’d agree that your article reinforces church as a program, but I’d also agree that the ‘church’ being the people is a biblical model that needs to happen, but not in the context that’s being described. If you look at the church in Athens, it’s a group of people who meet together in homes to read the word, eat food and worship God. I believe we’re seeing a shift where the church is returning to her roots and trying to find Raw church again. What church has become isn’t bad, I just believe that it’s not the point. churches that have Satelites of smaller churches which come together for the bigger gatherings once every 6 months ring true to me. Long gone are the days when non-Christians will just walk into your church. we’re in far too much of a consumerist culture for that. church is for the saved to regroup, be fed together, seek God together and then go out into the world and save the lost. The problem is that people struggle with the latter. Church should be about empowering people to do that, not an outreach tool.

      • Sarah K on April 13, 2019 at 8:48 am

        “your hyper idealized model of “church” has never existed”

        Sure it does. See “Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)” — specifically the unprogrammed Meetings. (We don’t even call it church, because it is about the people gathered in Spirit, not the location/building.) No program, no performance, no staff, collective governance & leadership, Ministry offered as Spirit moves. We have our own issues, certainly, but hew as closely as we can to “Ecclesia” as described.

  31. […] 5 Tell-Tale Signs Your Church is Geared to Insiders, Not Outsiders by Carey Nieuwhof […]

  32. […] 5 Tell-Tale Signs Your Church Is Geared To Insiders, Not Outsiders by Carey Nieuwhof. May this never happen to me or you. […]

  33. […] 5 Tell-Tale Signs Your Church Is Geared To Insiders, Not Outsiders by Carey Nieuwhof […]

  34. Stu on March 29, 2018 at 12:23 pm

    I agree Jonathan.
    Acts 2:42 sums up the perpose of the Church: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” So that is teaching biblical doctrine, providing a place of fellowship for BELIEVERS, observing the Lord’s supper, and prayer.
    It is to be the place where the Spiritual guiftings are to be administered and recieved, where church discipline is to be practiced (see 1 Corinthians Chapters 5 and chapter 6) and our place of community. We are to be SEPARATE from the world, not participating with it nor letting it in.

    The “Great commission” in Matthew 28 was to GO (out) Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”

    • Jim Orozco on November 15, 2019 at 8:39 am

      This is correct. Church is the people not the programs and all. The gathering is for believers. We are to Disciple out side in our daily lives. Now it’s (The building the business) an institution ….The institution is usually one or a few peoples vision with a bunch of people on board for the ride, No accountability to the flock only to the growth and in most cases the growth is all they talk about.. Been a part of many churches all with the same goal and same exact problems..It doesn’t work the way Jesus commanded..Maybe a building could have a thousand people and be great stewards with running THE BUSINESS but all of them lack accountability to members spiritual growth and life change. As long as the bills are paid and the seats are full everything must be good..Right??? That’s a big NO!!! God Bless just my little 2 cents on the matter!!!

      • Almark on October 17, 2020 at 7:29 pm

        People have lost the love that Jesus called us to do, the fellowship of the Saints. It’s so utterly indifferent in churches these days. People ignoring you, making you feel empty, no love, no real caring, it’s just business as usual as you say. Thankfully we don’t need a church to go to, when you know the Lord or better yet, he knows you, and besides, these days are the Last days, it’s no surprise that it is like this. Good movie to focus on about such things, is the Michael W. Smith film from early 2000s. I’m not sorry, that churches needed to be shut down so God could be glorified for a change in the hearts of people who are now crying out to have church, how sad they didn’t want him before. Paul warned us of these things, he stressed to love one another, as Christ loved you.
        Second Chance, is that film, it’s a great movie.

  35. Jonathan on March 28, 2018 at 9:29 pm

    Am I the only one who thinks everything Carey says has nothing to do with the great commission and everything to do with catering to a pastors ego? God saves because it’s his will to do so, for his glory. Not yours. Biblical teaching, honest worship, making disciples to GO and minister to others. The pastors job is to teach the word in truth and love. All your ideas are a waste of internet space.

    • Hep on March 29, 2018 at 6:12 am

      I agree! Why are we even trying to get church attendance to 3000? We should be winning 3000 souls buy “ going out” not by bringing in. Can a church effectively minister to that many people the way scripture shows us to where we bear each other’s burden and iron sharpening iron? I don’t disagree with the general principals of the article. I disagree with the ogoal rational.

      • Chesk on July 29, 2019 at 9:34 am

        Yeah. I think 100 is a good number. I specifically prayed for a small church, and Jesus brought me one. The pastors are ambitious though, so it could go to pot if they get their building and international profile. There are people at the church with large houses and we could easily meet there, but we don’t we pay out for hall hire and all the razzamataz- which I can’t find in the bible. But we must go and we must love.

    • Mei on April 2, 2018 at 11:26 am

      I agree. It felt more like a lot of complaining and one’s personal opinion than anything else.

    • Jim Orozco on November 15, 2019 at 8:42 am

      I agree with you 100%

  36. Dallas McLean on March 28, 2018 at 1:42 pm

    No one talks to new comers in the foyer before or after service, especially leadership. Everyone talks to the circle of friends instead. My experience is that is the best chance to start relationship and give opportunity for further connecting.

    • Almark on October 17, 2020 at 7:40 pm

      Isn’t that awful that they do that? It’s astounding that I’m finding many up on many feel this way. My Mother and I stopped going entirely to churches 1 year ago, and hadn’t gone to a building with fake people in a long time before that.
      The Love of Christ is so few these days in people. Churches are very fake, and God isn’t happy with that, I’m certain.
      Keep Christ in your heart, your family and if you have someone to have church with, that person and you are together in Jesus.
      Where there are two or more, there I will be, God says.
      This is the love of many growing colder. Thankfully there is a longing for Jesus in the hearts of people who are shunned from so-called friends in Churches. They aren’t your friend, and this isn’t the true body of Christ either.

  37. Darryl Stewart on March 27, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    Good artice. When peole are not inviting friends there could be lots of reasons.
    Sometimes it’s a chicken and egg question. You have addressed one scenario well, when there are no ‘friends walking through the door’ because they were not visitor friendly.
    Church has become an insider club by default and the regulars just hang in there doing the same old same old.
    A good exercise might be to ask the existing members why they dont invite friends.
    Some may be perceptive enough to see and explain areas of disconnect between the church and the real world out there.

  38. Ken on March 27, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    Although I try not to judge a book by its cover, I can often get an accurate sense of how insider focused a church is before even walking through the doors by visiting their website. If I have to dig deep into the website to get a sense of what I’ll experience, that church is probably focused on their members. As a former unchurched person, I always appreciate easily finding out what I am walking into before visiting an unfamiliar church.

    Inside the church a good indicator is how obvious is it for a new person to know what they should do or where they should go. I think good signage helps, proactive volunteers are better, both are best. This is an area where fresh eyes really help. We know our buildings and where to go and whether or not the coffee is free, but for a first time person experiencing sensory overload from new sights and unfamiliar people talking even noticing a sign or a door that to us obviously leads to the auditorium (or whatever your church calls it) can be difficult. Also, if greeters/guest services type volunteers are engaging in long conversations with their friends while “on duty” they might be missing an opportunity to engage with a visitor. Nothing screams you are an outsider like someone clearly there to greet people wrapped up in a conversation and only giving a brief “good morning” before returning to their friends.

    I appreciate what you wrote about long announcements. I recently have assumed the responsibility of doing the welcome and offering portions of our service and am still figuring out my rhythm and what will be most effective. Just a good reminder to keep visitors in mind.

    I also really like the header “Music That Lacks Guts”. I know when you try to talk about music people like to twist what you say into one style is better than the other, but this advice can be applied to way more than just music. Blogs about where our focus is are helpful to remind ourselves not to get stuck in between where we feel led to go and where we feel pressured to stay. Worship music can be a tricky subject because everyone has their own personal preference for type of music. But what I don’t understand are the arguments that certain types of music are more spiritual. Why would God not want us to use our passion to create and perform all different kinds of music that honor Him? What is sad to me is to see a church band or choir play with no emotion or enthusiasm of any kind. Those must be the people that want to change and do something else but are too afraid to move.

    The music discussion (okay, often argument) can really be telling if we are insider focused or trying to reach people not going church. Yes, there are young people that return to or start going to churches that are “traditional” and connect to the tradition or comfort of knowing what to expect when. But that’s the beauty of having all different kinds of churches. But just because some like that doesn’t mean that we can ignore the next generation. And, obviously generalizing here, because that’s what you do when talking generations, today’s kids and youngest of adults care deeply about authenticity. Those growing up in the church will likely adapt the style of music they like Monday-Saturday to the church stage because that is how they will authentically express their love of God. So those of us called to offer a more contemporary service to reach “outsiders” we can empower and embrace worship leaders trying new things on stage that they are passionate about, or we can hope in 10 years a Gen Z church catches those we miss.

  39. Alison on March 27, 2018 at 12:08 pm

    Souls are usually not won on Sundays.

  40. Josh Butcher on March 27, 2018 at 10:23 am

    Hey Carey – long time reader, first time commenter – question about the LONG announcements. In your opinion, what would you suggest would be an appropriate length for announcements? I’m sure it depends on the culture of the church, etc… so maybe a better question, at Connexus, what is the amount of time devoted to general announcements, if any at all. Thanks a ton for your content!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 2, 2018 at 5:41 am

      Thanks Josh. I would say 2-3 minutes. 🙂 I know it’s hard, but that’s where we’ve landed and it’s effective. If you have a major initiative (like a big invite project or capital campaign) you can take a little more time, but use some different creative elements (like video) and try using the offering time.

  41. Lisa on March 27, 2018 at 7:27 am

    A musical genre for worship should blossom out of the gifts present in the congregation that are being trained and equipped for a lifetime of service; not follow the latest trends in musical idolization, which won’t always allow for safe and sound growth of one’s artistic craft in a way that allows for life-long stewardship of those gifts. Whether band-based, choir and organ based, folk group, jazz combo, C/W or whatever other genre of music-based, they all matter in God’s sight, and we should support the gifts present among us rather than force artists to bend to our musical whims. Churches need to be authentic to their ministries first, including the arts.

    • Ecumenigal on May 16, 2020 at 11:44 am

      As a church musician, I like this perspective. My husband is the Music Director and I’m often trying to get him to convert a song to Reggae because I love it. But it’s just not in him. The band tries it, but we fumble.

      Another conversation we’ve had is to ask ourselves if “attracting young people” is the right goal. Our church has an older demographic for reasons, and those reasons may apply no matter what we did to become attractive to young people. So we’d be asking our congregation to put up with music they don’t like, and our band to play music we don’t do well, in order to attract young people which we may not attract anyway.

  42. Justin on March 27, 2018 at 2:11 am

    Hi Carey,
    I really appreciate your posts and content. (The comments not always so much).

    Do you have any thoughts to offer on churches where “enthusiastic punters” save ‘the best seats’? I’m thinking both of key team, early arriving volunteers, platform people, as well as the exuberant “doors open” rush.

    Do you have any thoughts on churches that encourage ‘leading’ from the front and its impact on culture towards outsiders. (From memory Andy Stanley saves the second row for late comers… what does Connexus do)?

    Thanks for the solid content.

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 2, 2018 at 5:43 am

      Thanks Justin! The comments can be fun. Some nice ones on this thread too. I keep them around because of leaders like you (and many others) who want to lean in and grow together. We’ve done a few things: roped off the back 5 rows until the front and middle are filled. We ONLY save a few seats for the production/speaking crew on Sunday, and even yesterday gave up half that row to guests as we were out of space. For me, it’s a mindset. If you keep telling people to focus on new people…eventually they get the idea it’s not about them, but about Christ and others.

      • Lesa Reisdorf on April 10, 2019 at 9:54 am

        How about sit in a seat you’ve never sat in day? Well publicized to old members so they know to switch it up. Reminded by ushers as they enter that day. A new perspective. Could even be used as theme of a sermon that day. I used to do this in my high school classes

  43. Tony on March 26, 2018 at 11:38 pm

    Using Jargons, Abbrevations, terms only familiar with the insiders alienate the outsiders

  44. David E. Casteel on March 26, 2018 at 6:25 pm

    Go too far in the Pop 40 direction in your church music and all you’ll have left in the congregation are those under the age of 40. I’m 80 and I certainly would not stay. (I won’t attend our Contemporary service as is–I go to church to worship, not participate in a rock concert.) Most modern church music is 7-11 music (7 words 11 times)–it does not have a scriptural base and does not convey much in the way of Biblical truth.

    • Janine on November 22, 2020 at 8:59 am

      I quite agree and I’m in my 60s. I used to love attending church – in a particular location where several had pipe organs and those who knew how to play them well, I might add. Now, I reside in a location where it’s almost as though those at church have no clue what a pipe organ is, let alone how to play it. Where can those of us – go to church – attend a sermon that has the full respect and honor as intended in worship, not a form of rock music that only serves those who want to tell GOD how they will worship rather than worship as scripture says, “with a beautiful noise”. Most of those contemporary services do not generate a beautiful noise – a noise yes, but not beautiful and certainly not laden with the respect and reverence that is desired for some of us.

  45. Tony on March 26, 2018 at 3:40 pm

    Carey, some of the posters here have probably never pastored a church. If I understand correctly, there is a crown given for soul winners. There isn’t a crown for operating in spiritual gifts (which I do), or for being a theologian (which I teach in Bible Schools), but for winning souls.

    So, I always look at the purpose of each thing I do. Sunday morning, a special conference, a bible study, or bible school. Everything has a purpose. Unfortunately, some people think everything should be done the same way.

    What is the purpose of Sunday morning? It’s always been an opportunity to win lost people while still being able to worship and feed the saints. I have made the minor adjustments to help unsaved guests feel comfortable. It works, and at the same time our church members are getting fed.

    I have found as a pastor some of the least influential people in church are the ones who criticise everything and claim they can do it better. They have a few followers who think they are more spiritual than everyone else and have more revelation than everyone else.

    The question I have for them is: Are you thinking about what God considers important? Do you want to look and seem spiritual to your Christian peers or do want to win lost people?

    The soul winners crown is waiting to be had for every believer.

    • Tony on March 26, 2018 at 3:44 pm

      I forgot to say I appreciate you Carey and you have been a blessing to many ministers.

      • Carey Nieuwhof on April 2, 2018 at 5:44 am

        Thanks Tony!

  46. Didi on March 26, 2018 at 1:21 pm

    I think a church should be neither “insider” nor “outsider” focussed. Why not focus on Christ instead – living in obedience to his commandments (including the great commission)?
    I also think that most pastors want to grow their “churches” because they care about their (big, fat) salaries. I would have turned away from Christianity had I not known about the example set by Paul and Barnabas in this matter (1 Corinthians 9).

    • D. Mindach on March 26, 2018 at 1:40 pm

      Yes… “Big fat salaries”, is just one of the many temptations the clergy faces. But IF they can keep to the word, and not be tempted by the secular trappings, you will feel the genuine (lasting) Religion of Christianity!

      Entertain the congregation outside the “Sanctuary”, teach the word inside, and God will be pleased.

      • Cathy Kroohs on March 27, 2018 at 10:11 am

        ‘BIG, FAT salaries”? Wow, I bet my pastor wishes she had one of those! We pay about the average for our area, but that is well below salaries paid in business to people with comparable education and responsibilities. Given that we are paying about average, I also know there are pastors in our area working to spread the gospel and care for their congregations while getting well below a competitive salary.

        • Michelle on April 14, 2019 at 5:17 pm

          Why pay so little? The bible says a workman is worthy of his pay ans that equates to adequate pay alo. Your congregation must be ver poor.

  47. Ben on March 26, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    Hey Carey,
    Thanks for leading! You are doing a great job!
    For those who don’t enjoy or appreciate these articles, it’s okay to stop reading and complaining.

    • Patrick Halferty on March 27, 2018 at 1:34 pm

      I presume your comment is directed at me since it immediately followed mine. I both “enjoy and appreciate” Carey’s articles. However, Carey is not infallible. He has his opinions and is entitled to them. I was not ‘reading and complaining’; I was reading and evaluating – trying to think critically about what I’m reading. I want to grow my church and be the best leader I can be. I believe Carey welcomes different opinions because he knows it is healthy.

  48. Patrick Halferty on March 26, 2018 at 12:29 pm

    So, biblical language is not appropriate in a church service? Let’s remember something: it’s not a football game, it’s not poolside conversation, it’s not a Tupperware party. It’s a service of worship, where Scripture is read, prayer is offered, songs are sung, and a is benediction given. Sports have code; the Arts have code; most categories of life have code. It’s not wrong to learn code, language. Identity is largely shaped by language. Take away language and you take away identity. Mostly appreciate your posts. Keep up the good work!

    • Mark Fuller on March 26, 2018 at 2:45 pm

      Amen brother!

    • Ecumenigal on May 16, 2020 at 12:31 pm

      I agree. I was raised Atheist, so I had to learn all the Bible stories as an adult. It wasn’t long before I felt bored by sermons that told the stories as if to a person who had never heard them. That’s like never graduating Kindergarten class. I began to love the poetic use of references to a shared pool of knowledge. (“Come running like a prodigal”, “Do you feel like you’re wandering in the desert?”) On the other hand, I can totally relate to being bewildered and a little frightened by odd language spoken to me as if I would understand it, like “believe on Him” or “I feel of His love” or “let us love on you”. Those seemed purposeless. On yet another hand, there is a kind of “sacred space” that you create when there are “rituals” – words and traditions that feel different from the rest of life/the world.

      A lot of comments on this thread have talked about church as a fellowship of believers vs. church as an outreach tool. I’m just thinking off the top of my head…. I’ve done a tremendous amount of “church-shopping” and “church-hopping” (I’ve often been too busy as a visiting church soloist to have a home-church.) If I had to pick one “best” model of church, I think it would be a “seeker-friendly” Sunday service in which the faithful are focused on serving, and then mid-week services or periodic multi-congregation gatherings in which the faithful are more spiritually nourished. My come-from on this is that I really love/need the cathartic “charismatic” worship experience where I often end up. on the floor crying (along with everyone else), but that’s not a very seeker-friendly format. And I love singing classical solos at liturgical churches too. I dunno…mabye there just isn’t one “best” way to do church.

      More recently, I do have a home church because I’m part of the band. Now I’m in leadership. Being a committed part of a community is sure a lot harder than being a “consumer” of Sunday services!! And I think that’s where the real spiritual growth is – learning to love and work with people. (Church would be so much easier if it weren’t for the people! haha.)

  49. Allen Forget on March 26, 2018 at 11:29 am

    Hey Carey
    How about these.

    If you are geared to newcomers and “don’t want to be weird” why do we ask people to stand for music and even worse sing along? Last time I was anywhere to listen to live music no one invited me to stand for the songs or to sing along. If we knew the words than we sang. If the mosh pit was building then we stood and joined in but no one invited us to do that. I get the potential confusion this may create for a newcomer if the Christian’s in the room stand up during the music but wouldn’t it be better to just explain it that way to the room so, at least, the new people understand what is happening if people stand up. The music leaders should be aware of this as well.

    Another thought as well. If you call your music program contemporary or refer to it as current and are bringing in electric guitars why do we then have the electric guitars either too low in the volume department or have them mired in reverb and delay so that they sound like an organ? If I am looking for musical pads a keyboard does an excellent job, not a guitar. If the song has elements that drive the song that are guitar driven then the guitar should be driving it and same for keys, drums, triangle, etc.. A lot of this comes down to mix but then we need to acknowledge that the front of house needs to be aware of what the song is suppose to sound like.

    Great thoughts on a Monday!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 2, 2018 at 5:45 am

      These are really intriguing questions. I wish I knew the answers. We’re asking similar questions…. And yet our music is connecting with many new people who are unchurched. So we ask and continue.

  50. Bob Meeksd on March 26, 2018 at 10:35 am

    MUSIC, I like all types, Hymns, Contemporary etc. I especially like anointed Choirs
    I find that more people get into the service and Music/Worship with Hymns and songs that tell a story. The can more easily relate and even join in. Contemporary I like more as a special, Soloist.
    Take a look at cfcky.com and thier music, look how the congregation gets involved,, participates. This church now has to have 3 morning services and still have a PM service. Having to build a new sanctuary to hold the people. Watch on YouTube…Community Family Church, Independence, Kentucky, and watch the pastor Tommy Bates on Youtube as well. They have strong Youth choir that just got invited to be on “America’s Got Talent because they had over 13 million hits on Facebook. Anointed Music.

  51. D. Mindach on March 26, 2018 at 9:58 am

    The “Unchurched” when they finally come back to God usually have a crises in life, and they are not seeking “church entertainment” but the comfort of coming home to traditional worship. What has worked is fun festivals, that offer entertainment, food and fun, and then welcome newcomers to the traditional service. over the many centuries, this formula has worked, without falling victim to the many passing styles and fads in music.

    • D. Mindach on March 26, 2018 at 1:30 pm

      Entertainment is best left to those events specializing in that business. Worship services are best when familiar, reverent, engaging, and comfortable. “Something different” in music, will (initially) have some appeal, but soon loose it freshness, giving way to constantly chasing the newest pop trends to stay “In fashion”.

      I think this is sad, as this is not worshiping God, but instead pursuing fleeting mas appeal to maintain attendance.

      Give them entertainment outside the Sanctuary, and reverence inside, and they will come! More importantly, it is sustainable, and pays timeless worship to our Lord.

  52. Lori Harris on March 26, 2018 at 8:56 am

    Hey Carey, I think what is missing from worship music is lyrics that make sense! I have never heard such melancholy, depressing songs in minor keys with zero content than I have in the last 10 years. UGH! Get some Jesus music people!

  53. Kevin on March 26, 2018 at 8:50 am

    Hey Carey, just a small suggestion to change the wording in this paragraph “The truth is there’s a there’s a gravitational pull insider almost every church to sacrifice the church’s mission by catering to the church’s members.” Not quite sure what’s being said here…thanks
    Other than that great reminders to be focused on mission

  54. Chris on March 26, 2018 at 8:42 am

    Carey, great stuff. I am curious if your Next and Starting Point courses are available to purchase. I would like to see what you all do as we redesign out path. Thanks

    • John Louk on March 26, 2018 at 9:15 am

      Me too!

    • Carey Nieuwhof on April 2, 2018 at 5:47 am

      We use North Point’s Starting point, and for more on NEXT, listen to my interview with Christine Birch on Episode 13 of the Canadian Church Leader’s Podcast (the OTHER podcast I do). It’s killer. She designed the approach from scratch and gives you the recipe in it.

    • Arkansan on February 14, 2021 at 10:07 am

      I had an accident at home and was laid up about two months, unable to attend church. Six weeks into my recuperation I received the first and only call from a member of my church, asking me if something was wrong. I was hurt, but wiser.

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