I've had the chance to devour a few books here in the last couple of weeks. One that I've really enjoyed is called "Comeback Churches" by Ed Stetzer. I got to hear Ed at a church planting conference in Orlando, FL a while back and really loved his thoughts and heart concerning growing healthy churches.
I thought I would share what he calls the "Dirty 13" when it comes to looking at what types of churches need a "comeback." I won't go into huge detail in these post because I think any Pastor or minister would greatly benefit from adding this book to their library. So if you're out and about, I encourage you to pick up a copy.
Your leadership is absolutely essential in guiding your church to be a comeback church. I didn't put under the direction of the Holy Spirit because that is a given and shouldn't have to be explained but alas here I am explaining it because there will always be someone who questions that statement and declare, "you're leaving out being let by the Spirit!" Which is the furthest thing from the truth.
Barna is correct when he writes, "After fifteen years of diligent digging into the world around me, I have reached several conclusions about the future of the Christian church in America. The central conclusion is that the American Church is dying due to lack of strong spiritual leadership. In this time of unprecedented opportunity and plentiful resources, the church is actually losing influence. The primary reason is lack of spiritual leadership. Nothing is more important than leadership."
The first 3 of 13 Churches
Institutionalized Church. Many churches have regressed into a state of merely functioning as an institution. An institutionalized church focuses on and is more committed to the forms and programs of ministry. It no longer sees the purpose for which the church was created, nor what the church is striving to produce. In an institutionalized church, the good has become the enemy of the best, and activity has chocked out productivity. Please take note that an institutionalized church is not necessarily small. Some of the larger churches in America are perfectly plateaued for this very reason.
Unintentional Church. Many churches mean well, they have good intentions, but do not act on those intentions to reach their community. They may even be willing, but ultimately, they never "do" what they "hope." Unintentional churches do not embrace an intentional process for making disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19) The churches naively believe that as long as they included the ingredients for making disciples---worship, nurture, teaching, outreach----disciples will be produced.
"Us Four and No More" Church. Some churches have adopted an "us four and no more" mentality. They have determined that if they get any larger, they will lose their sweet fellowship. They do not intentionally reject "new" people, but their present relationships are so intimate that any new attendee of the church cannot break into the group. They want a family feel, which means a group small enough to relate like a family. Like residents in the suburbs, they don't want anymore people to crowd in once they are there.
Check in tomorrow for the next four.
Please note, that when I read these descriptions; I get motivated. Motivated because it helps me know the potential that is in every person to want to withdraw to one of these systems. If given enough time and poor leadership; any church can do so. It helps me as a leader to understand and to know how to lead accordingly under the direction of the Holy Spirit. I really believe it's in the honest journey of being under poor (or even ungodly) leadership that churches find themselves in these situations. Let's be honest, if I asked the question, "who wants a stagnant church? The answer will be "Nobody!" Yet according to Leadership Journal, 340,000 churches are in need of church revitalization. Because of that, I want to be the type of leader that is lovingly and gracefully helping turn the tide in the Church. Jesus said, "He would build His Church" and he has given us a part in the process. Some of us carry the wood, some hammer the nails, some clear the site. The important part is to know what part He has called you to play.