If you’ve talked to folk in churches that have a culture of decline they generally all agree there’s one reason that caused it and one solution to fix it: their pastor.
They seem oblivious to every choice they make as a church that cultivates decline, and wistfully yearn for the person who will see people come to their church while they continue to exercise the same churches that have resulted in decline.
What’s more disastrous is when the incoming pastor embraces the same narrative.
Churches so often get indulged in their disfunction.
That’s why this point from this article on five essentials to turn a declining church around by Joel Rainey appealed to me:
Get rid of the Messiah Complex.
There is a parable about a new pastor who, upon moving into his office, found three envelopes in his desk drawer. Each was marked to be opened for the first, second, and third major crises he would face. Before the end of the first year, he opened the first envelope in response to a major kerflufle to find these words; “This is from your predecessor. Blame everything on me.” It worked! But only for another six months. So when he opened the second envelope he read these words; “This is from your predecessor. Blame everything on my predecessor.” Again, that tactic managed to assuage the division. But three months later, in the midst of some of the nastiest conflict he had ever seen, he found himself opening that third envelope, where he read these words; “This is from your predecessor. Take a little time before you leave to prepare three envelopes for the next guy.”
The point? Presuming we are somehow “better” than those who came before us and thus will “save the church” is both arrogant and dangerous. In revitalization, we have a critical role to play, but just as former pastors aren’t solely responsible for a church in decline, we can’t be solely credited for bringing it back to life. That is the work of God alone. At the start, a number of God’s people will try to place you on that pedestal. For your own good, and theirs, refuse to sit on it.