mgpcpastor's blog


Leave a comment

Barriers To Becoming A Simple Church (via Thom Rainer)

Through the beginning of the year Thom Rainer has been posting about churches becoming simple or zero sum.
In practice this involves concluding groups and activities that no longer have a vital purpose.
Put another way: if the church was starting fresh which groups activities would they actually start because they’re needed or serve a purpose?
It is meant to differentiate from effort invested in mission purpose and effort invested in that which exists only to be maintained.
Here he lists five reasons why this process of evaluation doesn’t take place.

  1. Traditionalism. We do the same things we’ve always done because we’ve always done them that way before. If that sounds redundant, it is. We just can’t get out of our boxes of comfort and false security.
  2. Lack of clear vision. We pile on program after program and meeting after meeting because we have no clear plan or vision. A good vision will lead the church to say “yes” or “no” in a healthy fashion.
  3. Fear. Many leaders fear the consequences of even suggesting the elimination of some programs, ministries, or activities. I know of no simple church without courageous leaders.
  4. Coasting. This barrier is similar to fear. Some leaders don’t want to rock the boat. They just want to hang on to their jobs or their peaceful existence. But the courageous leader is never a coasting leader.
  5. Failure to evaluate. I have encouraged churches to consider a zero-based ministry every year. Ask the question: What ministries, programs, and meetings would we have if we had a clean slate? How would it look differently than our current schedule? Too many churches are eager to add but fearful to subtract.

Read the whole post at Rainer’s site, and then look for related posts on the subject.


Leave a comment

Understanding Where Your Church Is On The Congregational Life Cycle (via Thom Rainer)

Thom Rainer outlines the cycle of vitality and decline that he has observed in growing and shrinking churches.
Locally I deal with churches demonstrating the fourth and fifth of these stages.
Even though being a growing church is especially challenging in country areas where population bases are declining, these churches have a culture that reflects a lack of spiritual health.
At MGPC we’re giving special focus to states one and three.
Rainer’s post:

Almost every time I speak about church decline and death, someone challenges my thesis. They tell me churches will not die, according to Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:18: “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock and I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”
There are two major problems with the argument that churches will not close. First, Jesus is not referring to any one congregation in this passage; He is referring to the Universal Church. Second, churches are dying, lots of them—several thousand each year in America alone.
It is, therefore, helpful to see the life cycle of churches so we can at least understand visually where our church resides currently, and where it may be heading. I call this visual the Congregational Life Cycle ©.
This approach delineates six stages. Keep in mind that most churches are not totally focused on any one stage at any time. Rather, the Congregational Life Cycle demonstrates where a church is predominantly focused in its resources of time, money, and emotions.

Outward Focus
This is the beginning stage of most new churches. In the spirit of the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19 or Acts 1:8, the church focuses the majority of its resources reaching the community and having gospel conversations. The focus is on the “other” instead of the “us.”
Organization and Structure
A church without a healthy organization and structure is like a body without a skeleton. It cannot survive as an unstructured mass. It needs a clear polity. It needs a place to meet. It needs a healthy system of groups. It needs clearly defined leadership. It needs processes and procedures.
Integration and Assimilation
A congregation is better able to integrate and assimilate the congregants with a healthy organization and structure. The previous stage was more about the right structure. This stage is about integrating people into the structure.
Inverse Priorities
I also call this stage “the tail wagging the dog.” The previous two stages become ends instead of means. Members seek to hold onto the ministries, programs, processes, and styles where they are comfortable. Two phrases become common mantras in the church: “We’ve never done it that way before” and “We will not change.”
Decline
The church not only declines numerically; it declines in spirit and unity. The congregation often looks more like a spiritual country club doling perks and privileges, rather than a biblical church where all of the parts of the body are working in a self-sacrificial manner.
Death
The church closes its doors. In the past, death took years, even decades, to become a reality. Now it comes with surprising speed and unforgiving force.

What Now?
What are church leaders to do with this Congregational Life Cycle?
First, determine where your church is on the cycle today. Where is your congregation expending the greatest level of resources?
Second, always seek to move to Outward Focus. Seek to expend your greatest resources being a true Great Commission church. Seek to reach your community with unadulterated love and grace-filled giving.

Even a church about to close its doors can move to the Outward Focus stage. The church can give its building and resources to a healthy congregation. It can become acquired by another church. It can become a church replant. Through its own death, it can give new life to another congregation.
But all churches should prayerfully move to the stage of Outward Focus, where the greatest level of resources are focused on reaching others and discipling them. That’s what the early church modeled.
And that’s what our church should model today.

Source


Leave a comment

Overcommitted Churches (via Thom Rainer)

Thom Rainer writes about how churches can find themselves with so many programs and activities that they become ineffective at discipling Christians and sharing the Gospel.

From Rainer’s post:

So how did our churches get in this predicament? The causes are many, but here are seven of them:

  1. Our churches equate activity with value. Thus busy churches are deemed to be churches of value. And busy, exhausted, and frustrated church members are deemed to be Christians of value.
  2. Programs and ministries became ends instead of means. I recently asked a pastor why he continued a ministry that had dwindled from 220 participants to 23 participants. “Because,” he said, “this program is a part of the history and heritage that defines our church.” Warning: If a program defines your church, your church is in trouble.
  3. Failure of churches to have a clear purpose. Even the best of churches can only do so many things well. Once a church has no clear and defining purpose, it has no reason to start or discontinue a program or ministry. That issue then leads to the next two reasons.
  4. Church leaders have failed to say “no.” Some church leaders can’t say “no” to new programs and ministries because they have no clear or defining purpose on what they should do. Others leaders simply lack courage to say “no.”
  5. Fear of eliminating. Once a program, ministry, or activity has begun, it can be exceedingly difficult to let it die. Sometimes leaders lack courage to kill programs. Sometimes they are blinded to the need to kill programs. Sometimes they hesitate to kill a program because they don’t know a better alternative. We need more churches in the program killing business.
  6. Church is often defined as an address. As long as we think “church” means a physical location, we will try to load up that address with all kinds of busyness. Many churches are ineffective at reaching their communities because their members are so busy at the building they call the church. That’s both bad ecclesiology and bad missiology.
  7. Churches often try to compete with culture rather than reach culture. A church in the deep South had a dynamic basketball ministry where they fielded community basketball teams comprised of church members and non-believers. But once the church built its own gym and recreation center, the church members started spending all their time playing at their new facility. In an attempt to have a gym as good as those in the community, the church ironically became less effective reaching those in the community.

Read the whole post at Rainer’s blog, which also promises a follow-up which deals with churches that have de-programmed and become more effective.


Leave a comment

Six Reasons Why Dying Churches Die (via Thom Rainer)

Thom Rainer lists six reasons why dying churches continue on a terminal trajectory.

  1. They refuse to admit they are sick, very sick. I have worked with churches whose attendance has declined by over 80 percent. They have no gospel witness in the community. They have not seen a person come to Christ in two decades. But they say they are fine. They say nothing is wrong.
  2. They are still waiting on the “magic bullet” pastor. They reason, if only we could find the right pastor, we would be fine. But they bring in pastor after pastor. Each leaves after a short-term stint, frustrated that the congregation was so entrenched in its ways. So the church starts the search again for the magic bullet pastor.
  3. They fail to accept responsibility. I recently met with the remaining members of a dying church. Their plight was the community’s fault. Those people should be coming to their church. It was the previous five pastors’ fault. Or it was the fault of culture. If everything returned to the Bible belt mentality of decades earlier, we would be fine.
  4. They are not willing to change . . . at all. A friend asked me to meet with the remaining members of a dying church. These members were giddy with excitement. They viewed me as the great salvific hope for their congregation. But my blunt assessment was not pleasing to them, especially when I talked about change. Finally, one member asked if they would have to look at the words of a hymn on a screen instead of a hymnal if they made changes. I stood in stunned silence, and soon walked away from the church that would close its doors six months later.
  5. Their “solutions” are all inwardly focused. They don’t want to talk about reaching the ethnically changing community. They want to know how they can make church more comfortable and palatable for the remnant of members.
  6. They desire to return to 1985. Or 1972. Or 1965. Or 1959. Those were the good old days. If we could just do church like we did then, everything would be fine.

Read the whole post here.


Leave a comment

How Churches Become Too Busy And Less Effective (via Thom Rainer)

Thom Rainer attempts to describe how churches can become focussed on their activities to the detriment of mission and ministry.
He has eight points.

  1. Activities became synonymous with ministry.
  2. Programs and ministries are added regularly, but few or none are ever deleted.
  3. Programs and ministries become sacred cows.
  4. The alignment question is not asked on the front end.
  5. Silo behavior among the different ministries of the church.
  6. Lack of an evaluation process.
  7. Ministry becomes facility-centered.
  8. Lack of courageous leadership.

You can read his background comments on the points here.


Leave a comment

When Should A Pastor Retire? (via Thom Rainer)

Turns out the answer wasn’t 53. Or even 54.
All Thom Rainer gave me was these ten diagnostic questions:

  1. Are you physically and emotionally able to continue to lead at a high level? If not, you probably should retire.
  2. Are you still highly motivated in your place of leadership? If you don’t wake up each morning excited about your ministry, you might consider stepping down.
  3. Are you a continuous learner? Are you reading, listening to others, attending conferences, learning new technologies, and staying current in key areas?
  4. Are you hanging on primarily for financial reasons? If that is your dominant reason for staying, you are doing your church or ministry a disservice by staying.
  5. Do you have a clear and compelling vision for your ministry’s future? If not, you may be coasting and ready to retire.
  6. Is the church’s health deteriorating under your leadership? It’s not always the fault of the pastor, but you need to ask if new leadership could bring new life.
  7. Does the word “change” cause you to feel threatened or angry? If you are not happy with the way the current generation is leading churches, you may be too change resistant to lead your own church.
  8. Do you empower others regularly? If you are not taking time to equip others to do the work of ministry and to become leaders, it could be an indicator you are coasting.
  9. Is your family supportive of you staying in your current ministry position? Your spouse or children may really know what’s best for you and the church, and it may be retirement.
  10. Do you find yourself longing for the good old days? If so, you might be living in the past, ineffective in the present, and unable to lead toward the future. It might be time to step down.

source


Leave a comment

Six Distinctives Of A Resuscitated Church (via Thom Rainer)

The king of numbered lists, Thom Rainer produces six distinctives of churches that experience resuscitation.
I like them because these are distinctives that any healthy church must have, and if any church neglects or forsakes them they would run into decline.
Rainer writes:

Is church resuscitation common? No.
Is church resuscitation possible? Yes.
In God’s power, yes.

And these are the ways God usually does so.

  1. A prolonged period of prayer.
  2. A covenant to forsake self.
  3. A willingness to kill sacred cows.
  4. A commitment to see through the eyes of the outsider
  5. An agreement to connect and invite.
  6. A decision to move beyond the negative naysayers.

Read more commentary on these points here.

Number 4, A commitment to see through the eyes of the outsider. is large in our minds at MGPC presently.
Raiiner comments: “As the members continue to forsake self, they begin to ask how the church is viewed from the perspective of the outsider. They may actually engage a person to visit their church and share their experience. It is amazing to see how this process transforms facilities, worship, greeters’ ministry, and children’s ministries, to name a few.”