10 Cancers That Will Stop a Church From Growing
by Ian Thomas
Most of us have heard of Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life. This book sold millions of copies and changed the lives of people all over the world. However, many have never heard of the first book in the Purpose Driven series Warren wrote entitled, The Purpose Driven Church. In this book, Warren makes a compelling case that a church is a living organism, likening the church to a child, and says that if your child isn’t growing, you need to take the child to an expert: a Doctor. Likewise, if your church isn’t growing, your church also needs an expert: a Church Consultant. He then says something that shook me ever since I read it over 20 years ago. He said, “If your church isn’t growing, it likely has a cancer.” And hear me when I say this: Cancers must be extracted, or they will spread to the rest of the body, and eventually kill what's left of your church.
With this said, here are 10 Cancers That Will Stop Churches From Growing (Part 1):
Cancer #1: The “D” Word. When I hear a church’s leadership blame their lack of growth on factors such as the economy, bad weather, and even the seasons of the year (yes, we've heard pastors even blame the seasons), one word comes to mind: Denial. Healthy churches don’t shrink in a bad economy; they grow! Bad weather? If your church has dynamic services, people will walk uphill in the snow to see what God is doing, in order to receive from Him. You say that a certain season of the year is keeping people away? Please. Every church on the planet deals with four seasons. These are all blaming excuses meant to take the focus off of the real problems. If your church isn’t growing (and you’re not in Denial), read on…
Cancer #2: An Inward Focus. Not sure what an Inward-Focus means? It simply means caring for the needs of your members...only. Examples of having an Outward-Focused church would be to invite and honor the community’s first responders and military to a church service, or having a plan to have church members physically leave your church grounds and have outreaches to the community, welcoming visitors during the church service, and feeding the less fortunate (actually giving them hot, prepared food, versus having a cold, dark closet with donated food that your members don’t want to eat). See Matthew 25:34-46.
Cancer #3: No Vision. To be clear, every church on the planet has the same Mission: “Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone” (Mark 16:15). The Vision, however, is how a church carries out the Mission. For example, a church in Nigeria, Africa is probably going to have a vastly different vision of how they carry out the Mission, than a church in, say, Reykjavik, Iceland. Proverbs 29:18 says, “Where there is no vision, the people will perish.” This verse makes it clear that if a church doesn’t have a clear vision—and plans in place to carry it out—no church consultant on the planet will be able to help you revive your church, and that church is on its way to dying.
Cancer #4: Fear of the Mafia. The Mafia. The Cartel. The Clique. These are all nouns that describe a close-knit group within the church (usually several long-term members), who have a lengthy history of entitlement, unChrist-like behavior, bullying, and little (if any) spiritual growth, whom the pastor is afraid to correct (or offend). Why would a pastor be afraid to correct this type of cancer? For fear of the mafia (and a few of their close, impressionable friends) leaving; causing a church split—and consequential lost church revenue. Pastors who allow mafias to exist in their church fail to realize that the healthy, energetic, tithing church members (HETs) are often pushed away and eventually “snuffed out” by this mafia gang of bullies. When pastors fear resolving conflicts between their mafia members (goats) and the HETs (sheep) they are, by their silence, showing favoritism and endorsing the bad behavior of their mafia. Pastors, when this occurs, rest assured that it’s only a matter of time before you can kiss your good sheep goodbye. (Read what Jesus said about church bullies.)
Cancer #5: The Pastor Has Given Up. The signs are easy to spot. Most members (and even visitors) can see them: The pastor works part-time, goes to their office just long enough to put out any major fires (and can tell others they technically worked that day), has a lengthy history of ignoring emails and voice messages, presides over the same weekly, snore-worthy church service, and preaches soft, non-confrontational sermons. When a pastor has given up, whether they’ll admit to it or not, rest assured, everyone knows it, and their church will only get smaller and smaller. This is by far, the most deadly of all the church cancers.
(Be sure to check out Part 2 of our next post.)
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