10 Cancers That Will Stop a Church from Growing
by Ian Thomas
There's not much more I love in this life than to see a healthy church. God wants our churches to be healthy, and if you're reading this, I know that you want a healthy church. So what makes a church unhealthy? Church cancers. In our last post (Part One), I wrote that Cancers must be eradicated, or they will kill your church. Church cancers, like bodily cancers, are toxic to the body. They not only stifle the growth of the body, but they become infectious, and will eventually kill the whole body.
With this said, here is Part 2 of 10 Cancers That Will Stop a Church from Growing:
Cancer #6: Fossils are Running the Show. With age comes wisdom. But if there is no energy and vision in an older leadership (including department heads) to come up with new ideas, ministries, and programs to spark the church and evangelize the community (an outward-focus), that church isn’t just treading water; it’s being forced downstream…rapidly. A statistic that many pastors don’t want to hear is that 20% of your church’s leadership should consist of people who have been in your church for two years or less. Why? They can see with fresh eyes, and are hungry to implement new ideas. And when a church refuses to allow young adults roles within church ministry, it’s highly likely that young adults and youth will soon be absent. If your church's leadership would like to see a younger group of congregants active in your church, the younger group of congregants need to see their peers active in your church's leadership.
Cancer #7: “Playing it Safe” Sermons. When a sermon doesn’t inspire people to change and to take action, parishioners will eventually find a church that will inspire them. Pastors who are afraid to give sermons on toxic behaviors such as pride, anger, offense, religiosity, etc., are usually living with a fear that they will lose some of their flock, or who they call, "The Faithful”. But what if in the process of spiritually-stagnant, offense-prone members leaving, you’re also fueling energetic, enthusiastic members to action? The ones who stay and bring new people in? Pruning—while often uncomfortable to many pastors, is a necessary way that God keeps a church fresh and alive (see John 15:2). Correction from the pulpit is like giving your church a super-vitamin: a huge dose of much-needed health.
Cancer #8: “Us” vs “Them” Sermons. Let me start by saying that sins such as homosexuality and illegal drug use (for example) are wrong in God’s eyes. And because they're wrong to God, they're also wrong to me. But with this said, is it really necessary to condemn those who are involved with these things from the pulpit? This only alienates people and builds walls. We all know John 3:16, but John 3:17 tells us that Jesus didn’t come into the world to condemn; He came to save! So if we're followers of Jesus, shouldn’t that be our job, too? Did you completely stop sinning when you came to Jesus?, or did those things fall off over time as you learned more of Jesus’ love? Jesus gave us two commandments: Love God and love people (Matthew 22:37-39). Whenever we’re tempted to condemn someone for their sin, remember what Jesus told the Pharisees: “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” Let's be a church who is against sin and for people, amen?!
Cancer #9: Clinging to the Past. This is a very dangerous cancer. So your church was great once upon a time…what does that really have to do with today? Is what happened, say, thirty years ago, really relevant to your current parishioners who weren’t around (or even born) then? The two questions that pastors should ask themselves every day is, “What does God want to do in my church today?” and "How can I help make that happen?" Live by these and church cancers will be a thing of the past.
Cancer #10: Pulpit Politics. When churches endorse one political party over another from the pulpit, they are: (1) alienating those whose beliefs differ, and (2) building only a we’re-right-and-everyone-who-doesn’t-think-exactly-like-we-do-is-wrong base of parishioners. This is very, very dangerous. Yes, we should choose our candidate based on how their campaign promises best line up with our biblical theology. But don’t publicly scoff at someone else’s choice. Publicly praising one candidate while trashing another isn’t a good look for a church, and will only lead to social inbreeding. The last time I checked, America is still a democracy. You wouldn't want anyone to publicly slam your candidate. Remember, "Whatsoever a man sows, that will he also reap" (Galatians 6:7).
(Click here to read Part 1.)
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