Church health and growth are dependent on many factors, for sure. But bottom line, at the end of the day, churches don’t grow because they’re not healthy. And they’re not healthy because they’re focused on themselves. For all the talk about evangelization these days, the truth is that many churches remain resolutely focused on themselves, they’re all about the people already in the pews. And they want to stay that way.
Here are 5 warning signs:
- Member Preferences Trump Everything
In insider-focused churches, member preferences rule. Everything from the content of the preaching to the selection of the music is determined by what the “people” want.
As a result, people-pleasing rules when it comes to staff leadership and decision making. The challenge is, this leaves no objective standards. The standard is whatever people say they like, and the people are always the same people…and probably a very small circle of people.
- Emotions Drive Decision Making
In these churches, members are so focused on pleasing themselves that discussion about future direction becomes very emotional: what people feel, who’s happy, who’s not happy, who’s thinking of leaving if they don’t get their way. Meanwhile, any sense of strategy, not to mention mission, is lost.
- Sacrifice Is Neither Given nor Expected
In an insider-focused church, no one sacrifices anything for anyone. They are coming to be served, and service is what they expect. Their contribution is consumption, they simply show up and that fulfills their end of the bargain. The rest is on the church staff, or whoever, as long as its not them.
- Any Growth Is “Transfer Growth”
Internally focused churches might actually grow numerically, especially if they’re in growing communities, where growth is automatic. The other kind of growth an insider-focused church might experience is “transfer growth.” This is where you pick up serial church shoppers. And guess what serial church shoppers are looking for? A new church to be all about them (because their last church failed them in that demand). Of course this isn’t real growth, because its not healthy growth, its not mission-induced growth.
- Innovation Is Not Tolerated
Most insider-focused congregations aren’t excited about the future, they’re afraid of it. They cling stubbornly, desperately, blindly to the present or the past, preferring the way things are or the way things used to be over the way things could be, or the ways things should be. As a result innovation is intolerable. Or worse, it is characterized as unorthodox, or somehow unfaithful.
The antidote to insider-focus is simple: embracing your mission to reach the lost and make church matter.
For a fuller treatment of this topic take a look at careynieuwhof.com