by Dr. Tom Wood
I was once in a workshop on prayer and the church and one of the presenters, Terry Gyger, said, “The biggest hindrance to church renewal is the unwillingness of the pastor to admit the critical condition of the church—he is in denial.” Terry should know. He has been in church ministry, both planting and renewing, for over 40 years.
However there are other hindrances as well. Not all pastors of the “65 percent of churches that are declining or have plateaued” (T. Rainer) are in denial. Some, quite frankly, are apathetic to the plateau. Do I sound judgmental? Do you not know a fellow pastor who is glad to have his church where he can preach, do a bible study, visit members, and have a nice home? His kids are in a nice school, his wife is content, he gets a regular paycheck and gets to do what he went to seminary to do—preach and teach. What is wrong with that? He is caring for and faithfully shepherding a flock of 70 to 100 people. It is one reason why the average church in the U.S.A. is less than 100 people. The pastor can shepherd that size, and he is happy to do so.
Here is why it's a hindrance. That pastor and his 80 Christians have typically not seen anyone come to a saving faith in Christ. All the faithful preaching Sunday after Sunday has not created disciples of Jesus that are going out and making disciples of Jesus. It isn’t wrong to have a flock of 75 or 50. But reproduction is part of disciple making. Perhaps the idol of comfort has brought about the plateau and nothing else.
Other hindrances include issues like prayerlessness, lack of intentional discipleship, and lack of leadership. The North American Church is, for the most part, a prayerless church, being led by prayerless leaders. Few churches have an intentional path for members to follow to mature into “gospel dancing” missional believers in their neighborhoods and marketplaces. And I do not know of a seminary that is training pastors in leadership dynamics. So, we have shepherd teachers but few leaders that know how to make other leaders.
One church I was working with showed me their leadership pipeline. It was simply a class on theology and the church’s values and ministry map. There was no process for making someone a leader.
Ok, so what is my point today? If you are not in denial and are not content living in your comfort zone of job security, but you are discontented with the plateau or decline in the church you are pastoring, there is hope. You can take immediate action. You will not experience immediate results, but there are at least two immediate correctives to producing change.
One game changer is Gospel Coaching for you the pastor. Be willing to swallow your pride and get a Coach. All the best athletes in the world have coaches. Remember, the gospel not only has power, it is the power to bring about renewal, change and growth, individually, and corporately. Let the gospel do its work through a coaching relationship.
The other corrective is getting members into a Gospelling Life Together group using the C.R.O.S.S. approach to disciple making.
At CMM, we believe every pastor, church planter, ministry leader, and missionary is created to thrive in ministry and they deserve to have a Gospel Coach alongside them as they ministry. No matter what leadership role you have, we suggest getting a CMM C.R.O.S.S. Gospel Coach to help walk with you through the challenges you’ve never faced before. A Gospel Coach will help encourage and equip you every step along the way.
Dr. Tom Wood
I've been in the Church Planting business my entire career. I want you to know, you don't have to plant a church alone!