I was once in a workshop on prayer and the church and one of the presenters, my friend 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, teach 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. There is nothing 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 though, to the mission of God on the earth, especially after a global crisis like a pandemic. 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 the call of each Christian to disciple making. Perhaps the idol of comfort has brought about the plateau and nothing else.
Other hindrances include issues like prayerlessness and a 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 mature into graced influenced and influencing missional believers in their neighborhoods and marketplaces. So, we have shepherd teachers but few leaders that know how to make other leaders for our ever-devolving world.
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. They were not in denial nor content with the status quo, but they had no idea what to do…. or at least what they were doing was not helping.
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 life giving change.
One game changer is Gospel Coaching for you the pastor. Be willing to swallow your pride and get a Gospel 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. And prayerfully consider providing your spouse a coach for a season. Ministry that is healthy is typically done, when married, as a couple. Your spouse has had huge changes during the past season.
The other corrective is having a church health audit conducted. CMM’s online church health audit, conducted with personal interviews, will provide the leadership an objective evaluation on 8 health indicators, by the members providing you, their perspective. I know for some leaders that instills a certain degree of fear and anxiety, like having to have an annual physical. We do not want to be like a man who discovers he has a widow maker and needs heart surgery immediately. Wouldn't we rather know what we need to make changes now, so we do not have an emergency?
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 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. And the coach will help you process any information from your church health audit.