Can discontentment with how your church is growing actually prevent it from moving forward? After working with churches for ten years, here are some common scenarios that I’ve faced:
A new senior pastor has just assumed office of a small to mid-sized church and despite his best efforts like having a welcome ministry, running seeker-friendly services and organizing home visitations etc., new people don’t seem to be staying. What could be happening?
You’re excited about the call given by your pastor to be a praying body of believers and to support the weekly prayer meetings. Yet deep down inside you suspect that it won’t have a real impact on your church. This has happened with clarion calls and pastors in the history of the church. The big moves of God only seem to happen elsewhere. What is wrong with your church?
If you can identify with these thoughts and examples, your church may be facing a cultural climate called the “performance-esteem pull-back effect”. In our performance-oriented culture today, not seeing improvements in key areas of your church affects the morale of your members and may actually impede the church from moving forward with the energy and momentum that God intends.
Common Indicators of Unresolved Disappointment With Church Growth
- Loss of morale and self-esteem
People struggle with the feeling of being a “failure” and perception that “God only works in other churches, but not ours”. This may lead some to leave to join other ‘more successful’ churches, and it may also cause those who stay to drive the church even harder to ‘fix the problem’.
- Struggle with tiredness
People have worked hard but have not seen results. There are high-points on several occasions, but these fizzle out quickly. Future calls to action thus seem to be met with a lukewarm response.
- Playing the blame game
A doubt and fear of repeated failure leads some members to label and blame different groups of people and leaders, often comparing them to other well-known leaders or churches. This results in fragmentation and disunity in an already-struggling church.
Helping Your Church To Navigate This Effect
- Identify unspoken values or beliefs
For example, the perception that “God only works in other churches” is usually accompanied by the belief that “there is something special about the anointed few” and “we are not so anointed”.
- Bring these values into alignment with Biblical truths
Throughout history, God has used people of different backgrounds and talents to accomplish His will. God can anoint every one of us for His purposes. Let’s be open to new things of God, and let faith and anticipation arise to embrace what God wants to teach us.
- Discern your church’s unique calling and season
“Every local church has a unique blend of abilities, talents and gifts, which are used by God in a unique way – the real issue is stewardship.” (Ps. Tan Hock Cheng)
Resist comparison. Allow God to deal with the issues of the heart in this season of your church’s development and you will be ready for Him to bring your church to its next season.
- Redefine success
“Help people measure their growth in other terms, like being Word-formed, Spirit-filled and having authentic relationships. The comparison should not be between churches, but with what Scripture models.” (Ps. Beh Soo Yeong)
Hear What Other Pastors And Leaders Say
“Precisely because we live in a performance-oriented society, even more we need to present a biblical perspective of success” (Ps. Beh Soo Yeong)
“If we define success as equivalent to fruitfulness or numerical growth alone (as the world measures success – by profit, prosperity, prestige, popularity), then we are missing God’s heart for ourselves and for the Church. Inevitably, we will become too performance-based and measure our worth by what we do, what we have and what others say about us.” (Ps. Tan Hock Cheng)
“Success in God’s eyes is faithfulness to His calling.” (Billy Graham)
What Do You Think?
What other indicators of the Performance-Esteem pull-back effect have you observed in your church? What are the successes and failures you’ve experienced in trying to help your church navigate this effect?
Share your thoughts and let me know how this post has helped you! Please note that helpful and edifying comments submitted may be included in a future book for the resourcing of churches.
We will be blessing 5 readers with Ps. Philip’s upcoming book on this topic so leave a comment below and we will be in touch!
Rev. Dr. Philip Huan is the Principal Consultant at ChurchLife Resources, and is passionate about helping churches and leaders become strong and healthy!