Change or die.
That is reality for churches today.
Of course, I am not talking about Scripture, doctrine, or spiritual disciplines changing. Those things are constants, never to be compromised.
But much of what we do in our churches must change. And, unfortunately, many church members and leaders resist change. They seek stability and comfort over obedience and sacrifice.
Let’s look at five key reasons why stability is bad for a church.
- A stable church is not a church on mission. The very nature of the Great Commission means our churches should be in constant change. A church member blasted a pastor for his efforts at leading the church to reach unbelievers in the community. She castigated him because “those people are messing up our church.” Sigh.
- Comfort is the enemy of obedience. Review all the examples of obedient persons in the Bible. In every case, they had to get out of their comfort zones. Too many church members want stability because they don’t want to experience the discomfort of obedience.
- Stable churches are not reaching their communities. The communities in which churches are located are changing. Many are changing rapidly. If a church seeks comfort, it is not willing to make the necessary changes to impact the community it was called to serve.
- Stable churches do not create new groups. Show me a stable church, and I will show you a church that is not creating new groups or Sunday school classes. Show me a church not creating new groups, and I will show you a church that is inwardly focused. The members are spiritual navel gazers.
- Members of stable churches want the focus to be on their preferences. They want church “the way it’s always been.” They are more concerned about getting their way with music style, room temperature, and precise starting time of worship services. In their latter years, they are able to sing, “I did it my way” rather than “I did it God’s way.”
There is nothing biblical about a stable church. In fact, the stability is really just an illusion. Those churches that seek stability will ironically change the most rapidly toward decline and death.
Posted on May 29, 2017
With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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I wanted to ignore the arguments about word choice because such debates are so asinine. Then I read your condescending comments, and I decided not to restrain any more.
Not too long ago, I was in a church business meeting where members argued back and forth for over an hour about one word in the proposed changes in the bylaws. But the church was not reaching anyone with the gospel. I told my wife that, after what I heard the business meeting, I expected the church to shut its doors in five years.
I was wrong. The church closed in less than three years.
You are arguing about a word while all the principles are incredibly insightful. You did not say one thing about the key points Thom articulated. You simply wanted to say smugly that you knew a word was wrong. You didn’t just miss the forest for the trees; you missed the forest for the blades of grass.
Then you close with these unbelievably condescending words:
“I’m sorry Thom, but I disagree with you. Churches need stability. They don’t need stagnation. But there is a big difference. Instability does not help a church grow. Trust me.”
Here is my response, Aaron. I don’t trust you. It’s people like you who are killing our churches.
By the way, I like the word “stability” in the context Thom used it. But I digress. There is no need to lower myself to the plain of hubris upon which you pontificate.
George. Really?…”There is no need to lower myself to the plain of hubris upon which you pontificate.” Speaking of condescending…you sound like a 60’s preacher boy from the South trying to kill us with big liberal religious training/seminary words. Didn’t work, bro! Instead, it looks like a little pride rose up, huh? Pontificating, indeed, from a holier-than-Thou hubris…wow!
Forgive us, Lord, for we know EXACTLY what we’re doing.
Stability is the wrong word to use. There is a big difference between a stagnant church and a dynamic church. Using the term stable is a poor choice. You should have said stagnant instead.
Having worked at a church that went through a period of extreme instability, I can tell you that it’s not a good thing. Not at all.
Actually, if you look at churches that grow and continue to grow – their growth comes from what I would call “dynamic stability.” Ministers stay at the church for longer than 5 years. They train and build strong dependable teams of volunteer leaders and that enables the church to truly reach the community and assimilate visitors.
An unstable church only focuses on its internal instability. People thrive when churches and ministries are dependable and stable. Yes, churches don’t need to become stagnant and stale, but there is a difference between dynamic growth and stagnation.
I’m sorry Thom, but I disagree with you. Churches need stability. They don’t need stagnation. But there is a big difference. Instability does not help a church grow. Trust me.
I hear a lot of talk about if the Lord’s churches don’t change then they are going to die. Of course they always use the disclaimer: Change but not Scripture, doctrine, or disciplines. Apparently they must have a magic formula in mind but they never come right out and say it. It is very hard to “change” and not compromise the things that shouldn’t be changed at least to some degree. The people who refuse to attend a church unless it changes, usually require a change in doctrine, Scripture, or disciplines. That is the changes they are really seeking. Churches need to follow the Great Commission completely and trust God to bring the increase. Quit focusing on man’s standards and filling the pews. The Lord’s churches are commanded to GO to the list, not cater to their every whim to get them in the door. If you start listening to lost people or carnal Christians on what a church should do or be, then all you will have is a church that is worldly and not Godly. I’m not against change or creative ways of reaching out to people, but to make the statement that unless there’s a change then the Lord’s churches will cease to exist is denying the scriptural fact that Christ will preserve His churches. Just obey Scripture and quit trying to come up with some blog that you think will make you sound pious.
I have learned that the way a church changes but not at the cost of doctrine is in how it ministers to the members and administers in its temporal functions. Too much time is spent with procedures, committees and protocols that get more and more complicated (law of Moses) and that in the end do not further the building of the Kingdom nor the saving of souls. Efficiencies in these areas will free up time for members to tend to those matters that are eternal.