Five Reasons Why Stability Is Bad for a Church

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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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  • Tony Hynes says on

    What is ‘a comfort zone’? Some people are more comfortable haranguing an open air crowd or sranding at a Bible literature stall in the market than visiting orphans and widows!!

  • Your message is well taken! But I think there’s a big difference between stability and complacency. A little like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a little bit of stability is necessary for a congretation to feel safe, fulfilled, and truly guided by their church leader.

  • Tim Prock says on

    It makes me think. And I really did not want to think so much today.

  • Shelvin Lamb says on

    I agree with the comment above about the word needing to be comfortable. Respectfully, my definition of stability is no where near what was described in the five points. This is implying that the word stable is negative. I don’t agree.

  • Denny Scheidt says on

    A church that doesn’t change will die. Just like a business! Just look at the retail malls. If we give women the opportunity to show what they can do, which include elders of the church, we will find that Pastor Trevor is right!

    • Craig Giddens says on

      A church that functions like a business is dead already. A church with women as elders is not a Biblical church.

  • Denny Scheidt says on

    A church that doesn’t change will die. Just like a business! Just look at the retail malls. If we give women the opportunity to show what they can do, which include elders of the church, we will find that Pastor Trevor is right!

  • Stability can also mean a church has reached a level of excellence and chooses not to shoot themselves in the foot.

    We were travelling yesterday and visited an SBC church. (We are former SBC’ers).

    While I am an admitted fan of hymns I’ve been in excellent contemporary services. This was not one. No discernable melody as they wallowed in the TULIP followed by two songs that were unmistakably LDS theology (yep, we’ve lived in Zion in the past.) About 5% of the people sang. Another 30% or so closed their eyes, hugged themselves and like orphans self comforted by either swaying side to side or rocking back and forward. One guy read the newspaper, most sat and talked or texted back and forth across the room. Then there was a very Shirley MacLaine or Oprah like help us love ourselves prayer. Then a sermon that used every business management aphorism in the book, it seemed. The gist was that “we used to do hymns and preach sin, salvation, and Jesus Christ but we had to change or die so we went purpose driven and about half the people left. Then we went hyperCalvinist and half of the remaining left. Then we went to this music format and half left again. Now we are tiny, struggling, about to die financially but folks, understand this: YOU CANNOT GO BACK TO WHAT WE USED TO DO.” I wanted to jump up and yell “WHY NOT?” but that wouldn’t have been a nice guest.

    I am familiar with the town. I know those that left landed in a very deliberately non contemporary, “whosoever will” SBC church that is effective at winning the lost in their community to Christ.

    Change, yes, but not for change sake. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

    • Sandra says on

      Linda, what does TULIP and LDS mean? Thanks.

      • I can tell you that tulip is Calvinist.
        Total Depravity (also known as Total Inability and Original Sin)
        Unconditional Election
        Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement)
        Irresistible Grace
        Perseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved)

      • Pastor Dan says on

        LDS is “Latter Day Saints” – An abbreviated title for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” (The Mormons).

    • Christopher says on

      Is this a comment on the blog or an anti-Calvinist rant?

      • Whatever it is, TULIP was not developed by Calvin, so don’t blame him.

      • Actually, it was both. And, it erred in both regards.

        The first error was that a church can reach “excellence”. That would require a completeness that indicates that a church needs nothing else. I would suggest that violates the Great Commission.

        The second error was in the commentator’s attempt to lump all those with whom she disagrees into some sort of single group. Trying to group the Calvinists with the Latter Day Saints with New Agers with those who call themselves Christians but reject the Bible is an obviously flawed approach to truth.

        I will, however, give her the obvious answer to her question. The reason that they cannot go back to what they used to do is that what they used to do is what led to the current problems. It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. In point of fact, she recommends change for the sake of change. She just wants the change to be the change she wants.

        We should never become so complacent that we resist change just because someone else changed badly.

  • Perhaps the word ”comfortable” should have been used instead of ”stable.”

  • There is a time that stability means that nothing has blown up and the minister has not been run off. This is not a bad time of stability.

  • John Wilkerson says on

    Sounds to me like you have confused “stability” with “tranquility.” My understanding of the peace of Christ is stability in the throes of challenging times. It is only by his stabilizing influence that a congregation is able not only to cope with change but, also, to initiate change whenever and wherever necessary as ambassadors for Christ.

    • David Gates says on

      Good article, Bro Tom thanks for some encouragement to get out of the comfort zone and do more. Thanks Pastor Wilkerson for clarification. I appreciate your insight in to the stability and rest in Christ in the midst of trying, challenging and busy times in God’s work.

  • James C says on

    Excellent points and very enlightening. Thanks.

  • However… “Periods of progress should be followed by periods of pause.” When a church has come through a high demand season of outreach or achievement, momentum can actually be enhanced/accelerated by taking time to celebrate the victories and tell the stories. Two metaphors: 1] Running hard and winning a race should be followed by a walk around the infield with the hands on the hips and a smile on the face. 2] A military ‘band of brothers’ that takes a hill needs to hold the ground they have taken by allowing time to recalibrate and strategize before undertaking the next challenge… such periods of pause not to be confused with ‘stability.’

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