I am not a young man. Though I encourage leaders to lead change, I realize in my advanced years, change can be more difficult. Routine is a comfort food.
It has been 34 years since I led my first church consultation. My team and I have done hundreds of on-site consultations, and we’ve conducted thousands of virtual consultations. I am not a novice in this area.
But experience is not the same thing as wisdom.
It is time for me to change.
How I Got to This Point
Since 1996 my consulting team and I have included a tool called the Know Your Church™ report in most of our consultations. Each year thousands of church leaders and members respond to 160 statements about their respective churches. We have millions of points of data. We can see in granularity the directions of churches for 26 consecutive years. It is priceless information.
It is not uncommon for churches to “score” low in the area of evangelism. These churches struggle to share the gospel with any type of consistency.
But in the past five years, the evangelism score has declined precipitously in churches. Since the pandemic, it has gotten worse. Much worse.
I tell church leaders and members that they can’t keep doing the same things the same way and expect different results. But I don’t always practice what I preach in the area of consultations.
This awareness became a breaking point for me recently.
My Own Wake-Up Call
Though you may take my words as hubris, I can say with confidence my team and I do great work at diagnostic consultations. I can also say with confidence that those churches that have been willing to implement our recommendations have seen incredible results.
But therein lies my stubbornness and stupidity. Fewer and fewer church leaders go forward with our recommendations. We give them the diagnosis and the proposed remedies and, for many, nothing happens. In fact, the majority do nothing. And I have not changed the process in response.
It’s like going to your physician who tells you that your health report is not good. But if you eat better, get exercise, and lose weight, your outlook is very positive.
Diagnosis without action is dead. Sometimes literally dead.
Our consulting diagnoses, though precise and accurate, often do not lead to change, particularly in evangelistic actions. The blame begins with me. Such is the reason I must change, and I must lead my team at Church Answers to change.
So we did.
The Hope Initiative
What if we changed the process of consultations? While still using our helpful tools, what if we worked with church leaders to move forward with hope and joy instead of dread and despair?
What if the process was clear and simple?
What if the initiative changed the culture of a church positively and dramatically?
What if the process resulted in the church reaching more people with the gospel?
What if the solution was not a burden?
What if church members were excited to be a part of the solution?
What if pastors and other church leaders moved their churches forward with Spirit-given optimism and joy?
Frankly, that is what we see taking place. We call it The Hope Initiative. And though we are still in beta tests with churches, we see God’s hands working. We see joy. We see hope. And we see culture-shifting change taking place.
I know. I am leaving out a lot of details. But we must continue the beta tests to see how God is working in these churches.
But I could not be more encouraged. In fact, I am more excited about being in ministry than at any point in my 40-year ministry. God has changed me. I needed the change. I have more hope than ever for churches
Such is the reason we call it The Hope Initiative.
You will hear more about this movement later this year.
To be continued . . .
Posted on July 11, 2022
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.
More from Thom
Mr. Rainer, I have appreciated so much, the things your team share with us. Y’all have been mentoring me and encouraging . I’m not a pastor, just a board member. I want to help our church reach out more, your blogs and articles have been very helpful. (Like you are my coach). I’m thankful for your ministry
And I recognize Christ in what you share. This particular article was inspiring . My life verse is Proverbs 24:14. ” Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul, if you find it there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off”. In Christ, I’ve seen this promise kept . Each of us share this hope and I pray God would help and lead each of you in the hope initiative. I’m excited to learn about this! Thanks again
Love in Christ Barry
Thank you so much, Barry. I know the hope of Christ will be in you as you continue to serve Him.
Thom, I have just read your blog on the Hope Initiative and am encouraged to see your organization moving toward helping church leaders and churches return to their first love of leading others to the Lord. I worked several years at BSSB (Lifeway) in the Bible Teaching Division under the leadership of Harry Piland and served for a few years as Director of the Preschool/Children’s Department. Prior to coming to the Board in 1980, I served as a mission pastor in New Orleans and taught for several years at NOBTS. From 1996 until 2011 I worked as a Licensed Clinical Pastoral Therapist. Since that time I have continued to write a weekly blog on Christian discipleship, family issues, marriage, and parenting.
I am looking for ways to continue to be faithful in my calling and would appreciate an opportunity to talk with you and see if there is a way I could be of help to you. I am an older man, but the fire hasn’t died.
Thanks so much, Cos. Stay tuned. We are still in beta with The Hope Initiative, but I am incredibly encouraged thus far.
My heart leaps in rejoicing for the HOLY SPIRIT leading you to The Hope Initiative! You and your team working with church leaders as they implement recommendations will help them bear good fruit and overcome the fear of “what do we do now that the experts are gone.” This initiative is an example of how our Lord Jesus made disciples that He sent out to evangelize the world. Praying for all of you and those you serve.
Thank you so much, Louise. Your words are encouraging.
Thank you, Brother, for your transparency. I have seen some church settings where they will not follow Biblical principles not to mention legal protocols and even less suggestions on how to improve the effectiveness of the work of the ministry unless it helps maintain same direction they have already chosen which obviously is not what it should or could be. It is hard to see churches die on the vine while they refuse make corrections. I try to helps others see the value in the change that needs to take place, but even that is scoffed more readily in these last several years. Still, Paul’s admonition to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3 provide encouragement and a challenge to not give up. Press forward friend!
Thanks so much, Richard.
We successfully implemented your Pray & Go program a year ago. To date, we have 12 teams and have prayed for over 1500 homes. Thank you for this program.
That is tremendous! The response to Pray and Go was a major factor in launching The Hope Initiative. In fact, we are implementing portions of Pray and Go into The Hope Initiative.
Praying for the ministry at Chuch Answers, the leadeship, the staff, the families, the churches, and the sponsors. God bless you for following the Lord and being an instrument to build His Kingdom!
Look Forward in Hope!
Such great encouragement. Thank you, Francis.
Thanks, Thom for reminding us in Church leadership with high expectations of our people that we too need honest evaluating of ourselves. To change along with that which we feel our people need to change, especially in the area of evangelism/disciple making, will go a long way to help our people live in the joyful hope we have in Christ!
Thanks so much, Ralph.
Kudos Dr. Thom!
Appreciate you, Tim!
Great to hear, Thom. Looking forward to more information. It is very true that often the solutions consultants offer can seem overwhelming at first glance. I know that was true when we first connected with Church Growth Services before the pandemic.
Thanks, Bill. Stay tuned . . .
Thank You Thom for being obedient to the Holy Spirit. Your faithfulness has impacted countless individuals and congregations through the years. I’m looking forward to learning more about The Hope Initiative.
Thank you, Larry. I am having trouble containing my enthusiasm!
I want to hear more about this when its available.
Absolutely. I think we will have sufficient input from the beta tests in about two more months. I am confident the results will be as exciting as I portrayed, but we must be sure.