Ten Troubling Statements Church Leaders and Members Make

If you want your church to move toward a slow yet certain death, make certain your church leadership and membership affirms most of these ten statements. They are troubling statements. Indeed they are proclamations that virtually assure your church’s decline and probable demise.

What is troubling is that these statements are not uncommon. They are articulated by both staff and lay leaders at times. See if you have ever heard any of these ten.

  1. We hire our pastors and staff to do that. “That” can be evangelism. Or discipleship. Or caring for others. Or visiting people in the hospital. Some lay leaders view pastors and staff as hired hands to do ministry they should be doing themselves.
  2. We have enough churches in our community. I rarely see a community that is really “overchurched.” The number of unchurched people in any one community is typically increasing, not decreasing. This comment usually comes from church leaders who view new churches as competition.
  3. We are a discipleship church. Or an evangelism church. Or a ministry church. Church leaders who say their churches are focused on only one area of ministry are offering excuses not to be obedient in other areas.
  4. We have never done it that way before. Yes, it’s cliché. But it’s still a very pervasive attitude among change-resistant people in the church.
  5. We don’t have the money to do that. More times than not, the church does indeed have the money to focus on necessary priorities. The problem is that some church leaders don’t have the courage to reallocate funds toward those priorities.
  6. We really don’t emphasize small groups. Churches that do not give a priority to small groups or Sunday school classes can count on a big exodus of people out the back door. Those in groups are five times more likely to stay involved in a church than those in worship services alone.
  7. We have enough people in our church. This is a tragic statement by leaders of inwardly focused churches. And it is an excuse not to do evangelism and ministry.
  8. We aren’t a church for those kinds of people. Though similar to number seven, this statement is an appalling declaration made by church members who really believe people of a certain race, ethnic group, income group, or other descriptor should be excluded from the congregation.
  9. We really shouldn’t expect much of our members. Low expectation churches are far too common. Too many church leaders communicate unwisely that it’s okay for members to do nothing, give nothing, and not be concerned about growing spiritually.
  10. We focus only on our members, not guests and others. Many church leaders make this statement either explicitly or implicitly. Sometimes the facilities, the worship services, and the small groups shout “Guests not welcome!” I released a resource today that addresses this critical issue of guest friendliness.

What do you think of these ten troubling statements? Are they accurate? Are they fair? What would you add or change?

Posted on December 8, 2014

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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  • David Fulton says on

    Think this is a good list, but wanted to comment on #2. While I agree that the number of un-churched is growing in most places, I don’t always agree that another church is the answer. Sometimes, when a new church opens it’s doors it does little to impact the un-churched but has a huge impact on the churches in the area due to many members jumping to the next big thing. In one sense, we are the “competition” – but in a good sense. Let me clarify. I was involved in team sports most of my life. All week long we “competed” with each other for the starting positions. This competition made us all much better than we would have been without it. But on game day, we were a team and we cheered each other on. In this metaphor, I see the local churches near me as those that spur me on to be better than I would be without them. I want to be the kind of church that when a Christ-follower comes to visit, they want to be a part of our church family. In a sense, we compete for those already saved, and that can make us all better. However, when it comes to evangelism, we must all be on the same team. We must cheer each other on and learn from each other as to how to reach those in our community and in our unique circumstances for Christ. Unfortunately, in my experience, new churches often, (not always) do more to weaken the churches in the area than they do to bring people to Christ. I just wonder what would happen if all the resources, effort, passion and energy to start up a new church were funneled into rebuilding and revitalizing the already existing churches in the same area? Would that be a more effective approach to reaching the lost?

  • I remember my mom telling me a story of visiting a church where a woman approached her and was quick to advise that my mom was sitting in the woman’s seat. My mom replied with recommending that the woman get to church earlier in the future if she wants to be sure the seat is available. I’ve seen another list of things that turn visitors off and telling visitors that they’ve sat in someone elses seat was on the list.

    Another problem is when a visitor leaves the worship service without ever being greeted. It’s amazing to hear of congregations that actually have a moment in time for people to stand, turn and greet one another near the beginning of services only to find out that a visitor was still not greeted by anyone.

  • great job and was found guilty in the past. retired now but do interim work and hear most of them and also some mentioned by other people posting here. I wonder how many even realize what they are saying and the ramifications of it.
    keep up the good work that calls us (pastors) to accountability

  • On several of those blogs people have brought up issues regarding “special needs” children, particularly autism. Can any of you refer me to any resources on ministering to such children? I don’t have much expertise in that area, and it is an issue our church will have to face very soon.

  • Steve Ellis says on

    Most churches are strapped with huge amounts of debt. This often manifests its self in statements #3 and #5. Is that million dollar “Family Life Center” really more important than widows and orphans?

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