Church leaders are more on guard right now. It’s understandable. Decision fatigue is a real issue with many pastors. People seem to gravitate to the extremes more easily. Hypersensitivity is pervasive.
As a result, you might find your defenses up and your fuse shorter than normal.
Three hooks could be dragging you down. These hooks are often unrecognized even with the healthiest of leaders. Through our work at Church Answers, we’ve seen how churches and leaders can get snagged. The reason is hooks are enticing. It’s easy to get pulled down by cynicism, nostalgia, and fantasy.
Cynicism drags you down with a lack of love for people right now. The cynic believes people are driven by self-interest and little can be done to improve the future. When a leader becomes cynical, people feel it even if they don’t recognize it. It is easy to be cynical right now, especially as a church leader, because most people do not know how much you are working to keep the church afloat.
The problem is cynics tend to stop loving people in the moment. The hook of cynicism becomes a drag because strong leaders who exhibit contempt will often win the war with strategy and lose the peace with their people.
The solution to cynicism is intentional compassion. Make a list of people you know who are in a rut and create a kindness campaign. Reach out to every person on the list and encourage them in some way. The drag of cynicism lessens with each act of compassion.
Nostalgia drags you down with a misguided love of the past. In the book of Ezra, a group of people complained during the rebuilding of the temple. They lamented how it was nothing compared to Solomon’s temple. At the time they complained, the foundation was just finished. That’s it. They complained from the beginning of the project!
Show me a church that loves the past more than the future, and I will show you a church that is disobedient. Here’s why: God does not save anyone in the past, but He will save people in the future. Nostalgia is not always bad. Fond memories can prompt people to act today. Nostalgia becomes a major problem when people long for the past more than they anticipate God’s work in the future. Nostalgia produces paralysis. Overly nostalgic churches become apathetic to kingdom work.
The solution to nostalgia is community involvement and evangelism. Start by taking a deep dive into your community demographics. Church Answers has a great tool to help any church. You can better reach your community if you know your community. Sharing Christ with others today will stomp out a misguided love of the past.
Fantasy drags you down with a misguided love of the future. Pastors are notorious for loving the church of the future more than the church of the present. If you don’t love your church where she is today, then you do not deserve to lead your church tomorrow. There is nothing wrong with an occasional daydream of what could be, but you cannot live in an unrealistic fantasy of the future. The hook of fantasy is enticing because the bait is often vision. An unattainable vision is just as problematic as misguided nostalgia.
The solution to fantasy is an investment in relationships. Stay in the moment by taking people out to lunch, writing letters, making phone calls, and sending texts letting people know you are praying for them.
Cynicism, nostalgia, and fantasy are hooks that drag. Pull back up with intentional compassion, community involvement, and investment in relationships.
Posted on April 7, 2021
As President of Church Answers, Sam Rainer wears many hats. From podcast co-host to full-time Pastor at West Bradenton Baptist Church, Sam’s heart for ministry and revitalization are evident in all he does.
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One thing I frequently see in nostalgia is the skewed concept of time and size. The church that says “we were 80 on Sunday…” when they are ~40 on Sunday and haven’t been 80 on Sunday in 20 years. The second part of nostalgia I experience is the bad aren’t as bad, and the good are much better than they really were.
What I’ve been trying to preach to get unstuck is threefold. You have to know where you come from to know how you got to where you are. You have to know where you are to have a realistic view of where you might go. And you have to be flexible in choosing your path to get to where God is calling you. One thing many of my colleagues discuss is knowing where you and where you feel called to go helps you find the right people to help you get there.
Most aging parishes have a skewed idea of growth “we grow from within because that’s how we’ve always done it” or “we need to have more contemporary music to attract people with children.” While the second may be valid it isn’t likely that a 20-something couple with an infant is going to drop in and stay in a church where 58 is the youngest age in the parish. Yes, that’s the end target but something has to change between the present and the future – and most churches need someone to help stir the pot.
Hallelujah Praise the Lord Jesus Christ. This is truly agreat blessing to me .Ihave really learnt alot from the teaching on the hooks. Wow! This is very much true.
So true and well stated. It’s one thing to celebrate the past, but another to live in it.
All true and helpful. Thanks, Sam.
Absolute truth that can’t be contested. Most of our churches are stagnant because of the three books.