Why the Status Quo is So Tempting (and Dangerous)

Ronald Reagan once stated, “Status quo, you know, that is Latin for the mess we’re in.” Most churches (and church leaders) that clamor for the status quo are messes. You don’t often hear of a healthy church championing the status quo. Visionary leaders don’t compel others to stay the same.

Of course, not everything in a church—even an unhealthy one—needs to change. The status quo is not necessarily the enemy. The status quo simply refers to the existing state of affairs. Sometimes the status quo is healthy. If daily exercise is status quo for you, then you’re disciplined. Healthy habits don’t need to be changed. 

The problem with the status quo in the church is that many are not healthy, and every church could be healthier. Satisfaction with the status quo is the same as believing you’ve arrived. Nobody reaches glorification on this earth, and the last time I checked billions still need to hear the gospel. Here’s why the status quo is so tempting . . . and dangerous. 

The status quo opposes more. Every church should seek to reach more people and go to more places. The temptation of the status quo is that you can be satisfied with the current mission footprint of a church. The danger is that people do not hear the gospel because you were supposed to go and reach them. Most people that push for the status quo are wanting to stay put, and I’m not aware of the biblical mandate “just stay put.” 

The status quo is highly contagious. Have you ever been part of a meeting in which a lot of effort was exerted for nothing? Then someone speaks up and says, “Let’s wrap this up and reconvene later.” And everyone quickly agrees. It’s easy to convince people to stay the same. It’s harder to get them to change. And that’s why too many church meetings end with few, if any, action items.

The status quo discourages risk. One of the great temptations of leadership is to build a culture of maintaining the status quo. When people don’t expect big things, then even little things seem like grand accomplishments. Church leaders can feel quite good about themselves when everyone congratulates the little accomplishments. It’s easy to neglect big things when you’re receiving a steady stream of praise for the little things. The danger is status quo churches will miss the grand rewards of great risks for the kingdom. 

The status quo encourages complacency. If everyone is happy with the way things are, then why go and upset people? The danger is God doesn’t call people to happiness. The status quo is completely inward. It focuses on people already in the body without considering those who need to be reached. 

The status quo leaves people unprepared for disruption. The struggle between good and evil will play out in your congregation—somehow, some way, and at some point. It’s inevitable—there will be a disruption, even if you work hard to prevent it. Status quo leaders leave their people unprepared for what will inevitably occur. You might as well go ahead and build a culture that expects disruptions because they happen. 

“Don’t move.”

“Stay the same.”

“No need to grow.”

“We’re content with the people we have.”

Those statements don’t make for a compelling vision. But the status quo would not make such bold declarations. It’s more subtle. Don’t be lured by the temptation of the status quo. Its hook is dangerous and sneaky.

Posted on November 11, 2020

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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  • The status quo also completely ignores or diminishes the profound suffering of those not benefitted by the status quo. It fails to recognize how leaving things as they are is damaging the very souls of those they are called to serve. There are many who have no place at the table and will continue to be removed should they attempt to rock the boat.

  • Larry McGee says on

    Your comments Mr. Rainer, reek with truth. Today’s church can be involved with many worthwhile missions but it seems
    to me the Great Commission has been placed on the back burner and we fooled ourselves into a “status quo” mode. I
    believe that evangelism and outreach in many church settings simply does not exist. Our numbers reflect what I believe
    is the truth in today’s church.

  • This was excellent. I’m in the midst of a “Status quo” crisis in my church and not sure of which way it’s going to go yet. We’ll see. Prayers appreciated.

  • When you have high fixed expenses that must be met every month, the status quo brings in the donations to pay those expenses. The first policy of any non-profit is do not upset a (large) donor. The status quo keeps those donors happy. It keeps leadership in power without the need for new lay leaders diluting the votes. It keeps new people knowing their place. The secular organisation is different than the religious organisation which is supposed to focus on growth and not so much comfort.

    • Jody Summers says on

      Those who worry about where their donations come from, replacing people/volunteers, upsetting donors do not have faith that God will provide. God provided you with those donors originally. He provided the lay people to serve in your church. He will provide more then you need if you have faith in Him. Without faith in God’s provisions, your church will not be one of flourishing spirited output.

      Please be willing to step out on a limb and see what God will provide. Just like a healthy flowering plant, sometimes organizations/churches need to be pruned to bare more fruit. If you maintain status quo, the weeds will overtake you eventually.