I am a student of church growth and church health and have benefited from the writings and research of Charles Arn. Recently he wrote an article called, “Why Churches Don’t Grow” for Building Church Leaders network. This short article is right on target. In this two-part series, we will look at his list of five growth restricting obstacles:
- The Pastor
- The church members
- Perceived irrelevance
- Using the wrong methods
- No plan for assimilation
All of us know that healthy churches grow just like healthy plants or animals or even people. It is a natural process so when a church is not growing, we must ask, “Why not?”
If we understand the reason for why a church is not growing and then address that specific issue or barrier, then we can work on the cure for better health. The first two growth restricting obstacles are…
1. The Pastor
Arn lists there different causes for the pastor’s inhibiting the growth of a church:
- The pastor does not have a priority. Churches grow when they have a priority for reaching the un-churched. When the pastor doesn’t, the church won’t.
- The pastor does not have a vision. No vision for outreach is as much a barrier as no priority. Growing churches have pastors who believe God wants to reach people in their community and assimilate them into the Body.
- The pastor does not have the knowledge. Working harder is not the secret to effective outreach. The secret is working smarter. Unfortunately, little is taught in seminaries or Bible schools about how to effectively reach and assimilate new people.
Lack of a specific priority, vision and knowledge all point to the gap of a church focusing its energy and resources on reaching people. If the pastor does not have a heart for reaching lost people then usually the church will not have the heart either. We lead by example.
When was the last time, as a leader, that you shared a witnessing opportunity you experienced or other ways you have connected with un-churched people? When have you taken someone with you to have conversations with a lost person? We must lead our people to get out of our building and taking the Gospel and ministry to the streets.
2. The church members
Sometimes a church has a great leader who has a vision and passion for reaching people with the Gospel but the church members are apathetic. If church members are satisfied with things as they are or have a bunker mentality (no one is getting in here!) then a church will not grow.
Arn says, “Church members can keep a church from growing when:
- Members have no priority for reaching the lost. “Sure, our church should reach people,” some say. “But me? I’ve got three kids, a job, membership at the health club, and a lawn to mow. Someone else with more time should feel compelled.”
- Members have a self-serving attitude about church. When members believe the priority of the pastor and the church should be to “feed the sheep,” the message that newcomers hear is: “We like our church just the way it is…which is without you!”
- Members fear that new people will destroy their fellowship. When “community” is the number one priority in a church, members will act in a way that communicates to newcomers: “We’re just fine with the people we have, thank you.”
I would love to hear your thoughts on these two barriers. In Part 2, I will deal with the next three growth restricting obstacles.
Keep the Son in your eyes,