Having been a pastor for a number of years, now, I have given a great deal of attention to the differences I see in churches. I am not speaking of doctrinal differences that exists between denominations, but rather the attitude difference about the purpose and goals of that particular body of believers.
I have observed that two churches might be of the same doctrinal understanding, and they might be in reasonably close proximity of one another, yet one will often being flourishing with growth, while the other has grass growing in their parking lot. One will be bursting with kids and young adults, and the other will be a gathering of grey hair and bald heads. Now, I have both grey hair and a bald head, but the point I’m making is, that while some churches show signs of thriving, others show signs of dying. In many cases, the church that shows signs of dying is proclaiming basically the same message from the pulpit as the church that is thriving.
As you read through the Bible, a couple of things are quite obvious: there is no failure in God, and the church is about reaching people for God’s glory. Therefore, if a local church operates under a cloud of continual failure, that is failure to see the results of God’s presence and failure to reach people and bring them in for discipleship, something is seriously wrong.
If the doctrine is right, then I believe that the problem lies in one of two areas, or possibly both:
1. A leadership/followship problem.
A. The Lord designed that church so that His people are to be developed for ministry. If the pastor fails to understand this and trys to be a “one-man army,” with the congregation as mere spectators, then the church has departed from the biblical model and will not see the results that a New Testament Church should want to see.
B. All through history, God has put leaders in front of His people, and He has blessed His people as they have followed those leaders, that is, as those leaders follow His leadership. More than ever before, I am hearing of churches that rise up in rebellion when their leader begins to enact some changes that move them outside their comfort zones. Following God will always move you outside your comfort zone!
2. A pastor/congregation attitude problem.
A. The Apostle Paul said that he had become all things to all people, that he might by all means save some. Now, he didn’t mean that he was compromising the gospel, nor did he mean to imply that he, himself, had any power to save anybody. What he was saying, was that he was flexible enough to meet people exactly where they were, in order to take them where God would have them to go. That doesn’t mean that we go drink with the drunkard in effort to reach him, but it surely does mean that we present the ministry of the gospel in such a way that people perceive it as being relevant to themselves. We should be conservative in doctrine, moderate in methods, and liberal in love.