Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Evaluating Your Church's Impact on Your Family

While driving through the Texas hill country the other day Jackie and I went by a very good-sized, stone, and attractive church building in a town of several thousand people.  The problem was that their sign out front had been painted over. It was obvious this church was closed.  It had apparently died. How sad when there simply aren't enough churches in our country and churches are shutting their doors at an alarming rate.

But perhaps just as tragic is the fact that many churches that think they are alive are also dying. Their leaders may argue with you but as Miracle Max said in The Princess Bride, they're really either dead or mostly dead. They may look alive on the outside but inside the life is gone or slowly leaving. 

What does this have to do with your marriage or family?  A lot.  Yes, the home is to be the central place for Christian growth, training and learning but God has provided the church to be a home away from home, a place to help parents train up their children in the way they should go, to provide reinforcements that give us community, places to serve, to worship with others and helpful accountability.  God uses the church, Christians together, to be a light to the rest of the world and a safe haven for the hurting and needy.

But if your church is dying, it may actually be a place that is harming your Christian growth or at best keeping it plateaued.  Let me suggest a few things to look for to determine whether your church might be dying or "mostly dead."  And let me remind us of something - the church is the people not the place.

First, the people have become far more inward than outward.  When you begin to sense that they put most of their resources into them and not others they're in trouble.  When this happens buildings become more important than building others up, "our way" of doing things matters more than hanging around people who are different from us and keeping everyone happy so they won't leave seems to dominate most decision-making.

Second, they don't have a practical, concise vision anymore or they at least aren't pursuing it.  Vision must guide every church and God has a special focus for every church if they'll seek it out.  Not all churches are the same or should be. But too many churches either try to do everything or are just happy with doing what everyone else does.  Who really can get very enthused about that?  You can usually tell when a church has a clear vision - the people are excited about it, most of them are eager to serve to carry it out and they tell others.

Third, they have settled.  They function more on inertia than innovation. They rarely take God-directed risks and there's little excitement about much of anything besides what they've always done. Their services are the same for the most part, creativity is discouraged and yet they defend their "stand" to anyone who might question or criticize.  You tend to hear flimsy, straw-man arguments about tradition, "we-just -preach-Jesus," or watering down the Gospel.

Fourth, the church isn't growing. And unless you live in an area where everyone attends church already, you should be growing numerically and in depth.  Numbers aren't everything but they tell something.  If you have a vibrant, impacting, Spirit-led ministry then some people will be attracted to it.  If you're not growing it's likely a lot of people have quit trying and your church is close to expiration.

What do you do if your church appears to be having a near-death experience?  First, pray for the leaders. Second, talk with some key leaders and kindly ask them what they believe God is leading the church to do that makes a difference. Third, offer to be part of the solution and a change agent.  Fourth, suggest some first steps. And finally, start acting the way you hope your church will be.  Model it for others and help people see the possibilities.

Will your efforts help?  Maybe.  There are no guarantees. But I think God asks us to try before we move on.

I pray your church not only makes it but thrives!
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

No comments:

Post a Comment