Over the past twenty-five years I’ve worked with almost seven hundred churches of all sizes and locations. Most in the U.S. but some in Canada, Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, and Ghana. And one overarching truth has emerged from my experiences in these churches – I call this truth The Basic Law of Congregational Life. It goes something like this – churches are the healthiest when they reach out to others rather than worrying about themselves. A corollary is churches grow when they intentionally reach out; they die when all they do is reach in. Sounds simple doesn’t it? If a church wants to be healthy and grow all it must do is reach out to others.
But history has shown that focusing on others is the most difficult thing a church ever does. Invariable institutions turn inward and focus on themselves almost to the exclusion of others. They tend to hunker down and do whatever is necessary to survive even if it is just for one more year. They resist making changes and trying new methods. They revere the status quo.
Church consultants have a saying – “It’s easier to start a new church than try to turn around a dying church.” And if you’ve ever planted a church you know how hard that is. Planting a church is the hardest ministry on the planet except for one – turning around a dying church.
It’s a known fact that most people intensely dislike change. And when it comes to church people you can double that dislike. Most church people would rather see their church die than change. I’ve seen this refusal to change, even in the face of the death of their church, played out time after time. Church people would rather see their church die than implement the Basic Law of Congregational Life!
Why is that?
I have a theory that I’ve come to based on working with several fast paced, constantly changing to meet the times, congregations. My theory may upset you and I don’t apologize if it does. There’s too much at stake to mince around with words.
Here’s my theory.
Church members would rather their church die than change, whereas Christians would rather change than watch their church die. To put it another way, church members ignore the Basic Law of Congregational Life because it’s all about them; Christians take the Law seriously because it’s all about Jesus.
So the solution to implementing the Basic Law of Congregational Life is to make disciples instead of church members. That is the subject of another post.