Thanks for your patience. We’ve spent a number of weeks making the case that today’s church no longer targets the right “customer”. And no organization chasing the wrong “customer” can possibly succeed. But enough about that. Now let’s talk about how that “root cause” for the church’s decline leads to a clear transformation plan. In fact, once a church realizes what it truly means to view and treat members AS the church, the filter and criteria by which it makes each and every decision instantly and radically self-corrects. Suddenly, it has a proper foundation for understanding the roles and responsibilities of its leaders and members, as well as its place in the community.
Change isn’t optional…
If you’ve read the prior blog posts, hopefully you’ve reached that same conclusion. We MUST change our modern-day model for running churches because the model is:
…not Biblical – Jesus, His disciples and the early church all had a very different view of the “customer” than most churches do today
…not Working – By any standard of measure, in danger of heading down a similar path as the Church in Europe where it’s largely relegated to a “corner”
What grounds do churches have for maintaining the status quo? Organizational behavior and Biblical principles align perfectly here. The model is failing because it always does – inordinate focus on the institution and not on the target market violates business and biblical best practices.
…but will we?
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” But how does a pastor scrap the status quo when everyone around him is reinforcing it. Lead better. Build the best facilities. Design the most fun kids program in town. Consultants, seminaries, authors and conferences perpetuate the same “flawed assumption”. They work within its confines. Publishers can’t sell books telling pastors they have it backwards. Events questioning the fundamental model for how we “do” church won’t attract many attendees or sponsors.
Leading better isn’t going to make a bad model good. Reluctance to challenge members to truly live out the Great Commission isn’t going to grow the Kingdom any more than a new CEO in a dying industry is going to ensure the company’s long term success.
What does change look like?
The first and most important step for anyone who’s missed the mark is recognition and repentance. We can’t confess unless we recognize. We won’t repent until we confess. Someone, somehow has to convince pastors that it is wrong to:
- Worry about losing a member to another church
- Pull away from the community, letting others take care of the helpless and hopeless
- Separate words from action, which Jesus never did
- Focus less energy on serious discipleship
- Make church the “end” (destination) and not the “means” (vehicle)
- Concern ourselves more with building OUR church than THE Church
- Lack the faith to follow our conscience and not conventional wisdom
Likewise, members and regular attenders must recognize and repent if they ever “consumed” church. Do they see themselves as anything less than the personification of Church, with mission-critical roles and responsibilities even after they leave the building?
The route to “fix” the church isn’t more of the same. When times get tough, we’ve seen so many churches regroup, strategize, and reorganize – often centralizing control and introducing more structure. It’s a natural reaction. Companies bleeding cash too often turn inward, finding ways to cut costs, including sales and marketing, thus ensuring their demise. Instead, the turnaround stories in business are those who decide to reassess and reinvest in meeting the needs of their target customers. It’s true for all of us. Looking deeper within ourselves for how to improve, exerting greater control, rather than directing our attention outward, always drives us deeper in the hole.
In the case of the Church, getting those 9 out of 10 churches back on the road to growth is about reorienting our focus outside of ourselves:
…to the Lord – in prayer
…to the Community – equipping and challenging members to interact, engage and serve
In other words, the answer lies in:
- More faith to follow the Lord’s plan for His church, whatever the outcome
- Less centralized control, not more
- Maximizing manpower sitting idle in the pews, disrupting the comfort and complacency of lay leaders and members
- Diminishing the status of pastors and elevating the standing of all others by comparison
- Measuring growth and impact by how many people our members lead to Christ, even if they never show up at our building
- Making decisions based on the optimal strategies for bringing as many people to Christ as possible, whether or not they currently attend our church
We’ll go much deeper into each of these (and other) key points in the coming weeks…
It’s your turn…
Is it realistic to expect that the Church will rethink the fundamental premise that dictates how it spends its time, energy and money – or are we too far down that road to turn back? What will it take to convince churches that they’ve defined the wrong “customer”, and risk truly challenging members to be the Church in their everyday lives out in the community?