By Jay Jones
Every church should be a thriving church, regardless of their size or location. To thrive simply means to prosper; to be fortunate or successful. Growth should always exist within a church and is sometimes seen as communal, sometimes spiritual, and sometimes numerical. While there are many dynamics that come into play with church growth, here are 10 possible reasons that you may not pastor a church that thrives:
- You Care What Your Neighbors Think
It’s true that we should be concerned with the image of our church in the community and among our peers, but when we fall into the trap of attempting to perform for the sake of status we lose focus of our real goal. As pastors, we must first and foremost be concerned with pleasing our Lord. After all, we are accountable ultimately to Him for the work we do.
Galatians 1:10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? or am I striving to please men? if I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ. (ASV)
- You Aren’t Patient
Many a man has tried to outrun God in the race to results and failed. Remember that seeds take time to grow and our responsibility is to plant, to water, and then it is God who gives the increase. The writer of the book of Hebrews stated, “For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” (Hebrews 10:36) When we expect things to produce fruit before their time, it results in frustration and disillusion. Abraham was one who waited on God, “And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.” (Hebrews 6:15) Furthermore, Paul stated a promise of receiving to those who are patient in his epistle to the Galatian church, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9)
- You Have Bad Habits
Not all acquired behavior patterns are bad for us; however some practices would definitely qualify as “bad habits”. Take, for instance, those things you do each day that waste time and steal opportunities for connecting with God. Or how about the laziness of neglecting study and sermon preparation because of the immediacy of Internet-based sermons? Sometimes bad habits can be very innocent things like continuing to use ineffective methods of outreach and leadership. There is an old saying that, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.”
- You Have No Goals
Failing to plan is planning to fail. Pastoring without goal-setting is like shooting into the dark and hoping to hit a moving target. Jesus was clear on the necessity of planning when he stated, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” (Luke 14:28) You cannot expect your church to thrive in an atmosphere of constant drifting and undefined expectations.
- You Haven’t Prepared
Many churches experience the joy of new visitors coming through the doors, new converts praying through, and established members finally catching the “vision” of the Great Commission. Sadly, many churches also watch as those new visitors never come back due to lack of follow-up, the new converts quickly burn out and leave for lack of discipleship and fellowship, and the fervor of the members wanes back into complacency and dissatisfaction because there was no room to be used. If you wait until the harvest to sharpen the sickle, you will likely be watching from inside the barn as your neighbors gather in the crops. Jesus spoke of the necessity for preparation in his parable regarding the faithful servant when he said, “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.” (Luke 12:47)
- You Expect Big Results With Little Investment
Paul stated in his second epistle to the Corinthian church, “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.” (2 Corinthians 9:6) Do not be afraid of investing heavily into the work of the Lord. Psalm 126:6 declares the precious truth that, “He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”
- You Rely on Others to Generate Your Church’s Vision
The vision for, and direction of your church is a divine directive communicated by God to you. As the pastor of your church, you are the man chosen by the Lord to lead and feed His flock. It is irresponsible for the pastor of the congregation to neglect the careful seeking of God’s will for his church that can only come through prayer, study and meditation. Don’t rely on the vision of other preachers, the sermons of other ministers, and the direction of other churches to replace the will of God for you. But, rather, allow God to communicate the plan that is meant for your particular congregation alone. Daniel 10:7 says, “And I Daniel alone saw the vision: for the men that were with me saw not the vision;”
- You Invest in Programs and Ideas That Won’t Work for You
While striving to build a thriving, growing church, it is easy to chase after every program, campaign and method that seems to be working for others. Unfortunately, what works for one pastor in one location may not work for you. Many factors, including your community demographics, available workforce, “personality” of your congregation, and availability of finances, work together to make a program successful. And let’s not forget timing. Don’t be quick to adopt every “good idea” that manifests itself. Evaluate them carefully, and make sure they’re feasible for your circumstances. In Galatians 4:11, Paul was afraid that his work was misplaced and alluded to the possible misfortune of “laboring in vain”.
- You’re Afraid to Take Risks
Hebrews 11 declares that without faith it is impossible to please God, yet often pastors reclines in the La-Z-Boy of “safety” and excuse their actions as a desire to protect what God has given them. Jesus rebuked this faith-less mindset in his parable of the talents when he said, “Thou wicked and slothful servant… Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury. Take therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him which hath ten talents.” (Matthew 25:27-28) It takes risk to step out in faith. Noah took a risk in preparing the ark with no cloud in the sky. Abraham took a risk when he raised a dagger over the bound body of his son. Jochebed took a risk by placing Moses in the bulrushes. Moses took a risk in leaving Pharoah’s house to suffer affliction with the people of God. The list goes on. The risk-takers see the miracles.
- You Ignore Your Saints’ Wellbeing
Can a shepherd expect the sheep to follow where he leads if the path never takes them to food, water and shelter? It is the job of the pastor to care for the flock which includes feeding the sheep, strengthening the feeble, healing the sick, bandaging the hurt, gathering the scattered and seeking the lost. “Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? …The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost;” (Ezekiel 34:2, 4) Many churches cease to thrive because the very commodity of the church is neglected. It’s all about souls. Not just reaching them, but preparing them for the rapture of the church.