What do you do with a lazy church?  As a leader in my church, I'm constantly getting strength and guidance from God in regards to my life, my leading position and direction in the church I'm currently attending, but it seems that a large number of congregants in my church are more focused on 'holding on to their legacy' than actually doing the will of God.  In years past, there have been quite a few opportunities where God could've really moved and done some really great stuff but from what I can tell, He hasn't been able to (through the congregation as a whole, I mean) because the congregation didn't want to work for it.  I'm not saying that God can't move, I'm instead saying that it's more like the congregation doesn't really want God to move if that makes sense.  It sounds much worse than I mean it to, but it is the truth as I know it.

 

There's a whole layer of underlying issues (that are understandable) that have lead to them acting as they do but overall, in my opinion, the congregation is old, tired, burnt out, bitter, and, to be honest, lethargic.  We (the pastoral staff) feel that we have spent years doing our best to follow God's will (and will continue to spend years more should God ask us to) in this church, but with not a whole lot to show for it.  We're at a point where the church is dying and, although I'm fine if God wants this church to end, I'm at a loss as to what else I might be able to do to keep it running.  As I type, one of God's churches in Portland, Oregon is on its way to being a memory.  Church finances are tightening by the month, there are more and more responsiblities being added on in my personal life (new baby, new job responsibilities, new shift hours, and more), and I feel that I have tried everything that I can (as God asked for of course).  And we're still in this place.

 

Finally, with some of the congregants that seem more hesitant to go the way God leads us, I don't feel that I have the relationship to call them out on it in a loving way, so if I tried, it would do more harm than good.  Is anyone here in their life?  Has anyone been there?  What did you do?  What did God do?  What did the congregation do?  We need God to do what only He can do and I know this situation isn't lost on Him.  But we feel that we need something to happen and soon.  Otherwise, I really don't know what will happen.  Thanks in advance for any advice you have to give and I pray that through all of this, God's name is glorified.  Because that is priority.

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I've been there - it's frustrating. 

 

You'll have to be more specific - whole lot to show? What would show? Are you just talking about the fact that it's dying? Where do you think God is leading you? Is He also leading your congregation?

 

I've seen churches die - and I've seen them have staying power. There are some formulas that I've thought were true, but nothing is guaranteed. Sometimes you're dealing with Israelites, sometimes you're lucky and have Philippians. The test of your character is how you deal with the Israelites. But if you're getting frustrated and jaded, be careful. Moses got frustrated...

 

 

Stevo, based on your questions, I'll be as specific as I can be.  I'm an open book about this subject so if a reply is a little too vague, just ask and I'll reply again.

 

To us, a successful church is one that tries to do what God commands, in His word and in our lives.  We feel that He calls us to love Him above all else.  We feel that He calls us to love others and reach out to them.  We feel that God wants us to humble ourselves and serve others.  And that's what we try to do in our lives.  There are certain church events that we hold to serve others (various clothing/food drives, community work projects, etc.) that the congregation responds to positively.  And then there are others that have very little response.  We could be doing something similar to an event that gets a great response but it will be completely flat and feel like it's going nowhere.  The participation is minimal and we end up feeling discouraged at the end of the event.  Not that our feelings are what's important, but you know what I mean.  Many of the congregants complain about a lack of events where they can get together and spend time with one another but when we plan them, hardly anyone shows.  We do get frustrated, but my wife and I keep each other accountable.  We make sure that amidst our frustration, we don't become jaded and/or bitter.  We encourage each other to give the situation to the Lord and He gives us strength.

 

I feel that God is leading our church more towards the community.  This church (and its non-denominational denomination as I like to call it) has an extensive history, but has found its place attracting mainly others from other denominations that were frustrated with their present denominations, rather than actually reaching out to the 'lost' to show them God's eternal love and grace.  The rest of the pastoral staff agrees with me and we are doing our best to follow Him on the path He leads, but it seems that His presence is somewhat absent in the lives of others in the congregation.  The responses are overall pretty negative and there's a large amount of people relying on passive aggression to get their frustrations out.  To make matters worse, these people were once leaders in this church and have purposely removed themselves from leadership, only to criticize others that have stepped in.  They are still well respected by many members of the congregation and at times, the weight of their words weighs a bit more heavily than those in the current leadership.  So this causes division.  I would say that overall, God is not leading this congregation.  And as I type it, it continues to pain me.  I love these people and although I don't enjoy some of the things they do or say, I pray that God will show them the error of their ways.  None of us are perfect, but as disciples of Christ, shouldn't we strive to be?  I feel that doing so means that we should continually model our lives after Jesus and some of the behavior I've seen exhibited in this church doesn't seem to be behavior Jesus would show.  But if I were to point this out to some members of the congregation, I'd be seen as some pretentious young punk acting out and shooting his mouth off instead of a brother in Christ trying to keep a fellow disciple accountable for his actions.

My church mainly attracts others from other denominations. So what? Our focus is on missions meaning that 50% of our budget goes to missionaries and missions organizations.

 

What would you say is the ratio of participation to non-participation from event to event? How many of these events do you plan? What other things are you planning/doing? What if you think God is leading one way and the congregation feels another way? 

I'll answer these questions in a different order but attempt to answer them all nonetheless.  After most of our committees (discipleship, worship, outreach/missions, fellowship) joined together,  we pretty much do two service projects a YEAR.  The first time we did it a few years ago, it was amazing, but now, we're lucky to have a quarter of the church (about twenty people) participating.  We also try to do food drives, school supply drives and clothing drives and as they have a better participation rate, they also take minimal effort to be involved.  But with the two events we plan, we announce weekly for at least two months.  We announce what the options are during service, we put flyers in inserts in the bulletin, we put it on the powerpoint screen before and after service, we put it in the newsletter and we still have people complaining that they weren't told so they're just not going to do it.  I think you also said (later on in this topic) something about schedules.  This is a tricky issue.  I have been a huge advocate for basically gutting the church calendar.  We have bazaars being held to support organizations I've never heard of (before OR after the bazaar itself), we have 'family fun nights' where they organize church social get togethers where only two families join (and they're related), we have bake sales, tea parties, luncheons, potlucks, and with all that, attendance is still minimal, even though it's those things they're asking for and complaining that they're not doing more of them!  I feel that our church schedule is way too filled to allow God the time He asks of us to really do what He wants.  I believe we (the staff leadership) do feel God leading one way and the congregation is pulling another.  I don't feel that God is calling us to split, but it feels to me that there is a lot of pain from years past that the majority of the church members are still healing from.  There was even an incident where their actions, along with other personal problems, provoked their senior pastor at the time to spend Sunday service forfeiting his 'message' to call each one of the congregation members out on what they did/were doing wrong, one by one and quitting on the spot.  He then walked out of the church, never to be heard from again.  Now that action is wrong but once I heard that, I understood the reaction every time our pastor brought/brings up some of the wrong-doings some of the older members were involved in (older as in attendance, not age), he starts to get that response like they're afraid that our current pastor will do the same thing.  And the sad thing is, they haven't given him the time of day to find out that he won't.

A quarter of the church is twenty people? So you have about 100 folks in attendance?

 

First - if you get 20 people showing up out of 100, you're doing well.

 

every time our pastor brought/brings up some of the wrong-doings some of the older members were involved in

 

- Like what?

- Publicly?

 

I'm sort of getting a picture of a congregation who is more interested in a social party atmosphere rather than a missions minded atmosphere. How do they respond to good bible teaching? Do you have good bible teaching? What are your sermons like on Sunday morning?

 

Can you imagine what would happen if 20 percent of any one of those thriving megachurches showed up at a potluck?
We have about 2,000 people in our church.  We had to abandon all church pot-lucks in favor of other fellowship methods.   It works well.
I'm getting the feeling that this church is only about 100 people for a reason.  And it isn't a good one.  There is something seriously wrong here.

OK - the question I see is for you to ask "where is God calling us as a church, and what do we need to do to go there?".

 

It seems that you have nothing to lose in radically seeking to follow God's leading - if the status quo continues the church will die anyway, so why not, as a leadership team together, step back, decide what needs to be done to get to that place and then re-assemble the churches structures to fit that. If people leave then they leave, but you've been faithful (you'd also better be pretty sure you HAVE heard God).

 

But you'll also need to be careful about your heart. Don't try to set the barrier as high and as hard as it can be, but instead try to woo them, to win them over.

 

I recognise the situation, but now isn't a time I feel it appropriate to talk about it.

Also, why would you decide that you have the voice of God and that they're not following it? Is your set of programs and projects the only way for them to please God? It seems that you're automatically setting yourself up for disappointment if they don't feel the need to go in the exact same direction.

 

It's the age old conversation - "I feel that God is calling us to go here." "Funny, He didn't tell me."

Fair comment.

 

In our previous church we would regularly come together as a church to seek for strategic direction & pray together. The guy heading up the church would remind people "I'm not interested in your opinions - please tell me what it is you think God is saying" and people would share stuff that would be recorded, weighed and used to shape the direction of the church. It was seeking the mind of Christ present in the body without all the wickedness and politics of church 'business meetings'. I still find it hard to see churches operating outside of this.

I understand what you're saying Toni.  I wish I had the pull to organize a strategic direction 'meeting' if you will, but ultimately, my pastor has reminded me that my job is to do the music, and his is to lead the church.  I would love to navigate away from the business meeting mindset but I lack the ability to lead.  Not physically or mentally or what have you, but I feel that I lack the authority to lead is what I truly mean.  And the direction we are heading is more of a life-style direction (found later in this topic) that focuses on the core teachings to love God, love each other and serve them as Jesus served us.  I see you said earlier for me to be careful about my heart.  To not try to set the barrier as high and as hard as it can be, but instead to try to woo them or win them over.  What did you mean by this?  Finally, this has been the current situation for over a year and a half.  The same types of battles are being fought and I find myself constantly running into the barriers that they set.  Kind of like walking along the beach blindfolded when they've drawn a line in the sand.  Hard to know when if I've crossed it or not until it's too late.  And I don't think I'm meant to stop walking, you know?

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