6 Issues Hindering the Great Commission Outreach of Your Church

The conversation was both predictable and profound. It was predictable because I have been asked a similar question many times. It was profound because it represents the very nature of the challenges our congregations face today. “Thom,” he began. “I have been serving as pastor of my church for over 20 years. I have never had more difficulty leading growth in a church. What is going on?”

My pastor friend emphasized two points clearly. First, he was not looking for an excuse for the lack of growth. Second, he wanted information so he could address the issue.

The pastor was right. Growth is indeed more difficult today in American congregations. And there are some clear reasons why this reality is true.

  1. Cultural Christians are much less likely to attend. “Cultural Christianity” is really an oxymoron. I am referring to those people who once attended church because they saw it as culturally, politically, and economically beneficial. That reality no longer exists for the most part. Congregations could be losing anywhere from 10 percent to 50 percent of their attendance with this change.
  2. More committed Christians are attending less frequently. When the most committed believers in a church decrease their attendance patterns by 25 percent (they go from attending four Sundays a month to three), you can expect a precipitous decline in attendance. And the greater majority of congregations are indeed experiencing this unfortunate phenomenon.
  3. An overcorrection to practical ministry. Many church leaders rightly became disturbed and frustrated by the fierce pragmatism prevalent in many churches. But, to use an overused phrase, many threw the baby out with the bathwater. It’s hard to reach people in the community if the church does not have practical ways to do so.
  4. Activities replacing ministry. Many churches have their members so busy they don’t have time to develop relationships with unchurched people and non-Christians. Meetings and activities have become substitutes for real ministry.
  5. Growing conflict and disunity in congregations. I have addressed this issue in a number of blogposts. When we are divided and at odds with fellow believers in the church, we are distracted from focusing on the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
  6. Entitlement mentality among some church members. This issue was the thesis of my book, I Am a Church Member. When church members see the church as a place to meet the needs and preferences of “me, myself, and I,” you have a congregation who is inwardly focused.

Any one of these six issues will hinder the Great Commission outreach of a church and, thus, frustrate attempts to lead a church to growth. But many congregations have more than one of these factors present. That reality really presents challenges.

Where is your church with these six factors? What would you add? I would love to hear your perspective.

>Read more from Thom.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

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COMMENTS

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Recent Comments
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 

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