Steps Toward Health that Most Churches Won’t be Willing to Take

Church healthBy Stan Rieb, Executive Director

James Emery White is one of my favorite authors/bloggers when it comes to connecting the church to the current culture, thus the name of his blog – Church and Culture ( It is one of a few blogs and podcasts that I think every pastor should subscribe to or regularly review. I will share some of the other significant communicators in future blogs.

This morning’s blog – Ten Steps to Immediate Church Renewal and Growth (that most churches will refuse to take) – speaks to the issues that I see in many churches I work with.

Here are those steps Ten Steps to Immediate Church Renewal and Growth (that most churches will refuse to take):

  1. Simplify your structure by putting the authority to make most decisions related to the practice of ministry in the hands of those with responsibility. Translation: let your leaders lead.
  2. Hire young, platform young, program young. Why? You attract who you platform, and most churches are growing old.
  3. Become more contemporary in terms of music and graphics, décor and topics, website and signage. It’s 2015. Really. You can check.
  4. Stop preaching and start communicating. There’s a difference.
  5. Shift the outreach focus away from the already convinced toward those who are not. It’s called the Great Commission.
  6. Prioritize your children’s ministry in terms of money and staffing, square footage and resources. Do you really not know, after all this time, that the children’s ministry is your most important ministry for outreach and growth?
  7. “It’s the weekend,
  8. Help everyone find their spiritual gifts and then help them channel those gifts toward ministry.
  9. Target men. Get the man, you tend to get the family.
  10. Proclaim the full counsel of God without compromise or dilution. All you get with a watered-down message is a watered-down church. And a watered-down church has nothing to offer the world it does not already have.

The question is why do so many churches refuse to address the fact that they are plateaued and declining in attendance. More significant than the attendance numbers is the fact that there are very few indicators that many of these churches are interested in being obedient to the Great Commission.

After looking over these 10 steps:

  • Which steps resonate with you in your current ministry environment?
  • Which steps touch a nerve, causing you concern?
  • Can you think of other steps that a church in need of renewal and growth might want to consider?

Over the next couple of blogs I would like to address my understanding of some of the points that Pastor White addresses in this post.

Bible Jeopardy

I am a Jeopardy junkie!  Like many, I enjoy watching to see if I can get the response before the contestant on TV.  I am amazed with the trivia that is stored away in my brain. Mind you I may not be able to recall where I left my cell phone ten minutes ago, but tell me  “From Middle English for “to chop”, it means to bargain over a price” and instantly I know “What is haggle?”

I remember in the early 80’s the board game Trivial Pursuit swept the country turning Saturday night social gatherings into intellectual battle grounds to crown queens and kings of trivia. I loved that game because I seem to be full trivial thoughts.

Hey here is some trivia from Wikipedia to occupy some your dormant brain cells: “The ancient Romans used the word ‘trivia’ to describe where one road split or forked into two roads. Trivia was formed from tri (three) and via (road); therefore, literally meaning ‘three roads’. It is speculated that road splits or ‘trivia’ were resting places where travelers paused to have small talk before continuing on their separate ways. Hence, the modern word ‘trivia’ evolved from a literal meaning.”

The title of a book by Logan Pearsall Smith –Trivialities, bits of information of little consequencecaptures the concern for trivia.  Trivia is information or knowledge of little consequence or difference.  It is information that does little to “form” or change the person. I would think that few would argue with the thought that Jesus intended the Gospel to be transformational, not merely informational.

Let’s do a little math – let’s say the average sermon lasts 30 minutes (I know many of you want to go to that church), and the really spiritual Christians make sure they go to a 45 minute Sunday School class (so that they can get to the deep truths of the Word of God discussing the real meaning of Greek and Hebrew words that the pastor refuses to get to in his milk toast 30 minute sermon).  Add to this another 15 minutes of teaching or discussion that we might get in our small group study – we don’t have high expectations here because we all understand that these groups are focused on relationships.  So in the average week we might have as high as one and half hours of bible study. In a year that would be 73 hours gathering information, and this does not account for the time spent in personal bible study. Multiply this by the 20, 30 or 40 years of following Jesus and being a faithful church member. That is 1,460, 2,190  and 2,820 hours … you get the idea – that is a lot of information.

Listen to the words from one of the best Sunday School teachers ever:

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1–2 (NIV84)

Another version puts it this way…  “If as a child I was always the first to raise my Bible during the Bible drill and give the right answer, but have not love for others, I deserved the disdain of all the other students and the title Bible nerd. If I have the gift of superior knowledge and get giddy when I hear someone mention the imperfect aorist tense of the Greek verb, but have not love, I might win at Bible Jeopardy but I am nothing like Jesus.” SRV – the Stan’s Revised Version which I admit is not very scholarly.

As we work with churches that are plateaued or declining one of the most fundamental and foundational missing ingredients is a love for the lost in their own communities. Matthew wrote of Jesus, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36 (NIV84)

So how can we move away from preparing the people of our churches for Bible Trivia?

First, pray, seek and plead for the Spirit of God to do His work of leveraging information into transformation in your and others’ lives (John 16).

Second, recognize that information and longevity do not always equal discipleship (John 14:9).

Challenge your own (it is that log-in-your-eye thing) and other professing believers’ un-Christ-like behaviors, conversation and attitudes, of course in love (Hebrews 10:24, Gal 6:1).

Let’s begin with these, but can you think of others?

Oh and by the way, what is the Jeopardy question to this answer: Category: Names that are verbs. The Answer: Mr. Martindale, or what he might do if he likes you.