Diagnosing a Do Nothing Church

page1.jpg

Diagnosing a Do Nothing Church

Doing nothing has become an official sport. It’s true. In an attempt to expose and mitigate the effects of stress and “burnout” in our hyper-connected culture, a South Korean activist has organized the world’s first “Do Nothing” contest. During the event, contestants slip into a “state of chill” by lower their heart rate and “spacing out” from all external activities or movement. Organizers of the contest hope to bring awareness to the stressed-out nature of society and warn people of a looming “nervous national breakdown”.

Korea’s “Space Out” contest highlights three perilous symptoms affecting many churches today. Despite a clear mandate from Jesus to preach the gospel to all nations and make disciple makers, in many instances, the church’s active role in evangelism has frosted over. As a result, desperation has left some churches in a paralyzing state of limbo without any hope of engaging the lost. On the other hand, after years of endless activity, some churches are suffering from an evangelistic nervous breakdown. Facing these challenges, churches are tasked with the sober warning to diagnose and reverse the effects of a “do-nothing” culture.

Consumed by years of endless activity, some churches are suffering from an evangelistic nervous breakdown.


CHILLING OUT

It’s time for church leaders to take a “passion-pulse” of their church in relation to Jesus and the lost. This simple check up may surface alarming results. Drifting from our “first love” and experiencing evangelistic cardiac arrest can happen to even the healthiest of churches from time to time. Take, for example, the church of Ephesus. Despite praise from Jesus on their labor, patience, and perseverance, the church was sharply rebuked for abandoning their intimate relationship with God. Passion for Jesus had chilled. The fire that once burned in their hearts was now a flickering ember. How could a church that once blazed with love for God and others have become so cold?

Church leaders often struggle to answer that question. After all, when you look at the activities of most churches, there appears to be a great deal of good happening. However, surface activity does not necessarily indicate proper motives. For this reason, Jesus’ rebuke of the Ephesian church reminds us that at any moment, we too are vulnerable of drifting from the heart of God as individuals or even entire congregations. The problem is that neglecting our relationship with Jesus occurs slowly over time. As the pressures of ministry mount, churches have a tendency to operate on autopilot and independent from the sustaining power and presence of Jesus.

Churches that are on the verge of chilling out self-sufficiently turn inward, focus on their own personal interests, and suffer from a drastically low heart rate to reach the lost. If you find yourself or church drifting from the heart of God, Jesus offers one solution: repent. Such a turnaround restores our passion for Jesus and sets us on a pathway of rekindling a burden for the lost.

Churches that are on the verge of chilling out, self-sufficiently turn inward, focus on their own personal interests, and suffer from a drastically low heart rate to reach the lost.


SPACING OUT

No church is immune to the devastating effects of focus fatigue. Failing to focus on the right priorities in ministry can lead a church to unproductive, wasteful, and debilitating seasons. The church in Laodicea suffered from these paralyzing symptoms. In one of His harshest rebukes, Jesus condemns the church for being “lukewarm”. Their indifference to God and others was evident in their self-satisfaction and inability to recognize how blind and lost they really were. The fact that the Laodicean’s were neither hot nor cold reveals the desperate condition of the church and God’s strict rejection of their half-hearted efforts.

Unfortunately, many churches excel at spacing out. Some of the symptoms stem from church leadership that is void of vision and focus on the gospel, great commission, and evangelism. With so many new programs, slick advertisement campaigns, or quick growth tips, pastors and leaders run from one strategy to another. In some evangelical circles, conferences have replaced intimate communion with God as the place to acquire fresh direction and vision for Christ’s church. Those who are caught up in the “next big thing” often times find more frustration than help – wasting precious time and resources on fringe issues.

With little to no vision from church leadership that prioritizes evangelism and disciple making, congregations suffer from a festering spiritual apathy that restricts commitment, contribution, and growth. As a result, leaders and churches are caught in a cycle of contentment that confuses priority with preference. When this occurs, churches are in danger of doing nothing significant as their focus shifts to trivial things. Jesus’ rebuke to the Laodiceans serve as a warning for churches today who find themselves incapacitated by a lack of zeal and focus.

Those who are caught up in the “next big thing” often times find more frustration than help – wasting precious time and resources on fringe issues.


BURNING OUT

In the case of churches experiencing burnout, less is more. The struggle, however, is that churches heap on ministries, programs, and strategies hoping to produce greater results but the opposite happens. With a declining volunteer base and an overworked church staff, many churches suffer from burnout and extreme ministry fatigue – resulting in less effective ministry and many times a complete shutdown of the church.

The church in Sardis was on the brink of such collapse. Despite being a church that had an outward reputation for vibrant and thriving ministry, Jesus’s assessment was radically different. His rebuke revealed an underlying issue of impure and misguided works that threatened the very life and sustainability of the church. In fact, Jesus called this busy church as good as dead! 

There are a few indicators that ministry burnout is looming. Church leaders must remember first that we are not called to build our own kingdom but Gods. When a church’s brand eclipses the glory and preeminence of Jesus Christ and His mission then chances are that church is masking a stench of death. The problem with this scenario is that often times people conclude that the appearance of activity is a clear indication that Jesus is the center of that church. However, upon closer examination, ministry burnout occurs when a church confuses busyness for God with the business of God. For this reason, churches suffering from burnout would thrive again by committing themselves to doing less of the right things.

Ministry burnout occurs when a church confuses busyness for God with the business of God.


Thus far, I have yet to come across a church with a vision to “do less, be less, and achieve less” for the cause of Christ. However, without a fresh vision of Jesus that kindles passion for God and compassion for the lost, many churches are in danger of evangelistic “cardiac arrest”. Lip service to the Great Commission must practically shift to tangible efforts of active engagement in the divinely ordained mission of the church to preach the gospel, reach the lost, and equip disciple makers. Strategically thinning out ministries in order to prioritize the purposes and plans of God will alleviate burnout and energize the church. Through prayerful diagnosis, your church can turnaround the effects of a do nothing culture and become a fired up, focused, and flourishing force to advance the kingdom of God here on earth.


Patterson+copy.png
 

Sherwood Patterson is the lead pastor of Alpine Christian Fellowship in San Diego, CA. His passion is to teach God's word, equip servant leaders, and advance the missional nature of the church. Sherwood holds an M.Div and is currently pursuing a D.Min in church planting and multiplication. He also serves as a church strength and revitalization coach for the San Diego SBC Association.

5 Common Easter Mistakes

page1.jpg

5 Common Easter Mistakes

Easter is one of the most exciting holidays of the year but can also be an extremely stressful season for pastors and churches looking to engage their community with the gospel. There are so many books, blogs, seminars, and suggestions for ways to maximize Easter services that can put unnatural pressure on churches to operate at peak performance. At the same time, pastors are pushed into feeling more like event promoters than evangelistic preachers. No matter what your strategy is for reaching people far from God, redefining success and expectations for your church is vital to have the best Easter ever. Avoid these 5 common mistakes so that you don’t ruin Easter this year:

At Easter, pastors are pushed into feeling more like event promoters than evangelistic preachers.


Don’t Pray for the Lost

Let’s face it, we all want a packed sanctuary on Easter. Deep down, our desire is that more people would come to faith in Christ. However, the work of life transformation relies more on the spiritual labor of prayer for the lost than on superficial strategies to get people in the door. If we try hard enough, we can all gather a crowd but the most important thing is that each soul encounters the living God through the power of the Holy Spirit. Planning is good, but prayer is great. Since the gospel spreads most rapidly through existing relationships, teach and train the church to pray for their lost family members, friends, and neighbors by name this Easter season.

Planning is good but prayer is great.


Don’t Preach Jesus

This might seem like an obvious fact but you’d be surprised by how many churches prioritize creative gimmicks and entertainment at the expense of a simple presentation of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Salvation is in the power of the gospel. Period. If you giveaway free prizes on Easter but don’t giveaway the gospel, you haven’t given anything of value to a lost soul. The most relevant and life-giving message we have for a broken world is that there is hope and healing in the cross of Christ. If we never present the message of the cross than we’ve missed the main point of Easter. Churches should intentionally and plainly infuse the gospel into every aspect of their Easter service.

If you give away free prizes on Easter, but don’t give away the gospel, you haven’t given anything of value to a lost soul.


Don’t Present an Invitation to Follow Jesus

Whenever we see the presentation of the gospel in the Scriptures it is always followed by an invitation to respond. In fact, when Peter preached Jesus to the crowds at Pentecost, they were “cut to the heart” and wondered what to do next. Filled with the Spirit, Peter responded with boldness, “repent and be saved”. The gospel is not just presenting information about Jesus, but offering an invitation to enter a relationship with Him. It would be a shame to leave people at the Door and never invite them in to commune with Jesus. Whether you know it or not, there will be many sitting in your worship services this Easter wondering, “What must I do to be saved?” Take this opportunity to call souls into a saving relationship with Christ.

The gospel is not just presenting information about Jesus, but offering an invitation to enter a relationship with Him.


Don’t Promote on Social Media

Every generation encounters new technologies that have the potential to further advance the gospel. Currently, social media is the platform that connects our world. In fact, a survey of your congregation and local community will yield surprising results in relation to online activity. People are turning to social media for news, information, and community that they can’t find anywhere else. For this reason, if your church doesn’t have an online presence you’re not reaching people where they spend the most of their time. Fortunately, with very little funds and an energized congregation, your church can share the gospel, promote awareness of Easter events, and engage dialogue with more people than ever before online.

If your church doesn’t have an online presence, you’re not reaching people where they spend most of their time.


Don’t Plan to Follow Up with Guests

It is very likely that many non-Christians will be more open to visiting a church on Easter if a friend invites them. As hosts to these timid and uncomfortable guests, it’s important that churches ease their stress while at the same time building bridges for engagement and meaningful connection. The surest way to show you don’t care about guests is to never communicate with them after their first visit. Having a welcome center, connect cards, hospitality teams, and timely communication following a guest’s visit helps create a culture where people feel welcome, appreciated, and cared for. When people long for deeper connections, it’s up to the church to initiate spiritual conversations that lead them towards faith in Christ.

The surest way to show you don’t care about guests is to never communicate with them after their first visit.

Patterson copy.png
 

Sherwood Patterson is the lead pastor of Alpine Christian Fellowship in San Diego, CA. His passion is to teach God's word, equip servant leaders, and advance the missional nature of the church. Sherwood holds an M.Div and is currently pursuing a D.Min in church planting and multiplication. He also serves as a church strength and revitalization coach for the San Diego SBC Association.