Five Lies Churches Tell Themselves

The Church Revitalization Podcast – Episode 175

Honesty is always the best policy, and not just in our interactions with others. We need to be honest with ourselves. We certainly understand the motivations behind the list you’ll find below. Human nature often leads us to avoid conflict and hard decisions. When we give in to those inclinations we end up with less-than-ideal outcomes. To then justify those outcomes, we try to make things sound better than they really are. That doesn’t help anyone, so it’s better to face the facts and do the work of establishing where our church is today, and working towards a better, healthier future.

We’re not really accusing any church of actively lying, but the list below may have one or more elements that have become habitual responses. More likely due to a lack of real investigation and discussion.

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The five lies churches tell themselves are:

1. We are known for being friendly.

Are you a church that is friendly towards guests, or are you just friendly towards each other? I’ve sat in many a pew and chair as a guest on a Sunday morning and witnessed lots of friendly people enjoying the company of one another. For some reason I was invisible. Thirty seconds of “stand and greet those around you” doesn’t count unless you’re trying to impress me with your congregation’s ability to follow orders.

2. We are a church where people come to heal.

This is one we hear when there’s a lack of volunteers to help ministries thrive and prevent burnout of a few committed people. Church hurts are a real thing for a lot of people, but allowing people to be anonymous or even encouraging it is not a universal best-practice of healing. Encouraging them to engage with healthy people and serving in healthy ministries, however, is a great way to show people that not every church is unhealthy and that fellowshipping with other believers can be a wonderful way to work through our problems.

3. We are good at maturing disciples.

Jesus said (commanded), “Go and make disciples of all nations.” He followed that with, “Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.” If the disciples in your church aren’t becoming disciples-makers themselves, then you cannot brag about building mature disciples. What the phrase usually means is that the church is good at increasing bible knowledge in people. That’s not unimportant by any means! But, we’re to teach people to obey Christ’s commands, not just know them. It requires a lot more intentionality, hard work, evaluation, and changes to ministries to move people towards obedience and not just knowledge.

4. We can’t grow because of our demographics or location.

Very few churches really get to claim that. Ninety-nine percent are avoiding the reality that they have likely retreated into themselves instead of seeking to reach the world around them with the Gospel. Maybe you are in a bad location, but work first on alignment with healthy, biblical principles for discipleship and evangelism, and then decide if a move is in order. Otherwise, you could end up being the same unhealthy church with a new address on your website.

5. We would lose half our church if we changed.

Funny how the number is always exactly “half.” This is an uninformed and fear based response to change. It’s uninformed because it’s a knee-jerk response to an idea, not a logical conclusion after consideration of facts. It’s fear based, because change can be scary for a lot of people. Telling a Methodist congregation that the plan is to become Pentacostal would certainly yield far more than half the church leaving. Telling any bible-believing church that you’re making a change to a worship service or Sunday School class in order to come into greater alignment with Scripture and work towards a great vision for the future in making disciples of Jesus might turn a few people off, but you’ll weather that non-event just fine.

The takeaway today is not to be so comfortable in the way you’ve always done things that you miss a great future. Living fully for Christ is risky and it’s a battle against powerful forces. Be leaders that are honest with people about the battlefront, but push through to victory.

Watch this episode on YouTube

A.J. Mathieu is the President of the Malphurs Group. He is passionate about helping churches thrive and travels internationally to teach and train pastors to lead healthy disciple-making churches. A.J. lives in the Ft. Worth, Texas area, enjoys the outdoors, and loves spending time with his wife and two sons. Click here to email A.J.

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