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10 Traits of Ineffective Churches

  • Paul Tautges counselingoneanother.com
10 Traits of Ineffective Churches

In Do You Think of Your Church As a Country Club?, I wrote of Thom Rainer’s book, I Am a Church Member: Discovering the Attitude that Makes the Difference. In it, he addresses the country club mentality that is prevalent in too many church members.  True, there is a self-centered, self-serving attitude that we can easily develop. It leads our churches to become inwardly-focused. Rainer writes, "In our survey [of 557 churches] we found ten dominant behavior patterns of members in these churches." They are…

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1. Worship Wars

1. Worship Wars

One or more factions in the church want the music just the way they like it. Any deviation is met with anger and demands for change. The order of service must remain constant. Certain instrumentation is required while others are prohibited.

It's incredible how un-Christlike Christians can be when they disagree with one another. These "worship wars" do nothing to further the Kingdom and everything to tear it down. 

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2. Prolonged Minutia Meetings

2. Prolonged Minutia Meetings

The church spends an inordinate amount of time in different meetings. Most of the meetings deal with the most inconsequential items, while the Great Commission and Great Commandment are rarely the topics of discussion.

The solution here is simple: stop arguing about the placement of a comma in your mission statement, and go do the Lord's work. 

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3. Facility Focus

3. Facility Focus

The church facilities develop iconic status. One of the highest priorities in the church is the protection and preservation of rooms, furniture, and other visible parts of the church’s buildings and grounds.

Being a good steward of your church building is not a bad thing. But if the building takes priority over the people inside it, there is a problem. 

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4. Program Driven

4. Program Driven

Every church has programs even if they don’t admit it… The problem is not with programs. The problem develops when the program becomes an end instead of a means to greater ministry.

Remember to look at the picture. How can God use this program to do something even greater in your community? 

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5. Inwardly-focused Budget

5. Inwardly-focused Budget

A disproportionate share of the budget is used to meet the needs and comforts of the members instead of reaching beyond the walls of the church.

Yes, you need to pay the electric bill to keep the lights on. But your church's money does not really belong to the church. It belongs to God. How would he have you use it?

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6. Inordinate Demands for Pastoral Care

6. Inordinate Demands for Pastoral Care

All church members deserve care and concern, especially in times of need and crisis. Problems develop, however, when church members have unreasonable expectations for even minor matters.

The pastor is a servant of the Lord, not a slave of his congregation. His needs for physical, spiritual, and mental health matter, too. Otherwise, he cannot shepherd his flock to his best ability. 

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7. Attitudes of Entitlement

7. Attitudes of Entitlement

This issue could be a catch-all for many of the points named here. The over-arching attitude is one of demanding and having a sense of deserving special treatment.

As Christ-followers, we are called to live as Christ lived. This means not elevated ourselves above others, or believing that we deserve more than others. 

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8. Greater Concern about Change than the Gospel

8. Greater Concern about Change than the Gospel

Almost any noticeable changes in the church evoke the ire of many; but those same passions are not evident about participating in the work of the gospel to change lives.

Where is the focus of your church? If it is not on the following Jesus' teaching, it is time to re-evaluate what church is really about. 

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9. Anger and Hostility

9. Anger and Hostility

Members are consistently angry. They regularly express hostility toward the church staff and other members.

This is a bad sign. If this is the reality in your church, it is time to go into problem-solving mode. What issue is causing such hostility? The church should be a place to experience the peace of God, not the anger of sinners. 

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10. Evangelistic Apathy

10. Evangelistic Apathy

Very few members share their faith on a regular basis. More are concerned about their own needs rather than the greatest eternal needs of the world and community in which they live.

In almost every behavior above, church members were looking out for their own needs and preferences… You get the picture. I. Me. Myself. Church membership from a biblical perspective, however, is about servanthood. It’s about giving. It’s about putting others first.

What mindset does each and every one of us - including the pastor - need to have as a church members? The mindset of Christ, the Servant, is what we need the Holy Spirit to produce.

“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3-5)

Paul Tautges has served Immanuel Bible Church in Sheboygan, Wisconsin as pastor since 1992. He is also an adjunct professor of biblical counseling and conference speaker. Paul has authored eight books including Counsel One Another, Comfort Those Who Grieve, The Discipline of Mercy, and Brass Heavens. He is also the editor of the popular Help! discipleship counseling booklet series (24 titles). Paul is a NANC Fellow and a Council Board member of the Biblical Counseling Coalition. He and his wife Karen are the parents of ten children. Paul blogs regularly at counselingoneanother.com.

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