Churches that are inwardly focused are easy to spot and come up on the radar quickly when looking at the state of the churches we attend, relate to, and work with. When a church is ministering to itself and its members there are some vital signs that can be seen within the life-flow of the local church and that are rather obvious. When a local church is largely self-serving we see ten basic signs of the obvious coming death of that church.
I say “obvious death” because a local church will eventually die when it is self-focused, self-serving, and thus self-centred. Death is always there in the future for that local self-serving church because it is not doing what the Lord called the Church to do – seek and save the lost. So, there will be no life within the programming of the church – just ritual, rules, and regulations. Programs will sustain the church but will never bring life back to the church. Death is inevitable.
So, when a church is largely self-serving, focusing inwardly and not outward to the community and the lost, we see ten basic signs, ten dominant behaviour patterns…
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.
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 the Great Commandment are rarely the topics of discussion.
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.
4> Program driven… Every church has programs even if they don’t admit it. When we start doing a ministry a certain way, it takes on programmatic status. The problem is not with programs. The problem develops when the program becomes an end instead of a means to greater ministry.
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.
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. Some members expect the pastoral staff to visit them regularly merely because they have “membership status.”
7> Attitudes of entitlement… This issue could be a catch-all for many of the points named here. The overarching attitude is one of demanding and having a sense of deserving special treatment.
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.
9> Anger and hostility… Members are consistently angry. They regularly express hostility toward the church staff and other members.
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 behaviour above, church members were looking out for their own needs and preferences. I want the music my way. I want the building my way. I am upset because the church staff or elders didn’t visit me. I don’t want anything to change in my church.
You get the picture. I. Me. Myself…. and the church will die. This is what the survey states and history and experience have shown us. But a church can change if…