Barriers to Church Growth. #1

A very revealing study was done, leading to a book detailing how 300 churches went from declining or dying, to growing. In Comeback Churches, written by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, there is a list of 30 different barriers to church growth. Having received permission from the publisher (B&H Publishing Group), I would like to discuss a different barrier each week.

“Churches aren’t concerned about God’s glory, believing the church is just for them (Isa. 42:8; 48:11).”

I [am] the LORD: that [is] my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. – Isa. 42:8

For mine own sake, [even] for mine own sake, will I do [it]: for how should [my name] be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another. – Isa. 48:11

When we read the above verses it should be very clear to us that God is not interested in sharing His glory. Yet, too many times we rob God of the glory that is due Him by seeking it for ourselves. We do this in many ways, including the reason many of us go to church.

Lest we forget, “it’s not about us.” However, if you polled the majority of church-goers, I believe you’d find that the reasons for attending congregational worship are more selfish than we’d like to admit. To many believers, church is about what one can get, as opposed to what one can give.

The Tale of the Hymns

Have you ever stopped to listen to the words of those old-time hymns many of us grew up with? You may have sung them all your life, but stop and think about the following: “This world is not MY home, I’m only passing through. / My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue…;” “I’ll Fly Away;” “I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop;” “All I Need.” What is the common denominator of these lyrics and titles? “Me, me, me.”

If the Church Hymnal (© 1951,1979) was used as a tool to determine what we think of church, stop and think about this: there are 80 hymns with a title that start with the words, I, I’m, I’d, I’ll, I’ve, or My. In contrast, less than 10 contain the word glory. Those that do include “Glory Hallelujah In My Soul” and “I’ll Live in Glory.

I think it is pretty obvious that many of us come to church to get from God, not to give to God. He deserves our worship and our praise. He deserves all the glory because His is God, and not man (Hosea 11:9). We deserve nothing, yet His grace and mercy bestows upon us all the treasures we enjoy. Why do we come expecting anything?

Surely our churches would grow if God was glorified. Imagine a congregation of people who came together to lift up praise and adoration to Jesus for His glorious love. Imagine a group of folks who set aside all their own desires and petty differences in order to lift up holy hands unto the King of Glory. What did Jesus say? “If I be lifted up…I will draw all men unto me.”

So, what do you think? How could we do better in giving the glory to the One who truly deserves it?

Related Post: Un-“Christian” Ministry?


Filed under Christian Maturity, General Observations, God, Uncategorized, worship

20 responses to “Barriers to Church Growth. #1

  1. As a whole, I do agree. I do, however, believe there are churches truly trying to serve God and worship Him in their services. There are definitely individuals who go for more than self-serving reasons. Of course, we all come short of the glory of God. Again, I do agree with what is said on a whole though!

    In our small human minds, we probably are not able to comprehend the true concept of worship in its entirety, just as we cannot fully comprehend the true love of Jesus in its entirety either. I cannot wait to get to heaven when worship will be taken to an entirely new level! 🙂

    We do hold way too much emphasis on self, I agree. That is one thing that the RU program works to teach members: to take the emphasis off self and place it on God. Even the average church member could learn A LOT from that program!! It is not merely a program for addictions, but for any stronghold in one’s life (i.e. self worth or self desires).

    Anyway, thanks for posting! It definitely gives us all meat to chew on!

    • Oh, I agree with you, too. It should make us all pause to re-examine our motives for both going to church and worship. Many times we are guilty of doing all the right things for the wrong reasons. Sadly, there are many who go to church and attempt to give worship, but have their sacrifice of praise polluted with selfish intent. I have done it myself.

  2. It is kind of funny. For the past year I have been thinking about this very topic (today’s in particular, but the book’s in general), and there have been times when I am singing along with the congregation … and suddenly stop. I suddenly get caught up in the “me-focus” of the song and stop. It makes me want to just pray something along the lines of “Lord, you are so amazing” and all that goes along with it.
    Other times, I do not feel like going to church or singing, and those are the mornings I force myself to go and to sing. He is worth, at the bare minimum, that much. The harder parts are interacting with others throughout the week! Those, I think, are the times we truly worship: when we interact with others in God-honoring ways and give Him all the glory.

    • Yeah, sometimes I feel like laying in bed on Sunday’s and saying, “I don’t think I’ll go to church today.” Then I have to remind myself it ain’t about me. Then, just like always in the past, God blesses me for going. Our attendance encourages others, so going for them is an attempt to edify the Body, which is in keeping with our Lord’s commands. He is glorified when we keep His commandments.

  3. Unfortunately our culture is self focused and that has spilled over into the church. I don’t have a problem with the “I” and “Me” songs–take a look at the inspired Book of Psalms and see how many are like that. However, we must be sure we are worshiping as we sing these hymns or any other type of song for that matter. I’m afraid that far too many of us just sing the words with our minds in other places, no matter what the style of music. Indeed, we need to get the focus back on God. Great article!
    Terry Reed
    Small Church Tools

    • Thanks, Terry!

      I appreciate you taking the time to stop by and leave a comment. Being the pastor of a small church, you know I enjoy the encouragement.

      You are correct in your assessment of the the “I” and “Me” songs, especially in that there are some good ones, just like the psalms. Some may think I was too critical of those hymns, but I was only speaking of them as to the mindset with which they are sung. Certainly “I Surrender All” isn’t exactly self-serving.

      I went to your site and checked it out. Thank you for your ministry. I will probably link to it soon in my blog roll.

      Blessings to you, Brother

      • Thanks..I enjoy my blog although because I am bivocational I don’t get to give it the time I would like and thus don’t post nearly as often as I wish I could. God bless!

  4. Wow! This is a wonderful post, and right along the lines of what the Lord has been impressing upon me this past week or so. In fact, my post that is scheduled for tomorrow is a poem titled “critical spirit, Holy Spirit,” and is about coming to worship services to glorify and exalt God, and not to criticize what we think we want out of worship. And just last week when I was asked to do the devotion for our Board of Elders meeting I read a post I wrote some time back about growing the church by lifting up Jesus, which is here:

    I agree that church for many has become all about what they get from God and being fed by the sermon and blessed by the music. But we do call it a “worship” service. We ought to spend more of it worshipping instead of criticizing. Which is not to say I’ve never criticized, but the Lord has definitely been working in my heart on this very issue. Thank you for the confirmation that I’m on the right track. Peace, Linda

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  9. Thank you for sharing this and doing a series on it. 🙂 What a great and helpful idea, versus just complaining about it.
    I have a friend in Israel who moved there from the states and she has mentioned this to me before. I think that we here may have trouble seeing it, but those not in the “western Church” feel that we are mostly me focused. That saddened me . . .but I could see it the more I looked and listened and read. Asking God to point that out to me in my own life and help me change and focus on Him and what’s important to Him.
    God bless you and your desire to see Him glorified! 🙂

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  13. This is a most challenging and important line that I see: “To many believers, church is about what one can get, as opposed to what one can give.” This being true is why the church in the U.S. is in such decline–and because it’s NOT true in other places around the word is why they are thriving!

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