Barriers to Church Growth. #3

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.

“God withdraws Himself from the church because of sin. He hardens hearts and gives the people over to sin (Isa. 63: 15-19; Heb. 3:12-13).

“Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” – Hebrews 3:12-13 KJV

Have you ever thought it possible for a church to be given over to sin? I am not talking about the “liberal” church down the street (every town has one, I suppose), but your church – my church. Is there no growth taking place? Maybe it is because of sin. Maybe it’s because of a hardened heart.

Do churches sin?

You know they do. Many times, however, the sin is not viewed as such. It is seen differently from something that smacks of unbelief. It is rarely seen as a departure from God. More often than not, the sin that churches commit is hidden or disguised with terms or labels meant to justify “an evil heart of unbelief.” Here are a few phrases you may have heard. If so, it might be time for a hard-heart check.

  • “We can’t do that.”
  • “We don’t have the funds for that.
  • “That area of town will never be receptive.”
  • “Maybe we should just pray about it, for now.”
  • “Why do we need to change? They need to change!”
  • “We’ve never done it that way before.”

Can churches have their hearts softened?

Absolutely! God is in the forgiving business, you know. All it would take is our churches turning away from the sins that so easily beset us, like legalism, traditionalism, racism, envy, and pride…not to mention fear that God will not provide for us the ability and means to accomplish His work.

“Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD.” – Lamentations 3:40

“Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” – Isaiah 55:6-7


Filed under book review, Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Christian Unity, General Observations, legalism, ministry, Uncategorized, worship

7 responses to “Barriers to Church Growth. #3

  1. Pingback: Membership Growth Team Agenda-September 17th « Church Growth Program

  2. I love it! A call to look inward instead of outward. It’s easy to point to another’s sin, so much harder (and more important) to examine our hearts for our own sin. You are only on point three of this book, but I’m starting to think I may need to get a copy. My church is interested in growth, but I can see there are some barriers to that right now. Don’t know if I can wait another 27 weeks to read all of your summary posts. 😉 Peace, Linda

  3. Amen brother! Although God can bless in spite of sin (Samson’s many feats while living a sinful lifestyle) He often pulls His blessings (the battle of Ai with sin in the camp). I fear that too many churches presume upon God’s goodness–hoping He will overlook the sin that so badly needs to be dealt with.
    Terry Reed
    Small Church Tools

  4. Pingback: Barriers to Church Growth. #5 (Honoring Self) | The Recovering Legalist

  5. Man, I’m really getting into your thoughts in this series. I’ve said for a long time, “The seven words of a dying church are: We’ve Never Done It That Way Before.” I was sharing with our school district superintendent that same 7 words and told him that those 7 words are true in any organization. He had come into this job seeing the need for change, and was getting some opposition. He replied, “Can I quote you on that?” And I said, “Absolutely!”

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