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 some of these barriers.
“Pastors are more concerned about self-interests than about God and His people (Philippians 2:21).”
“For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” – Philippians 2:21
How sad is it to think that you can’t trust a man of God? Very! But, obviously, there are many men out there who care more about their own interests than for the church.
In the second chapter of Philippians, Paul was faced with this problem. According to the Apostle, Timothy was the only one he could trust with the care of this church, because all the others sought their own, “not the thing’s of Jesus Christ.” Imagine, there were others capable of doing the work, but only Timothy proved selfless.
What an indictment! What a troubling accusation to cast upon men of God! Shouldn’t the very fact that we are called and equipped for the task of shepherding sheep qualify us for the work? Not if the work is only a tool for self-gratification or gain.
What kind of pastor was Paul looking for when he finally decided on Timothy? All one has to do is examine the previous verses and see that he was looking for a man with a heart and mind like that of the Savior. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who…made himself of no reputation, and took upon the form of a servant…humbled himself…unto death (2:5-8).”
Jesus was the highest example of a man who could have taken advantage of His position; yet, He was the one who washed others’ feet; wore the same clothes; never demanded special treatment; allowed Himself to be abused and mistreated; even went to a cross. How would modern pastors fare if asked to be more like Him?
The Man Paul Picked
Think about Timothy for a moment. When you do, what kind of mental picture comes to mind? Did he wear the nicest suit? Did he drive a new car? Did he publish a new book every week, or host 15 conferences listing his name on neon parchment?
Did Timothy get offended when not addressed by the correct title? Did Timothy have an “earned doctorate?” Would you have had to make an appointment to see him in his office? If you did, would you have felt intimidated by his presence and demeanor? I don’t get this picture when I think of Timothy, but I do about a lot of preachers.
What kind of pastor am I? Am I a barrier to church growth? This is a question I have to ask myself, even though it may dig up some stuff of which I am ashamed.
You see, the church is more important than my ego. It is more important than what people think of me. The church was not put here for my benefit. I was sent to care for them. I was sent to feed and protect the sheep, not sell them off to make a profit. They don’t belong to me. They belong to Jesus Christ.
Do I look at every church as a stepping stone? Do I view people as objects, or worse, servants? Am I willing to sacrifice my pride, even my life, for the sake of those for whom Christ died? If not, then I don’t deserve this “good work” (1 Timothy 3:1). Unless I want to be like Christ, as modeled in the life of Paul and Timothy, then I desire the work for the wrong reasons, which would make me a “barrier to church growth.”
Dear friend in ministry, whatever your role, are you more concerned with self? Go back and read Philippians 2 and see how your intentions stack up. Like me, you may find some barriers that need to be torn down.
- Barriers to Church Growth. #1 (therecoveringlegalist.com)
- The Unstoppable Gospel (Theology for Living from Philippians) (thimblefulloftheology.wordpress.com) I just found this article interesting, so I thought I would link to it.
2 responses to “Barriers to Church Growth. #2”
Several years ago, our little country church grew the most (In depth, love for one another… and in numbers) when our semi-retired pastor was dying of cancer. Sometimes he would call one of 7 men in the church early sunday morning to take his place…We were to have something ready at all times (7 minute men). All pretense was gone. Our Pastor was not afraid to die and not afraid to live in pain. We saw and experienced God and hope through Pastor Harvey. There was no doubting around this man of God. There may be a cost to breaking some of those barriers.