Recognizing When a Church Is Off Target

Or: Recognizing God’s Target For His Church

Brandon Moore, MBC Church Revitalization Specialist

God has made the target for His church clear:

  1. Healthy Identities – Worshipers, Family, and Missionaries
  2. Healthy Foundations – Gospel, Scripture, and Prayer
  3. Healthy Structures – Leadership, Membership, and Discipleship

But how do we recognize when a church is off target?

Decline in a church is like an iceberg. There are clear indicators of decline from the surface, but most of the problems and concerns that need to be addressed are below the surface. The following list is not intended to be exhaustive, but it highlights a few indicators identified by network leaders based upon God’s target for the church.

Surface Indicators

  1. Mismatched Membership & Community
    1. High number/percentage of people/families commuting to church.
    2. Vast difference in average age in community and church members.
    3. People in church do not look like those outside the church. 
  2. Dated or Dilapidated Facilities (Old facilities and no updates in 5-7 years)
  3. Numerical Decline (Attendance, Baptisms, Giving, or Volunteers)
  4. Short Pastoral Tenures
  5. Budget
    1. Disproportionate – Weighted more to care for members than outreach to the community.
    2. Significant Shortfall – Not meeting the budget on a regular basis
    3. Non-Existent – There is simply no plan for how the church will spend money. Remember Jesus emphasizes that our use of money exposes where our heart is (Matt. 6:21).

Under-the-Surface Indicators

  1. Identities
    1. Worshippers
      1. Lack of an awe-inspiring view of God
      2. Lack of heart-engaging Gospel-centered worship gatherings
    2. Family
      1. Lack of trust and avoidance of conflict
      2. Lack of holistic care for one another
    3. Missionaries
      1. Lack of intentional strategies to take the Gospel to neighbors and the nations
      2. Lack of concern for the community
  2. Foundations
    1. Gospel
      1. Lack of passion for and ability to communicate the simple Gospel message
      2. Lack of ongoing application of the Gospel to every area of life
    2. Scripture
      1. Lack of Biblical literacy, regular Bible reading, and personal application
      2. Lack of expository preaching (not an issue of the style of preaching but the source of preaching)
    3. Prayer
      1. Lack of prayer in worship gatherings beyond a mere transition tool
      2. Lack of vibrant prayer gatherings of leaders and members
  3. Structures
    1. Leadership
      1. Lack of purpose, intentionality, or alignment in programs/ministries
      2. Lack of intentional leader development
    2. Membership
      1. Lack of structures to provide accountability or care for members
      2. Lack of understanding or commitment to Biblical church membership
    3. Discipleship
      1. Lack of a clear plan or pathway for discipling new disciples to mature and multiplying disciples.
      2. Lack of vision for and understanding of the Great Commission

*Next post, we will share key insights and tools for helping a church recognize they are off target, and much of this we will develop collaboratively at a workshop portion of the DOM Conference on March 18th.

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