Gene Appel, a good friend and admired pastoral colleague, recently led a tremendously helpful and practical webinar on the topic of leading change for the CCL Network. Gene co-authored a book with Alan Nelson, titled How To Change Your Church Without Killing It, in which they profiled four kinds of churches:
- The first is the Declining Church. The Declining Church could go years without adding even one unchurched person to its membership through conversion. Members rarely desire to come into meaningful contact with lost people worldwide. Non-Christians seem more like the enemy than the object of God’s love. These churches tend to be highly inwardly focused institutions. Church services offer a familiar format that caters to the wishes of insiders and ignores the needs of those outside of Christ. The average age of this church increases every year and brings it one year or two deaths closer to closing its doors.
- The Surviving Church has a little life left. Its leaders preach the Word diligently and carefully. It has some good ministries that have developed over the years. This kind of church may be reasonably effective at reaching the children of their adult members, but they don’t seem to connect with lost people who have little or no previous church experience. Their leaders have a sense that they should be doing better but don’t know how.
- The Growing Church can be an inspiring place to be. It is lively, appeals to younger adults, and seems to attract new members quickly. Preaching and teaching ministries are robust features of growing churches. They have many ministries and programs, and something always seems to be going on. Its growth, however, is primarily fueled by Christians moving their memberships from other congregations because of all the cool stuff this church has available. Some people at a growing church have a passion for reaching lost people. However, most people believe that that is the job of the paid staff, and they are more concerned about what the church can provide for them than what it can provide for their lost friends and family.
- The fourth category of churches is what Appel and Nelson call Prevailing Churches. Prevailing churches partner with their members significantly to create environments where people are unconditionally loved and unmistakably led into a life-changing relationship with Jesus Christ. Prevailing churches see their primary mission as making disciples of Jesus Christ, who will make more disciples of Jesus Christ. This is a primary value held by most people, not just a few. Prevailing churches have a view of discipleship that begins with building relationships rather than with seeking souls; they take their questions seriously and provide biblical answers; they respect the process of personalizing the claims of Christ and involvement in a church; they celebrate their new birth, and continue the disciple development process well beyond their baptism. The relevancy of the Bible is continually emphasized, and the Gospel is never compromised.
To become a prevailing church, you must understand change, be willing to change yourself and celebrate the changes that God does among us.
D. Vaughan Consulting would love to help you become a Prevailing Church. We have several systems and strategies that can provide practical guidance from proven leaders who are passionate about the local church working right. Contact us to start a conversation that can help change your church without killing it…or you!