Recently I mentioned the consistent theme I’m discovering with churches. It has to do with Sunday services. Churches generally tend to agree that their services are executed well. The challenge is that the services end up being very predictable and, therefore, not as engaging.
How do churches end up in this situation? Obviously, every church is different, but here are several challenges that compound the predictability factor.
9 Reasons Your Church Services are Stuck in a Rut
All your new ideas come from other churches — the same churches that are also too predictable.
The only difference is that those churches you try to copy have better teaching and worship. To put it another way, you will never be able to out-Elevation Elevation Church. You will never be able to out-Passion Passion City Church. And, just because it works in Charlotte or Atlanta doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to work (every Sunday) in Paducah, Kentucky.
We’re always more comfortable and more confident doing what we’ve always done.
New things are always uncomfortable. Whether we want to admit it or not, we tend to choose comfort over cause — the mission for why we exist. It’s just easier to do what we’ve always done and hope, somehow, that the results will be different in the future.
The people we’ve reached will always be louder than the people who we haven’t reached.
They have more access to you than the people you’re trying to reach. You spend more time with them than the people you are trying to reach. They give more money than the people you are trying to reach. Even “contemporary” churches can become insider-focused just like their traditional counterparts.
We get lazy, because infusing creativity and unpredictability involves hard work.
Doing the same thing with the same effort takes the same amount of time. Doing the same thing but trying to do it better takes a little more time. Doing a new thing takes much more effort and much more time. To do something new and creative would require more planning and hard work for the teaching pastor, the worship leader and everyone else involved in the service process…particularly volunteers.
It’s easier to blame a shift in culture for people not showing up for services on a regular basis.
Could it be that the reason why “regulars” are only showing up for services once or twice a month is because it feels like they’re attending the same worship service every time? Are we giving people a compelling reason to show up more often?
We fall into the trap of thinking “different” is somehow not biblical and unspiritual.
The reality is that the opposite may be true. Here are a handful of reminders:
- “Don’t long for ‘the good old days.’ This is not wise.” (Ecclesiastes 7:10, NLT)
- “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” (Isaiah 43:18-19, NIV)
- “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.” (Mark 2:22, NLT)
- “Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore.” (Isaiah 65:17, NLT)
- “This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” (2 Corinthians 5:17, NLT)
Every church becomes traditional–the traditions just look different from church to church.
Those of us in modern churches tend to chide the traditional church because they’re still holding on to the methods they used in the 1950s. The reality, though, is that it doesn’t take long for every church to become traditional. This is the danger with any method that generated success in the past. If the method worked and then it gets repeated, it will eventually be worshipped. That’s how traditions start.
We let the people who “execute” define what can and can’t be done.
We can’t forget that God gives every Christ-follower unique personalities, passions and gifts. We need to embrace that and remind ourselves that the great idea-people rarely are also great get-things-done people. And the great get-things-done people are rarely great idea-people. Those who execute don’t like ideas because it make their job harder. We tend to hire people who can execute and put them in charge. That will obviously reduce creativity.
Teaching pastors are unwilling to release control.
If the teaching pastor feels the responsibility to come up with every new idea and make sure that each new idea is executed, he or she will eventually run out of new ideas. This is one of the reasons why I’m grateful we are part of the Body of Christ. We don’t have to do anything alone. In fact, going at anything alone never ends well. To leverage the power of team, though, teaching pastors have to plan ahead and then empower others. You don’t have to give up accountability, but you do have to be willing to give up control.
Yep. I’m trying to provoke you. I want you to disagree with one or more of the items in this list. I’m looking for a reaction. Periodically, we need someone in our lives to challenge our current thinking to either affirm where we are today or push us in a new direction.
I happen to believe most churches need a push. I don’t think God ever planned for his mission to be predictable. It’s time we begin to dig out of the rut.
Photo via Dov Harrington CC0 License