These might be controversial, but they can help you get unstuck.
My heart is always to help the church. But sometimes that means speaking the hard truths that keep us from getting unstuck. Recently, I published an article called 20 NEW Politically Incorrect Thoughts on Church in America. As you can imagine, it caused quite the stir.
On this week’s episode, Amy and I explore my heart and thinking behind 8 of my politically incorrect thoughts and why I thinks they are crucial for churches to getting unstuck.
In this conversation, we discussed:
Why you should stop caring about your teaching style
The big percentage of staff you can let go
The reason no one is inviting people to your church
The biggest group of leaders you’re ignoring
Join the Conversation
We’ll be talking about this more on Facebook and Twitter this week. Listen to the episode and then join in.
Some things we are hoping to discuss:
- What changes have you made to your service that has effectively inspired people to invite others?
- How have you implemented leadership opportunities for women in your church?
- How did you implement a spiritual formation strategy that works?
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- 20 NEW Politically Incorrect Thoughts on Church in America
- 20 Politically Incorrect Thoughts On Church In America
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Tony Morgan: 00:00 Hey, before we start, I wanted to share a resource I’m finding churches need but don’t often realize they can actually afford the church lawyers is a solution focused national law firms serving the legal needs of churches of all sizes. Their membership program gives you high quality legal expertise that’s really affordable. The team prioritizes the relationship part of the attorney client relationship to learn more about becoming a part of their membership program. Contact the church firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amy Anderson: 00:43 Welcome to the unstuck church podcast. I’m Amy Anderson and I’m here with Tony Morgan and each week we share a conversation our team’s been having about getting churches unstuck. And today’s topic should create some conversation among your team as well. If it doesn’t, then Tony hasn’t done his job because today’s topic is Tony’s politically incorrect thoughts on the church. And uh, as we get started, Tony, does it bother you that some people will disagree with you?
Tony Morgan: 01:13 Yes, people will disagree with me, but if they didn’t, they wouldn’t be politically incorrect thoughts. Amy. Uh, so I’m expecting disagreement today and very likely will hear about it on facebook and twitter and all the other places that people shared their opinions on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I’m hopeful some of these politically incorrect thoughts will resonate with people and I’m also hopeful that some of these politically incorrect thoughts will cause you to flinch a moment, but then kind of assess and maybe even reconsider some of the things you’ve accepted to be true in the past ministry strategies, but I know amy, for someone wired like you, who’s more people focused, more people driven, more relational. When we start to talk about things that might create conflict, that doesn’t really resonate with you. For someone like me that’s driven by task and mission, I mean I still love people, but with that focus on task and mission and we talked about this and a podcast not too long ago rattling people’s cages just a little bit, trying to disrupt, disrupt people’s current thinking. That actually motivates me because I want the church to have a bigger impact. So I hope you hear my heart behind today’s conversation. It’s not to get you to disagree with me, it’s not to make you upset, it’s not, it’s not to cause any harm in our relationship between me and the listeners today is really just to provoke thinking and to cause us maybe to interrupt some of what our current thinking is to consider is a better place that we should be going with our ministry strategies so that the church can be healthier and have a greater impact in people’s lives. So before I share the politically incorrect thoughts, maybe it’s a good thing for me to share my heart behind it.
Amy Anderson: 03:13 That’s pretty good. Alright, you rattle them up and I’ll call them down on this topic. I think you covered 20 of these politically incorrect thought. So today we’re going to hit several of them, as many as we can. I’m thinking kind of a speed round style Tony, because you’re all amped up anyways because of the topic. That’s right. I’ll share the politically incorrect thought and then you respond with your thinking behind each one. Okay. Are you ready? I’m ready. Okay. Church is lack of focus. Spiritual formation strategy. You said they hide behind the fact that they have a full ministry calendar.
Tony Morgan: 03:50 That’s right. So, uh, here’s what we know from actual research that actually willow creek did for many years and thousands of churches and they looked at hundreds of thousands of believers and the steps that they took in the faith. Church programs, church events, church activities don’t help people become more like Jesus. In fact, full ministry calendars, the only goal that they achieve as they, they keep people busy but they don’t produce spiritual growth. And so here, the challenge here is busy Christians will never complain about this, but people that are concerned or realize that they are busy in real life, they’ll just stop showing up. So whatever those programs, events and activities are for busy people, they’ll just stop showing up. They’ll never complain that you’re engaging in a ministry strategy that’s just keeping them busy. They just won’t show up anymore. But in the process people will stay busy, but they won’t be actually taking next steps toward Christ. And so if you want to quick, if you want to quickly respond to this politically incorrect thought, I would encourage you to step back and ask the question, how did you become a fully devoted follower of Jesus? And you know, when I’ve asked a church leaders that question and they’ve responded honestly, they’re number one response is always a person, a relationship with somebody, a mentor, a small group leader, a coach, somebody in their life that they invested, time that invested time in them and challenge them to take a next step toward Jesus. And so rather than all of those activities, programs, events, I really think as much as churches, we need to create space for people to develop relationships, to encourage each other, to take her next steps toward Jesus.
Amy Anderson: 05:49 Alright, what’s behind this next one? You said I’d still hired children’s ministry pastor before a youth pastor.
Tony Morgan: 05:54 Yeah. So I just offended every youth pastor that’s listening today, by the way, they prefer a student pastor. I’ve learned that through the years. And I’m not saying student pastor shouldn’t try to continue to reach as many students for Jesus. They should do that. But our data shows this, that growing churches have growing, thriving kids ministries and conversely declining churches have growing, thriving student ministries. In other words, there’s actually no correlation, or maybe it’s an indirect correlation between the health of a student ministry and the health of a church. And so when we’re working with churches to continue to reach more people, help meet more people, take their next steps toward Christ, we challenged them to prioritize, prioritize first that health of their children’s ministry, and then the health of their student ministry. So in other words, we don’t want to. It’s not like we don’t want them to have healthy, thriving student ministries, right? Just know that when it comes to priority, if they have limited resources, focus staff time, whatever the case may be, they should first focus on having healthy, thriving children’s ministries.
Amy Anderson: 07:12 Got It. All right. Your next comment, if you’re trying to convince people to become members at your church, you’re fighting a losing battle.
Tony Morgan: 07:20 Yeah. And here’s the reality. Membership organizations of any color, whether that’s a service organization, think about, Awanas or Rotary or organizations like that. In fact, the fact anybody younger than 50 is asking, what are those organizations that Tony just mentioned? I used to be a rotarian though, and I was proud of it. I think about country club memberships, a think about church membership. In fact, anybody under 40 has probably never been a member of any organization and they’re not looking to join and become a member of a church. So rather than focus on membership, I would encourage you to just ask the question, what was the win with membership? Now, I would argue in most cases the win was engagement. We want people to engage in relationships and serving opportunities. We want people to be all in and in and engage the mission of the church. And so if that is the win, if that was the perceived win from membership in the past, then focus on engagement today. How do we help people engage but don’t require them to be members of the church?
Amy Anderson: 08:45 Okay, so I’m thinking of that comedian. You might be a Redneck If… Jeff Foxworthy. This might your issue if when we opened up your program at Church verse, it says welcome, and then it says how to become a member. I see that week after week, okay, sorry. Back to what you say. You said it doesn’t matter that you’re an expository or topical teacher if people are far from God,
Tony Morgan: 09:13 So nobody, but you and your pastor friends care if you are an expository teacher or a topical teacher there, so just a small circle of people who care about that. I would encourage you, instead of thinking about your methodology of teaching, that you’d be more concerned with the people who aren’t connecting to your teaching. That should be your bigger concern. And so I would encourage you as teachers of scripture to address the questions that people were asking with Biblical truth and love. Begin there. Don’t worry about is this an expository approach or a topical approach? Instead start addressing the questions that people are really asking. And what’s interesting to me, Amy, is the questions for believers and unbelievers are actually pretty similar. I mean, people are concerned. What’s my purpose in life? How do I engage with the way that I’m wired up? How do I engage? What am I supposed to do? How do I, how do I have relationships with a handful of people that are real, authentic were we’re encouraging each other and challenging each other? The common questions are really pretty similar. The perspectives may be that we respond to those questions might be different based on, I hope they are different based on our relationship with Jesus, but their common questions and as teachers, we should be sharing biblical truth in love and so beyond that. Then just making sure, however we teach, whether you decide I’m going to be an expository teacher and address the questions or I’m going to be a topical teacher and address the questions. Whatever method you decide, which no one cares about, uh, make sure that there’s a clear next step coming out of your teaching. And that’s,
Amy Anderson: 11:03 I wish every senior pastor would write that down. Just have a clear next step. Yes, yes. As you look at your weekend message, when you’re done, did we give a clear next step? Super easy, right? That’s right. It should be all right now. I think the staff, any staff members are going to love this. Next one. You’re going to your popularity. The student pastors might come back and join them.
Tony Morgan: 11:22 Yeah, so this was another politically incorrect thought I shared. Yes,
Amy Anderson: 11:26 Yes. You said it would serve many churches well to reduce their staff by 30 percent and give a generous pay increase to the remaining people. I guess just the remaining staff are happy,
Tony Morgan: 11:38 But the reason why I shared this politically incorrect thought is through our research with hundreds of churches, we found that growing churches typically have 30 percent fewer staff than declining churches. I mean, it was astounding. We started to look at the investment financial investment that churches were making and declining churches spend far more on staff than growing churches and so what I think we see happening in growing churches is they’ve realized we have a limited amount of financial resources and because of that we are going to prioritize hiring staff with a higher leadership capacity. And actually we’re going to talk in the next episode, Amy, about how the unstuck group helps churches identify leadership capacity. But this is critical, this is critical that when you have limited staffing dollars that you invest those dollars and people that have a higher leadership capacity and then work with those staff people to develop other leaders, primarily lay leaders, volunteer leaders in your church and build the volunteer teams. And if you take that approach to ministry, you will reduce the number of staff you have, but you will also increase your ability to pay them higher salaries. And that’s a good thing because it will help as well. It’ll force you to make sure you hire great people, but then you’ll be able to pay those great people that stay on your team and they won’t be looking for jobs in other positions. Hmm.
Amy Anderson: 13:23 Good. Alright, next politically incorrect statement. You said there’s no reason for any church of any size to have more than one board or committee.
Tony Morgan: 13:31 Yeah. In fact, what’s, what’s funny here is it’s actually the smaller churches that we work with that have bigger boards and many, many committees. Um, and my, my value here behind this politically incorrect thought is I want every person in leadership to be using their leadership gift to actually engage ministry, to be carrying out God’s mission rather than sitting in meetings. And in fact, we’ve run into churches through the years. Amy, there’s been some astonishing stories. And again, these tend to be smaller churches. So, uh, this one church had more than 200 deacons. Oh my goodness. And it was a church of less than a thousand people. So odds are pretty good. Anybody you would want run into would be a deacon in the church. And in fact, it probably is not going to surprise you too, that if you were, the only way you could be in a deacon at this particular church was to have the male gender as well. So if you think about almost every man in the church was a deacon at the church, another church we ran into had 33 different committees and they spent most of their ministry or just figuring out who that person is going to serve on what committee and another church. It was so complicated. They had a committee to fill all the committees. That was the only purpose of of that particular committee was to fill communities, so again, the heart behind this politically incorrect thought is to move people from talking about ministry to actually doing ministry and when churches make this shift at one board and eliminating all the other committees, we find they are more unified, they’re healthier and they’re having a greater impact.
Amy Anderson: 15:25 All right. I’m going to have about three more times then we’ll wind it up. Okay. I’m going to pick three of my favorites, a politically incorrect statement. Next, you said people have stopped inviting their friends to church because your services are boring and the teaching is irrelevant to their lives.
Tony Morgan: 15:38 Picking on teachers again, here twice in the same podcast. We May. We may lose subscribe subscriptions. So after this one. Yeah, so people stopped inviting your friends to your church because their services are boring in your teaching as irrelevant. Yeah. You’re enough. And here’s what I see churches doing. Instead of addressing both of those factors, they’ll talk about increasing the invite culture to try to fix that, fix that challenge. And I just think, man, if you don’t have an invitable experience, people are not going to invite their friends so you can fix the invite culture. You have to courageous and vital experiences or of likewise, they’ll talk about increasing the evangelism training and it’s. It’s again, it’s just ironic. I’ve seen churches that have robe. I would consider them robust training for evangelism and there’s no actual evangelism happening at those churches or they’ll talk about having a better marketing strategy to try to fix this challenge to get people to attend services. And my fear with that is that the marketing might actually work and you’ll get people to come and experience a boring service with irrelevant teaching. And so rather than trying to fix invite culture, rather than trying to fix evangelism training, rather than trying to fix marketing strategy, I would rather churches fixed the boring services and the irrelevant teaching. And when you do that and create an experience that really captures people’s hearts and encourages them to take their next steps toward Christ. What I’ve seen is in churches that do, that, people start inviting their friends so they can’t wait to invite. That’s right. That’s right.
Amy Anderson: 17:29 Alright. Politically incorrect. Next churches systematically leave some of their strongest leaders on the side.
Tony Morgan: 17:36 Yeah, and by the strongest leaders in this case, I am actually referring to women. Women are still being ignored when it comes to leadership in the church. And I would just highlight here that nothing in the Bible that suggest women can have all the other spiritual guests but not the spiritual gift of leadership. And because that’s the case, then, I believe again that God gives Christ followers spiritual gifts to engage the mission of the church. Why? Why? Why would god give us spiritual gifts if that wasn’t the primary purpose? And so if that’s the case, if that’s the case, that as believers, we get spiritual gifts. Some of us get the gift of leadership and there’s nothing in the Bible to suggest women can’t have the gift of leadership. Then we must be fighting for opportunities to make sure women can use the leadership gift in the church because women won’t fight for that opportunity on their own. They’ll use their gift, their leadership, gifting someplace else, and usually that’ll be in other community organizations or in other businesses in the marketplace. So I’m gonna. Keep pushing this. I’m going gonna. Keep raising this up. It’s one of the reasons why at the unstuck group, we find highly capable leaders that happen to be women to serve on our team because we know the impact they can make to a healthy organization and I’ve seen through the years churches that do leverage women that have leadership gifts in significant leadership roles and they tend to be very, very healthy churches because of that. So Amy, I’m hopeful that this is going to become a non issue for churches and the next generation. I think we’re continuing to see that shift even in denominations that have a tradition of leaving women out. When it comes to leadership, but until that happens, I’m going to continue to raise the flag for allowing women with leadership gifting to use that gifting within the context of the church.
Amy Anderson: 19:51 Well said. All right, last one here. I actually think it brings hope less than disruption, but you said you can’t make changes and expect no one will leave your church.
Tony Morgan: 20:01 Yeah, and here, let me just be a little bit more encouraging as well. You can’t stay the same and expect no one will leave your church and so you. You get to choose what type of pain you want to go through to get to a place where your church experiences health again and where you work and gets to a place where you can be reaching more people for Jesus, but I know this to be the case. If you want to get unstuck, it will require change. You can’t just hope for your church to get healthy. You can’t just pray for your church to get healthy, though you should do both. You’re actually going to have to make some intentional changes to get unstuck and to get to a place where your church is having a greater impact again, so I rather you make changes that help you reach people for Jesus, and if people don’t want that type of change, it’s actually better that they leave, but you get to decide which people your ministry won’t impact. Are you going to decide to try to impact the people that don’t want change? Don’t want health in your church, don’t want your church to grow, or are you going to make the necessary changes that may be disruptive to some people in your ministry that don’t like the change, but allow you to reach more people in the long run that allow your ministry to have a greater impact. I would encourage you to make that change.
Amy Anderson: 21:28 Well, thank you tony, and thanks for sharing your heart behind those statements and again, the full article is on our webpage. If you want to read that. I’m also thanks to our listeners. If you’d like to learn how to take your next steps towards getting your church unstuck, we will link to some resources in the show notes for this episode that you can email@example.com forward slash episode 69, and if this episode has been helpful to you, please don’t forget to leave us a review on itunes. That’ll help other leaders find this content as well. And as always, you can learn more about how the unstuck group helps churches get firstname.lastname@example.org.