Thursday, December 07, 2006

Article # 4: Rural Church Growth

Just Be Honest – Understanding your commitment level for change

Nothing destroys churches and pastors like unmet expectations. I believe 95% of rural churches have unreal and therefore unmet expectations. How do you determine if an expectation is realistic? Here are some questions to ask that will help to determine if your expectations are realistic. First, are your expectations Biblical? For example, I expect every member of our church to tithe. This is a Biblical expectation because the Bible tells us that every member of our church should tithe.

The second question to ask is, are your expectations physically possible? For example, I expect to have 500 in worship for High Attendance Sunday and our Worship Center only holds 100. This is an unrealistic expectation, because it’s not physically possible to get 500 people into a space meant for 100. Each expectation should have a faith and a practical side to it.

The third question to ask is what type of commitment is there to fulfilling this expectation? When people are uncommitted to an expectation, it is unrealistic. For an expectation to be met, people must be willing to do whatever must be done, for however long it must be done. People must be committed to accomplishing the task for it to be a realistic expectation.

With this said, I believe most rural churches have an unrealistic expectation of growth for their church. It is unrealistic not because it isn’t Biblical or physically impossible, but because most church members aren’t committed to it. Most rural churches are dying and if they don’t begin a new life-cycle they will either close or have no influence in their communities within five years. Most members intellectually understand that change needs to occur and they talk about change needing to occur, but most really don’t want change. Don’t fool yourself; intellectually knowing changes need to happen is different than being committed to change.

Statements I have heard rural churches say that shows they aren’t committed to church growth are; “We need slow change”, “We can change as long as we take care of those who have money”, and “We can change, but lets not lose our tradition.” Someone who is committed to change says, “I know we need to change, lets do it and how can I help.”

Here is what keeps me motivated to change and to change quickly. I’m motivated by what I don’t know. I don’t know two things. First, I don’t know when Christ is coming back. He could be coming back today. Second, I don’t know how long the lost people in my community have to live. So the question that motivates me is, “how many people must die and go to hell before I’m willing to change.” Most churches want to change slowly because most aren’t really committed to change. You don’t know how much time you have left before Christ comes or your target people die. I encourage every church to change as quickly as you can. Your church must connect with as many people as possible in a short amount of time, because we can’t take time for granted.

If you realize your church isn’t committed to an expectation, either church growth or something else, then let it go. Your church will be what the members of your church are committed to. It is better for you to plant another church than to try and lead a church to change when members really aren’t committed to changing. In closing, understand your church’s commitment level as you make expectations because only realistic expectations can be met.

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