Don't be put off by the length of this Q&A with Mark Beeson. This is amazing stuff, so read every word. Granger Community Church is one of the 5 largest United Methodist churches in the country, and Mark Beeson speaks directly to the heart of the problems plaguing the denomination. This is a Q&A from the July/August 2007 issue of Good News Magazine (GNM)
GNM: What are the largest obstacles to church growth?
Lack of vision. When the leader has no vision it is impossible to call people to radical sacrifice for a worthy goal. No one offers talent, time, energy and support without good reason. The vision is the reason, and where there is no vision people won’t align their resources and collaborate. Confusion is a barrier to growth; clarity brings focus and ministry intensity…and that yields a great reward.
Weak leadership. When leaders think they can’t do the right thing because someone might become angry, they betray the mission. Our churches are surrounded by people living without Christ, and without hope. The pastor who won’t lead his church through a process to introduce a new song or a new teaching method (to reach new people) because some lady in the third row complains, “That’s not how we do things here,” has mistaken kindness for weakness. The kind thing to do is offer Christ to the masses. The weak thing to do is defer to a few critics and, in so doing, condemn their neighbors to an eternity without Christ.
Confused leadership. For too long pastors have believed they are appointed to a local church with the assignment to pray, pay and get out of the way. The insidious belief that local churches lack the power and responsibility for transforming their surrounding communities makes congregations impotent. UMC pastors are appointed “in charge” and when they degrade their responsibility to mere “fund raiser for the denomination” the butterfly effect sends ripples across the entire Church.
Don’t miss this…because this is important. Understand that once people sense the local church exists merely to raise funds for the corporate Church they feel like spectators rather than players. Such confusion about the role of the local church (and the people in it) topples the first domino in a cascading failure that degrades a denomination from “mainline” to “sideline.” This is a hands-on society comprised of individuals who’ve lost trust in institutions; people today want to do it themselves. There is a deep pool of volunteers with the desire to personally experience meaningful service. They know they only go around once in life and they want to drink deeply of the adventure…not send money to someone else so they have all the joy.
Instead, they will divvy up their offerings among the various organizations bombarding them for money: United Way, Red Cross, Salvation Army, UNICEF, the FOP and the Jerry Lewis Telethon for Muscular Dystrophy research. As that happens, the tithe is pulled from the local church, God removes his blessing and the local church becomes a pale shadow of the Biblically functioning community scripture describes. Congregations become sick and stop growing. Healthy grows.
The local church is the front line of the UMC’s ministry delivery system. When local church pastors take seriously their vows to reach their communities for Jesus Christ growth becomes more likely. When denominational officials ask local pastors to report the number of baptisms, conversions and social-action initiatives, before they ask whether they paid their apportionments in full, local pastors will begin to shift their priorities from funding ministry elsewhere to ministry success right there – right where they are!
On Monday, I reprinted Mark Beeson's answers to these questions...
- What specifically sparked the vision to plant Granger Community Church?
- After twenty years of growth, what are the key ingredients to see a ministry expand?
Tomorrow he answers, "How do you attract so many seekers and young people?"