Words can kill.
Words can kill churches because they often have deadly actions behind them. As we begin this new year, please allow me to share six statements that I have heard from church members whose churches have died.
Please hear that last statement again: These are statements from church members whose churches have already closed their doors. I am convinced these statements were major contributors to the churches’ demise.
- “We pay our pastor to do evangelism.” The common meaning behind this statement is that the members have no intentions of sharing their faith. A church with non-evangelistic members is a dying church.
- “Without our money, this church would be in trouble.” Ouch! The key word here is “our.” Members with this attitude do not give with an open hand; they perceive the money they give to the church is their money, not God’s money. This tight-fisted non-stewardship, if prevalent in the church, is a sure sign of sickness or death.
- “This church is not meeting my needs.” For certain, members’ needs should be met. But have you noticed that, often times, the most needy members are the first to complain and the first to leave? We should certainly care for the needs of the flock, but the attitude of the members should be that of serving instead of being served.
- “We pay the salary of the pastor and staff, so they should listen to us.” This deadly statement has two major inflictors of pain. First, the money is treated with a tight fist, as I noted above. Second, the money is used to control leaders. I served in a church where a member made that statement to me frequently. Years after I left, I learned he never gave a dollar to the church.
- “We will let the next generation deal with change.” When older generations make this statement, they are resolutely refusing to make necessary and immediate changes. Sadly, the next generations won’t stick around in such a church to make the changes.
- “I was here years before the pastor came; I’ll be here years after he’s gone.” This statement is one of power and control rather than service and giving. It’s about out-lasting each pastor to keep the church just the way the member wants it. It’s a statement that was commonly heard in churches that have closed their doors.
I remain an obnoxious optimist about our local congregations. But, sadly, many will die in this year and the next. Most of them will have had members who made these six deadly statements.
I pray your church is not among them.
This article was originally published on Jan. 9, 2017 at ThomRainer.com. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and ten grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer. Hear Rainer speak the 2017 Oklahoma State Evangelism Conference, Jan. 30-31.