FOUR BARRIERS WE MUST REMOVE TO EXPERIENCE CHURCH GROWTH
Summertime is the favorite time for visiting the amusement park you love. But you likely do NOT love one thing about the experience: the lines at the attractions.
You see the giant sign over the entrance to the coaster you want to ride. The thrill seems only a few feet away. And then you walk into the holding area and discover the winding maze of shuffling patrons sluggishly zig-zagging through a long path toward the fun you paid good money to enjoy. You know it’ll be awhile before you get there. The well-run parks post signs telling you how long it will be: “One hour from this point in the line.” They’ve become experts at rigging nylon barriers to keep the masses orderly for a lingering, lengthy wait.
One summer my family went to Hershey Park in Pennsylvania, and my enterprising wife paid extra for a service that included our personal concierge. This guy met us at the gate and took us to the head of every line. Past the crowds. Without the waiting. We rode every ride in the place in three hours!
I’m thinking, This is how we should help people know Jesus. We should find a way to lead them to him as easily as possible.
Once in awhile—if you go at 9 in the morning during the off season—you can get to the rides without the barriers. With smaller crowds, the park has removed the ropes, and you can walk straight to the car on the track.
I’m thinking, This is the picture the church should embrace when it thinks about people far away from God. We should get rid of the barriers.
But sometimes we’ve become expert at just the opposite. Like organized amusement park managers, we know how to create discouraging lines past meaningless obstacles that slow people’s walk toward the front.
Your church has probably erected at least one of these barriers. If we don’t work to remove them, they may appear without our realizing it.
1. We have enough new people. Why don’t we concentrate on the saved?
I know a minister told by one of his elders, “I think you should spend a little more time with the ninety-nine and not so much with the one.” He had heard the parable but missed the point.
It’s easy for a church to get comfortable with itself. It’s normal to be surprised or uneasy with crowds who don’t look or act like us. Yet they will almost always be present in a growing church. Our own comfort may be one of the most common and harmful barriers to growth. We must remove it.
2. I’m just way to busy to think ahead.
Producing a weekly worship service and running a church program take time and energy and attention. Many church leaders are so focused on Sunday-to-Sunday they lose sight of the big picture and their ultimate goals. They don’t put boundaries on their time. They fail to plan. They never allow themselves to think further out than seven days. They allow the tyranny of the urgent to become a barrier in the way of leading people to Jesus.
3. We’ve always done it this way.
We’ve heard workshops and read articles about this one for many years, but still it doesn’t seem to go away. Our culture is changing so fast that even “new” approaches can quickly become outmoded.
But we must meet people where they are today. Of course, the principles of the gospel never change, but methods always will. At home we switch out our furniture and our wardrobes every few years so they won’t get dated. Why don’t we adopt the same strategy at church?
4. This is just too hard.
In his book Leadership Pain Samuel Chand says your ability to build a great church is in direct proportion to your pain tolerance. “Growing a church is more difficult than anyone realizes,” Cal Jernigan told me. “It may sound easy when we hear about it in a conference. But the guys who do significant things have developed the ability to fight through the pain.”
When we take up this fight, we make the path easier for those on the outside waiting to get in. Removing the barriers for them will seldom be easy. But for our churches to grow, it will always be necessary.
What’s the biggest barrier to growth you’re trying to remove at your church?