A few years ago, I attended a seminar on church growth. The leader of the seminar was the new preacher at a large, but declining church. He had been called to lead the congregation out of this period of stagnation and into a new era of growth.
The preacher said that he had studied the history of the church. It had once been a vibrant congregation that was blessed with visionary leaders who made bold decisions. Their cutting-edge initiatives were well-received by the congregation, and the church enjoyed a time of numerical growth. They were making a huge difference in their community and earned a reputation as a church that other congregations could learn from. They maintained this momentum for several decades.
Then, for some unknown reason, the church became timid. They copied other churches and made the mistake of adopting a set of legalistic rules and regulations that served to handcuff the leadership. Rather than allowing the elders to make the most important decisions, the congregation began to vote on important matters. (Show me where that ever happened in the Bible!) Non-leaders were given the task of making leadership decisions, and you can imagine how that turned out. Those who were gifted with leadership abilities became tentative, and were reluctant to try to truly lead. The church not only stagnated, it headed into a downward spiral that continued for years. Attendance dropped by about 40%. The congregation was no longer a model for other churches to follow.
Romans 12:6-8 says, “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is…leadership, let him govern diligently…”
This is good biblical advice for everyone, both leaders and non-leaders. Let the leaders lead! Many churches are paying a huge price for ignoring this part of God’s word.
Oh, and the preacher who was called to help the stagnant church? He presented the congregation with the same findings that he shared with us at the seminar. He wasn’t their preacher very much longer after that. What a shame!