Tag Archives: Thom Rainer
I spend a lot of time during my job talking about “market volatility.” It’s something people know exists, don’t quite understand, and have a lot of questions about. So I spend time explaining it, calming fears, and answering questions. As I thought about “market volatility” I was struck by a couple of articles that made me realize the pastorate is one of the most volatile markets in existence.
When we think of volatile markets we think of ups and downs, gains and losses. If you’re an investor you think of your account value and what the market does to your investment. When the market goes down you incur a loss that can take some time to recuperate. When the market goes up you see a gain that you want to protect. It’s easy to see how the pastorate is very much like the market in its volatility; ups and downs, gains and losses.
But while historically the market has always had periods of volatility – and that doesn’t look to end anytime soon – the pastorate doesn’t have to continue as a place of volatility.
A recent article at The Blaze shared the results of a study conducted by LifeWay Research. The study centered on the main reasons pastors quit the pastorate before retirement age. The study boiled the answers of 734 former senior pastors down to five main reasons:
I wrote not long ago about mean people in the church. Sadly, if you’ve been going to church for any length of time, you’ve had an encounter with someone that is known to be mean.
It seems I’m not alone in my discouragement over the growing number of mean people (and mean churches) that give Christ and His church a bad name. In fact, if you’ve never read about “The Dones,” you will find it fascinating. This group, which is the fastest growing group of people is characterized as: once faithfully committed church members walking away from the church because they are tired of the abuse inside the church.
One common trait among The Dones that I have noticed is that they say they are fed up with the mean-spirited, abusive people in the church. One person recently wrote a letter to Lifeway President Thom Rainer saying:
“The non-Christians I associate with are much nicer people than the members of my church.”
As stinging a comment as that may be, it is also very true in many cases. I’ve often said that church people are some of the meanest I’ve ever known. An old adage says “if you want to learn to fight, join a church committee.” I didn’t say it was a good adage.
In case you didn’t know, Lifeway Christian Stores, the main retail outlet owned by the Southern Baptist Convention, has announced it will pull all “heaven visitation items” from their shelves. This is a great announcement, but one that comes with a bitter side.
If you are wondering what a “heaven visitation item” is, it is simply any book or DVD sharing the personal account of a visitation to heaven. Think: “Heaven is for Real,” or “The boy Who Came Back from Heaven.” These accounts are supposedly the tales of people who for one reason or another (trauma, accident) claim to have visited heaven but came back. They are sharing their accounts via books and movies under the guise of “heaven visitation.”
So why is it a good thing that Lifeway is pulling such items from their shelves? Well, for starters, the accounts given by most people who claim to have died and gone to heaven contradict accounts in the Bible. For this reason such claims cannot be trusted, and should not be given credit by Christians.
Let’s take for a moment the account given by Alex Malarkey. He is the teenager that claimed is his 2010 book “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven” to have died during a medical emergency, visited heaven, then came back. The book was a big success and Malarkey and his family made a lot of money on the back of that account.
But, just recently Malarkey released a statement saying the whole thing was made up. Kind of ironic considering his last name. Or perhaps more apropos. Malarkey’s statement reads in part:
Over the last few years I have sought to become a student of church health and growth. I grew up in churches that were of varying sizes and was always struck by the differences. What exactly makes a church grow? Why do some churches grow strong and healthy while others seem to limp along barely surviving?
The answers to those questions are vital to the health, growth, and longevity of the church.
In my search to understand the difference between a growing, healthy church and a declining church I read a lot. I make it a point to read the research and studies of church health and growth experts. In reading so much I have noticed trends among the experts regarding what it takes to reach younger generations and have a growing, healthy church. Let me share a couple of those trends with you.
I’m just looking at three of the most recent articles I’ve come across relating to church health and growth. But in each of these three articles several consistent trends appear to contribute to the decline and death of the church.
Chuck Lawless, writing at Thom Rainer’s website, shares some insight on why many churches talk about the Great Commission but rarely do anything or follow up their talk with action. These points by Lawless are very much worth considering and perhaps, unfortunately, more true of our churches than we care to admit. But without first admitting there is a problem we won’t seek to correct it. So let’s be honest, admit there is a problem, the figure out how to make it right.
In seventeen years of doing church consulting, no church leader has said to me, “Our church really doesn’t want to do the Great Commission.” I’ve worked with many churches, though, that proclaim the Great Commission but never get around to doing it. Here are my conclusions about why churches so often fit this description.
Church leaders talk the language without letting the biblical texts “sink in.” They speak about the Great Commission because the Bible so obviously commands it (Matt. 28:18-20, Mark 16:15, Luke 24:45-47, John 20:21, Acts 1:8). I suspect many leaders, though, echo the words out of evangelical habit more than out of heartfelt burden. When we proclaim the message without obeying the command, the words have not settled firmly in our heart.