Author Archives: mcdcadmin

5 reasons some pastors are loners—and why that’s not good

I admit it. I have a tendency to be a loner. I like my personal space and my private time. I recognize, though, that my tendencies aren’t always the best for a pastor. Here are my reflections on others like me:

Why Some of Us are Loners

1. Some of us are naturally introverts. In fact, I’m convinced many pastors are introverts, but we’ve learned how to manage the public responsibilities of shepherding a church. Fellowship gatherings drain us, but we go anyway because we know we need to. If we don’t have our alone time, however, we’d never rejuvenate.

2. Some have been hurt in the past. It doesn’t take many experiences of sharing ministry with others, becoming best friends with your staff, opening up to members . . . and then getting wounded . . . before you become a loner out of self-protection.

3. It’s easier to do ministry alone. It takes less time to make a visit if I go by myself. I don’t have to worry about anybody’s schedule. Lunch takes less time if it’s not connected to hanging out with another believer. We even spiritualize our thinking: “we can get more done for God’s glory this way.”

4. It’s risky to be vulnerable. If I never invite others into my life, I never need to talk about my fears, my weaknesses, my failures. Nobody learns that I sometimes struggle as a spouse or a parent. Nobody knows that my confidence sometimes masks my insecurities.

5. It’s the only model we know. Too few of us had someone pour into our lives when we were young pastors. We have learned the lessons of ministry the hard way – by ourselves – and we’ve learned how to survive on our own.

Why that Pattern’s Not Good

1. It misses the point that God created us to be with others. When God said in the Garden, “It is not good for man to be alone,” He was not talking about a consequence of the fall. He spoke prior to the fall – showing He created us to be in relationship with others. He did not intend us to do ministry by ourselves.

2. It misses the way Jesus did ministry. Jesus always got it right: He knew how to balance His time with the Father and with others. He called individuals, preached to the hundreds, and fed the thousands – all while also patiently investing in a few men. Even in his toughest moments (like the Garden of Gethsemane), He wanted men with Him.

3. It’s dangerous. Let’s be honest: we often make our dumbest decisions when we are alone. Isolation breeds trouble, and that trouble sometimes costs us our ministry. I have met very few leaders who fell when they were sharing life and ministry with others.

4. It can be self-centered. It sounds odd to say that my desire to work alone can somehow be self-centered, but it can be. It’s My space. My plans. My ministry. Meanwhile, I share little with others who might long to learn beside their pastor.

5. It’s not good leadership. Most of us know this truth intellectually, but we don’t practically live it out. If my departure from a church leaves a hole that seriously slows the congregation’s work, I have not been the best leader. I’ve probably, intentionally or unintentionally, built a kingdom around me – and that’s not good.
What Should We Do?

Admit our tendencies. Ask God for courage and wisdom to invest in someone else. Find 1-3 other believers into whose lives we might invest ourselves. Then, do something with these other leaders. Each step will help you break the pattern of being a loner.

Chuck Lawless currently serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions and Dean of Graduate Studies at Southeastern Seminary. This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on May 4. 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 seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer

Is it wrong for churches to entertain people?

A couple of weeks ago someone from our church posted a John Wimber quote on my Facebook page. Wimber wrote, “I’m concerned the Church has become more of a theatre experience, rather than a meeting place for people to encounter & interact with God. People don’t need more entertainment; they need to encounter the King.”

It’s a great quote, and I certainly agree with the sentiment of it, but I felt there was a reason this man posted the quote – a reason that was more than it being just a great quote. I asked him and I was right. He said he came across the quote when I was promoting our recent Good Friday service and it appeared to him that the service could perhaps contain entertainment.

All of this got me thinking about the question “Is it wrong for the church to entertain people?” Before I give my thoughts on this let me say that I agree with John Wimber in that entertainment is not the church’s purpose or goal. He was observing a phenomena that was rising in his day when the church was becoming increasingly a “theatre” experience that was more seeker-sensitive than Spirit-sensitive. I believe the main reasons we are to gather are to encounter God, grow deeper in our relationship with Him as well as to strengthen our relationships with each other.

But is it wrong to entertain people in the process of achieving these goals? Are they mutually exclusive? If we entertain people do they not encounter God? Can people only encounter and interact with the King if they are not entertained?

For answers to these questions we need look no further than the way Jesus taught as well as the content of the Bible. The vast majority of Jesus’ teaching was in story form (Parables). Telling stories was the primary entertainment of the masses in Jesus’ time. After a long discourse (recorded in Mark 12) that contained stories, an amazing answer to religious leaders who were trying to trap Jesus, and then a blunt rebuke to one of the leading religious sects (the Sadducees) the people were enthralled. Mark says, “The large crowd listened to him with delight” (Mark 12:37). Were they entertained? Absolutely! They were rapt. Their emotions were stirred. I can hear them whooping and cheering. Jesus entertained people and, while they were engaged, they encountered and interacted with God.

The Bible is full of language and writing that entertains people – there’s history, poetry, stories, drama, suspense, hyperbole, miracles, sinister plots (think Haman and Esther), proverbs, songs, fantasy, humor and a whole lot more. God could have given us a two-sided A4 page with “Things to do” on one side and “Things not to do” on the other, but instead He gave us a book that engages and entertains the imagination and enables us to encounter Him on every page.

Unfortunately many churches today see life in black and white and shades of grey. What a shame when the very nature of God in creation is so full of colour and entertainment that engages our senses. See the incredible variety of animals and plants, taste the amazing foods, smell the aromas of coffee & freshly baked bread, hear the sounds of birds singing their song, let sand run through your fingers on a warm day. God’s creation entertains and engages us and through it we can encounter Him. Should not the church gathering reflect these same qualities? I love encountering God in our church and all of the ingredients of our services make this possible.

In Jesus’ day people were entertained by stories. Today telling stories is still a big way of engaging people and communicating truth. In Today’s society however, we are blessed with technology. We can communicate, engage and yes, entertain people through film, social media, drama, dance, music, lights, pictures, artwork and so much more. In an age where the adult attention span has reduced to an average of six minutes I believe that entertaining people is even more important because if they tune out how will we communicate life-changing truth?

Is it wrong for the church to entertain people? Not at all!
Rob Buckingham is the senior pastor of Bayside Church – www.baysidechurch.com.au

Do you work with a fool?

Have you ever had a boss or employee who wouldn’t take feedback or correction? You tried to coach them, or help them see how they were coming across to others, but they didn’t seem to hear you?

Henry Cloud, in his book Necessary Endings, says there are wise people and foolish people, and they are determined by how they accept feedback:

1.Wise People – when truth presents itself, the wise person sees the light, takes it in, and makes adjustments.
2.Foolish People – the fool tries to adjust the truth so he does not have to adjust to it.

You’ve all met the fool. At times they are fun to work with, but other times they suck the life out of the team because of the way they respond to feedback. When a fool runs an organization, people just stop trying to offer feedback, as they know it’s futile.

Cloud offers a list of “Traits of Foolish Persons” that is fantastic. I offer an abridged version of his list here:
•When given feedback, they are defensive and immediately come back at you with a reason why it is not their fault.
•When a mistake is made, they externalize the mistake and blame someone else.
•Unlike the wise person, with whom talking through issues strengthens your relationships, with the foolish person, attempts to talk about problems create conflict, alienation, or a breach in the relationship.
•The fool immediately shifts the blame to you as they “shoot the messenger” and somehow make it your fault.
•Their emotional response has nothing to do with remorse; instead they get angry at you with such lines as, “You never think I do anything right,” or “How could you bring this up after all I have done?”
•They have little or no awareness for the pain or frustration they are causing others or the mission. They are oblivious to the collateral damage they are causing.
•They see themselves as the victim, and see people who confront them as persecutors for pointing out the problem.
•Their world is divided into the good guys and the bad guys. The good ones are the ones who agree with them and see them as good, and the bad ones are the ones who don’t think that they are perfect.

If a foolish person works for you, and you are still holding out hope that they will change–let it go. Cloud says, “The necessary ending that you have to initiate with people caught in their own foolishness is to end the pattern…Talking will not help, but doing something that causes them to feel the consequences of their behavior may be what finally turns them around.”

And if you work for a fool–you probably need to find a different job. They likely aren’t going to change, and you are going to continue to hit your head against the wall thinking differently.

“A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” (Proverbs 18:2)

Note: I wholeheartedly recommend the book by Henry Cloud from which this blog post is inspired.

You can read more from Time Stevens at www.leadingsmart.com

Tim Stevens is the Team Leader of Executive Search Consultants at Vanderbloemen Search Group. Tim has been a thought leader in the world of church and ministry for more than a dozen years and blogs at LeadingSmart.com. He has a passion for helping churches connect with people who think church is irrelevant and believes that finding the right staff is the most important and crucial ingredient to the success of any church. Tim is acutely tuned in to pop culture, and has been instrumental in building creative teams, inspiring artists and empowering leaders. Stevens has co-authored three books in the “Simply Strategic” series, is author of Pop Goes the Church and Vision: Lost and Found. His brand new book, Fairness is Overrated, will be released by Thomas Nelson in January 2015. You can connect with Tim on Twitter @timastevens, or at facebook.com/tstevens

Top ten ways churches drive away first-time guests

If you attend a church regularly, you’ve probably noticed the phenomenon. A guest shows up for a worship service, but he or she never returns. It is, unfortunately, a common issue in many churches.

I did a Twitter poll to ask these first-time guests why they chose not to return to a particular church. While some of the responses were anticipated, I admit being a bit surprised with some of them.

Though my poll is not scientific, it is nevertheless fascinating. Here are the top ten responses in order of frequency.

1.Having a stand up and greet one another time in the worship service. This response was my greatest surprise for two reasons. First, I was surprised how much guests are really uncomfortable during this time. Second, I was really surprised that it was the most frequent response.

2.Unfriendly church members. This response was anticipated. But the surprise was the number of respondents who included non-genuine friendliness in their answers. In other words, the guests perceived some of the church members were faking it.

3.Unsafe and unclean children’s area. This response generated the greatest emotional reactions. If your church does not give a high priority to children, don’t expect young families to attend.
4.No place to get information. If your church does not have a clear and obvious place to get information, you probably have lowered the chances of a return visit by half. There should also be someone to greet and assist guests at that information center as well.

5.Bad church website. Most of the church guests went to the church website before they attended a worship service. Even if they attended the service after visiting a bad website, they attended with a prejudicial perspective. The two indispensable items guests want on a website are address and times of service. It’s just that basic.
6.Poor signage. If you have been attending a church for a few weeks, you forget all about the signage. You don’t need it any more. But guests do. And they are frustrated when it’s not there.

7.Insider church language. Most of the respondents were not referring to theological language as much as language that only the members know. My favorite example was: “The WMU will meet in the CLC in the room where the GAs usually meet.”

8.Boring or bad service. My surprise was not the presence of this item. The surprise was that it was not ranked higher.

9.Members telling guests that they were in their seat or pew. Yes, this obviously still takes place in some churches.
10.Dirty facilities. Some of the comments: “Didn’t look like it had been cleaned in a week.” “No trash cans anywhere.” Restrooms were worse than a bad truck stop.” “Pews had more stains than a Tide commercial.”

There you have it. The top ten reasons first-time guests said they did not return to a church. I can’t wait to hear from you readers. You always have such good additions and insights.

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on November 2014. 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 seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

Effective video for your church service

When I worked in commercial television (a long time ago now) I’d often get asked by an advertiser or one of the station’s salespeople, ‘can you do …’ and they’d mention some quite involved location shoot or special effect.

My answer was always, ‘with an unlimited budget and unlimited time, we can do anything.’ Of course there was always a limited budget and the commercial had to be finished by the end of the week.

Whilst the technology I now use has changed dramatically since those days, video producers still face limits on budget and time. The challenge is how to work within them.

Churches have been using video to communicate their message ever since television was invented. When the Billy Graham organisation came to Australia for their second visit in 1968, almost ten years after the historic ’59 Crusade, they brought their own colour television equipment with them.

The use of video by local churches was made possible by the invention of data and video projectors. Now you can show a video image on a large screen or screens that can be easily seen, even in large auditoriums.

But whilst the technology is there, producing engaging video is always a challenge, especially with next to no budget and a ‘we want this by Sunday’ timeline.

Karl Faase, former Senior Pastor of Gymea Baptist Church and now CEO of Olive Tree Media, producers of the acclaimed ‘Towards Belief’ series, has some great points on using video from a Senior Pastor’s point of view.

“Video segments in the context of worship services or messages can be very helpful to illustrate, focus and clarify your point or to create the tension that you will seek to resolve as you speak. The following are worth keeping in mind.

1. Keep them short – you really only have two to three minutes to make your point in a video presentation in a service. Very few videos are a high enough standard to hold peoples attention for longer than a couple of minutes and then the video becomes a distraction rather than a helpful addition

2. Take care that the video does not take you on a tangent – the video must be strongly and directly related to the point you are seeking to make or building the question you are seeking to answer. Editing and planning are crucial here. If the video contains a lot of unrelated or unhelpful material then it will cause people to be directed away from, not towards your message

3. Stay on the topic – many videographers and editors are looking to demonstrate how clever they are rather than communicate the point you are trying to make. As graciously and gently as possible keep them to the topic.

4. Keep the video moving – very few people on a video can keep an audiences attention for longer than 10 – 20 seconds without a change of angle, scene or the point being made (Rob Bell’s Nooma series is a rare exception).

5. We can be fooled by the idea that because it’s a video it will hold people’s attention. In fact it may actually have the opposite effect if the presenter on the video is average or the video feels slow and dull.

6. Beware of video for videos sake – ask if the video is really adding to what you are seeking to do. Just because you can show a video does not mean that you should.”

Karl was always ‘gracious and kind’ when he and I worked together. But what does this mean for local churches in 2015?

Firstly, focus on finding a great story to tell, not what camera to use. Every church is full of people who have come to faith in difficult circumstances, overcoming illness or an accident. Telling one person’s faith story can illustrate the vision of the whole church. Church videos should be about emotion, not facts and figures.

Secondly, get the person to tell their own story. With so many cameras around today – people are used to having one pointed at them. Find a comfortable, quiet setting and encourage them to chat naturally to an interviewer.

Find appropriate overlay or B roll shots to enhance the story. These can be still images brought to life with pans or gentle zooms, or live action as the person visits a place of significance.

Enhance the emotional highs and lows with music. Finding the right music track can really support the story.

Use an experienced videographer. Poor framing, lighting and sound detract from the story.

One of the points I make on my ProVideoBlogger.com.au blog is that we all see well crafted stories every night on TV. Watch how they do it – and then see how you can improve your video story telling.

We all love using the latest camera – whether it’s the RED, Blackmagic or the latest DSLR. Certainly you need quality images and sound, but the focus should be on telling an engaging story.
____________________________________________________________________

* Martin Johnson has spent 30 + years working in film and television, including 20 years at Wesley Mission and with Christian Television Australia. He now runs his own video production business and blogs at provideoblogger.com.au

Are you smiling?

Runners never seem to smile.” This comment, from someone who clearly had a disdain for running, was made during a break in a seminar. Since I’m a runner, I disagreed. But then I thought further and realized she had a point. I don’t smile when I run. It is a strenuous activity, so even though I love it, my enjoyment doesn’t translate into my facial expression. When it comes to running, that’s not a problem.

Leadership is hard work as well. In contrast to running, however, those who are around you need to know that you find joy in your job. I am not talking about superficial happiness or a grin-and-bear-it expression. You should be passionate about your ministry and should find a deep satisfaction in the opportunity to lead. If that is missing, what does it communicate to those who follow?

Here’s the difference in the two activities. When I run, it’s for my own benefit. Even though I know there’s great value in running, I’m not trying to recruit anyone else to my cause.

In contrast, you never lead solely for your benefit. There are always others to motivate in order to achieve a bigger purpose. If you want their best, you need to show that the benefits are worth the effort and that there can be joy in the journey. Sure, the work is serious, but if they only see you frown (or grimmace or complain), they may wonder why they should go the extra mile. So how often do they see you smile?

Mike Bonem helps churches and ministries turn visions into results. His consulting focuses on strategic planning and organizational design, and his coaching emphasizes the development of individual leaders. He is the author of three books on ministry leadership, including Leading From the Second Chair. You can read more about Mike and his work at www.mikebonem.com

Advent: The Clergy

When [Herod] had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. (Matthew 2:4)

We are looking at the experiences of various people during the events of the first Christmas and this is the one that troubles me the most: it involves the ‘seriously religious’ people. These people do not come out well in the Christmas story.

These are the good guys; they are the keepers of the law, the teachers. These are God’s people up against an evil king. And sadly they don’t even put up a fight.

There is a prayer of confession in the Book of Common Prayer, which says, ‘We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done, and there is no health in us.’ It acknowledges that there are both sins of omission – failing to do what is right – and sins of commission – doing what is wrong. Both are present here.

The sin that the religious authorities commit is to tell Herod where the Messiah is to be born. They must have known that when faced with a threat, Herod shifted into ‘psycho’ mode and the blood flowed. Yet in Luke’s description of their meeting we see no hint of the religious authorities having any desire to protect their potential Messiah: no hiding of the key text.

Instead, they simply respond to the king’s request with a submissive, ‘It’s Bethlehem in Judea, your Majesty.’ To make matters worse they then quote Micah 5:2 with its statement that the child born there will not simply be Messiah, but ruler over Israel. Anything more inclined to trigger an outbreak of pre-emptive murderous rage is hard to imagine.

The good that the religious authorities omit is to find the Messiah and worship him themselves. There is no mention in the Gospels that the religious world bothered to take the five-mile trip south to Bethlehem.

It isn’t very impressive, is it? Given that so many of us approaching this Christmas season fit firmly in the category of ‘religious people’ we really need to ask what went wrong here. I suggest it comes down to fear.

The religious authorities probably supplied the right answer to Herod because they feared for their lives. Yet this sort of cowardice is actually idolatry and in the Old Testament it is condemned. We live in a culture where it has become ‘popular’ to be anti-Christian, so it’s very tempting to keep quiet about Christ at Christmas.

Let’s not be afraid of fear. Let us stand up for our faith.

J.John
Revd Canon
www.canonjjohn.com

J.John (Revd Canon) lives in Chorleywood, Hertfordshire in England. He is married to Killy and they have three sons and one daughter-in-law.

Advent: The Magi

On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)

The star that led the Magi reappears over Bethlehem and they follow it and find the house. Bethlehem was a quiet, agricultural and respectably Jewish village. Imagine the entourage of the Magi arriving: two worlds are colliding.

The Magi enter and see Mary and the child. They bow down and worship him and offer him gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. What’s going on here? God’s good news is being revealed to those who are not of the Jewish faith. Matthew is hinting at something that will become clear with Jesus’ final words: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations . . .’ In cinema terms the visit of the Magi is a like a trailer for a forthcoming feature – the new, global world of the church.

The Magi are also models for faith.

• They searched for Jesus. The Magi’s journey to faith – perhaps their journey of faith – was not easy. If they came from Babylon, their journey would have taken them forty days. If you are searching for Jesus, take encouragement from this; your road may be long but if you persist you will find him.
• They were overjoyed at encountering Jesus. We read that when they saw the star they were overjoyed. And for all the problems that may come with turning to Christ, this pattern remains. To find Jesus is to find joy.
• They worshipped Jesus. As the Magi kneeled before the infant we have no idea what was going through their minds. They knew very little about who he was, but they bowed down and worshipped him.
• They offered Jesus gifts. Putting aside any symbolic interpretation of the gifts we can simply see this action as them giving him what was costly to them. We cannot offer Jesus cheap discipleship.

We must give him what he is worth. Not just in treasure, but also with our time and talents. In 1872 Christina Rossetti wrote ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’. The last verse reads:

‘What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart.’

The Magi are models for us: to search for Jesus, to experience joy, to worship and to offer him what we have and are to him.

J.John
Revd Canon
www.canonjjohn.com

Advent – Herod The Great

Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, ‘Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.’ (Matthew 2:7–8)

Some people feel that King Herod is too nasty to belong in the Christmas story. Known as ‘Herod the Great’ his achievements were legendary. He had outlasted countless rebellions and outmanoeuvred innumerable coups. Only half Jewish by birth and not terribly committed to the Jewish religion, Herod always felt vulnerable.

Jesus’ birth probably occurred towards the end of Herod’s life. By this point, the aged Herod was politically and mentally unstable; his remarkable instinct for survival had degenerated into a deep, ruthless and furious paranoia. And so, into Herod’s city of Jerusalem, the Magi came – and their arrival would have been impossible to overlook. There would have been an exotic entourage: servants, camel handlers, translators, cooks. After all, if you are going to meet royalty, you don’t travel light.

Yet for all their wisdom, these men asked precisely the wrong question. People like Herod inevitably have a network of informers and it is presumably through them that he heard what they were asking. He consults his religious advisers and then summons the Magi to a secret meeting. Herod has lost none of his cunning and when someone with his track record detects a threat it’s time for everybody to be very concerned.

We do no good by removing evil from the Christmas story. All we do is create an unreal world and water down the significance of the message of Christmas, the glorious truth that, in this infant, God himself has come to do battle with the powers of evil.

Ironically, the idea that this Messiah has come to fight evil is a truth that Herod seems to have sensed correctly. He seems to have known that the coming of the Messiah was such bad news for him that it could only be dealt with by brutal force. He knows that this child is a threat to him and to all like him. This has not changed.

To all who love him and all he stands for, Jesus offers the promise of an indestructible hope; yet to all who have contempt for him, his coming brings inescapable judgement. The birth of the child in Bethlehem proclaims to the whole world, ‘God’s justice is coming.’

That’s a challenge that the world needs to hear.

J.John
Revd Canon
www.canonjjohn.com

J.John (Revd Canon) lives in Chorleywood, Hertfordshire in England. He is married to Killy and they have three sons and one daughter-in-law.

The Rise of The Dones

John is every pastor’s dream member. He’s a life-long believer, well-studied in the Bible, gives generously, and leads others passionately.

But last year he dropped out of church. He didn’t switch to the other church down the road. He dropped out completely. His departure wasn’t the result of an ugly encounter with a staff person or another member. It wasn’t triggered by any single event.

John had come to a long-considered, thoughtful decision. He said, “I’m just done. I’m done with church.”

John is one in a growing multitude of ex-members. They’re sometimes called the de-churched. They have not abandoned their faith. They have not joined the also-growing legion of those with no religious affiliation–often called the Nones. Rather, John has joined the Dones.

At Group’s recent Future of the Church conference, sociologist Josh Packard shared some of his groundbreaking research on the Dones. He explained these de-churched were among the most dedicated and active people in their congregations. To an increasing degree, the church is losing its best.

For the church, this phenomenon sets up a growing danger. The very people on whom a church relies for lay leadership, service and financial support, are going away. And the problem is compounded by the fact that younger people in the next generation, the Millennials, are not lining up to refill the emptying pews.

Why are the Dones done? Packard describes several factors in his upcoming book, Church Refugees (Group). Among the reasons: After sitting through countless sermons and Bible studies, they feel they’ve heard it all. One of Packard’s interviewees said, “I’m tired of being lectured to. I’m just done with having some guy tell me what to do.”

The Dones are fatigued with the Sunday routine of plop, pray and pay. They want to play. They want to participate. But they feel spurned at every turn.

Will the Dones return? Not likely, according to the research. They’re done. Packard says it would be more fruitful if churches would focus on not losing these people in the first place. Preventing an exodus is far easier than attempting to convince refugees to return.

Pastors and other ministry leaders would benefit from asking and listening to these long-time members, before they flee. This will require a change of habit. When it comes to listening, church leaders are too often in the habit of fawning over celebrity pastors for answers. It would be far more fruitful to take that time and spend it with real people nearby–existing members. Ask them some good questions, such as:
•Why are you a part of this church?
•What keeps you here?
•Have you ever contemplated stepping away from church? Why or why not?
•How would you describe your relationship with God right now?
•How has your relationship with God changed over the past few years?
•What effect, if any, has our church had on your relationship with God?
•What would need to change here to help you grow more toward Jesus’ call to love God and love others?

It’s time to listen. Even as I’m writing this today, another high-capacity lay leader emailed me with his decision to leave his church. He’s done. Like many others I know, he’s also a nationally known Christian leader. But he’s done.

Your church, even if it’s one of the rare growing ones, is sitting on a ticking time bomb. The exodus of the Dones, the rise of the Nones, and the disappearance of the Millennials do not look good for a church afraid to listen.

It’s not too late to start.

(Thom Schultz is the co-author of Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore.)www.holysoup.com