Recently, I was asked about the greatest obstacles to church growth I see in evangelical churches. Based on my consultations and studies, here are some of the primary ones I’ve seen:
- A worn-out pastor. When the shepherd is exhausted—and often hurting because of conflict—it’s tough to have an outward, evangelistic focus.
- Inward focus. No church naturally defaults into an outward focus; instead, they turn inward to meet internal needs unless they intentionally fight against that trend.
- Bad preaching. Sometimes it’s not as biblically sound as it should be. At other times, it’s less than exciting. Either way, it doesn’t lead to growth.
- Evangelistic apathy. This, too, often starts at the top. A church that’s lost its fire for evangelism usually settles into maintenance mode.
- No growth strategy. The church assumes that just because they gather and enjoy it, others will come automatically. Meanwhile, the enemy who is a strategist (Eph. 6:10-12) works his plans to keep people away from the gospel.
- Turf wars. It’s tough to reach outside the church when everybody’s fighting to keep his power inside church. Plus, non-believers aren’t interested in stepping into a battleground.
- Prayerlessness. I know this one sounds like a “super-spiritual” reason, but I’m not shocked by the correlation between churches that don’t pray much and churches that don’t grow much.
- Space issues. This reason’s at least a positive one: the congregation has outgrown its parking and/or facility space. The crowd won’t come where the crowd won’t fit.
- Poor discipleship. When baby believers remain babies after years of being believers, they tend to become whiners – and churches let that happen when they have no strategy to help babies grow.
- Retreat mentality. I’ve said for years that the church has become a place to retreat from the battles rather than a place to get re-armed for the war. The church in retreat won’t grow.
Which of these obstacles most marks churches you know? What would you add to the list?