Is Your Church Expectant or Reactionary?

Most churches that seek consulting do so after they’ve recognized a problem; that is, they’re responding to something by asking for outside help. The process itself often reveals a problem that inflicts most churches: they are reactionary rather than expectant congregations. Review these characteristics below to see where your church is on this “expectant vs. reactionary” spectrum:


Expectant churches have a clear Great Commission vision. That vision is evident in their staffing, their programming, and even their conversations. What God has in store for them in the future really matters.

Reactionary churches, on the other hand, have goals that are often more about guarding their tradition than reaching the unchurched; surviving the world’s onslaught rather than being light in the world; protecting positions rather than offering life.


Expectant churches have leaders who are “ignitors.” That is, they have a passion for igniting the fire in others. By faith, they see potential and promise in others. They invest in the next generation.

Reactionary churches, though, have leaders who are more “firemen” than ignitors. Firemen spend their time putting out troublesome fires. They seldom have time or energy left for developing and casting vision.


Expectant churches have an intentional, strategic prayer ministry. Staff members pray regularly with each other. Small groups include prayer leaders. They often have a leader for the church’s overall prayer ministry.

Reactionary churches only respond in prayer. In fact, many churches pray only when needs are added to a prayer list—after the problem has developed. Prayer is more a band-aid than the DNA of a reactionary church.


Expectant churches understand that the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) is about going. They think about, pray for, plan for, and reach out to people who have never attended as well as those currently attending. They seek to reach the nations.

Reactionary churches are instead inwardly focused. No church would ever include this motto on their website, but reactionary churches often live this way: “We’re here, and you know how to find us if you wish. We’ll respond when you get here.”


Expectant churches enthusiastically talk about “what’s next” for their congregation. They’re always experiencing “excited chaos” because leaders are continually calling them to the next level. Stagnation rather than change is most alarming.

Reactionary churches, however, don’t prepare for the future; they fight to protect the past. Little has changed for years, if not for decades. The norm is so routine that members would be uncomfortable if God did something not already scheduled in their church’s bulletin.


Expectant churches, by definition, expect God to grow their congregation. These churches rejoice publicly as God adds to the church (Acts 2:47), and they grieve when growth doesn’t happen. They have in place a strategy to grow new believers in their congregation.

Reactionary churches are not only unprepared for growth, they are surprised by it. Any growth is unexpected and startling – threatening, even, if the growth requires change.

Where does your church fall on this spectrum?



  • Robin G Jordan says:

    Your article is right on the button. Reactionary churches, I would add, question the need for a church bulletin. After all, “everyone knows the order of service and we have a hymn board for the hymns.” I knew my church was reactionary when I first began to preach at the church. I just did not know how reactionary.

  • Jerry N Watts says:

    GREAT WORD Chuck….I might add a DISCIPLESHIP heading –
    Expectant Churches See their task of making disciples who make disciples as our response to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
    Reactionary Churches: See this task as a program which must be updated when ‘attendance’ goes down rather than an ongoing process which is a needed component to grown healthy Christ followers and church.

  • Robin G Jordan says:

    Jerry, In reactionary churches discipleship may not be on the radar screen. There may be no organized procedure for discipleship, much less one that is outdated. No Sunday school classes. No small groups. None one-to-one discipling. Even sermons, which is often the main form of discipling in small churches, are haphazard in their focus.

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