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A subtle heresy has crept into the evangelical church. It
seemed innocent enough at first, since it came from
people who love Jesus Christ and his church. These folks
meant well and sincerely wanted to stem the tide that has
been threatening to engulf us.
But the end is worse than the beginning.
The problem? Like Esau, we pastors have sold our biblical
birthright as shepherds called by God for the pottage
of skills and gimmicks designed by humans. We have misunderstood
the role of pastor and defined it incorrectly. We
have left our biblical and theological moorings.
The result? Our churches are struggling mightily,
Christians are wandering from the faith, and pastors are
burning out at alarming rates. That troubles me greatly
because I love the church. I passionately believe in the body
of Christ-yet I think it's in deep trouble.
Now, don't get me wrong. I don't believe the church is
dying and ready for burial. Too much good is happening,
especially around the world, to make such a rash statement.
I trust the Lord Jesus, and he said, "I will build my church,
and the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (Matthew
16:18). I believe his words with all my heart. Jesus intends
to conquer for the kingdom.
I also believe Satan understands that he cannot and will
not overcome the church-but he will cripple it if he can. And
believe it or not, we seem to be helping him do just that. Let
me explain what I mean.
LOSS OF INFLUENCE
No matter how you look at the statistics, they seem to
point to the same conclusion: The American church exerts
precious little influence on society. Not only is church
growth failing to keep up with the nation's birthrate, but the
behavior of those who identify themselves as Christians
cannot be distinguished statistically from those who make
no such claim.
I have pastored long enough to see firsthand the ever-decreasing
impact the American church is having for the
things of God. Others have seen this frightening trend for
Pollster and author George Barna has written several
books detailing the challenges faced by the modern church.
In a recent work he warned, "Despite the activity and
chutzpah emanating from thousands of congregations, the
Church in America is losing influence and adherents faster
than any other major institution in the nation." Then he predicted
one of two outcomes for our nation within the next
few years: either "massive spiritual revival" or "total moral
anarchy." It all depends, he said, on whether the church can
rouse itself to respond to current trends.
A PLETHORA OF ANSWERS (THAT HAVEN'T
Over the years many "experts" and consultants have
suggested a dizzying variety of cures for the church's
malaise. They spoke, and we rushed out to buy their books
and attend their seminars that so confidently promised to
lead us into an era of unprecedented success and growth-the
pastoral promised land. Strangely, even as the American
church declined, the number of resources designed to make
us more effective as pastors and to help our churches
increase their impact simply exploded. Today there is no
shortage of seminars, books, tapes, conferences, and
courses, all produced to equip us to capture a world for
Christ. Never before in the history of the church has there
been so much available to so many, yet with so little effect.
Not long ago the so-called "experts" (I've always wondered
how you get that title) came to us pastors and said,
"The best way to get people involved in the ministry of
your church is to put them on boards and committees." So
we launched countless boards and committees, recruited
warm bodies like mad, and nearly wore ourselves out shuffling
A little later a new batch of "experts" came around to
insist, "You know what? Your churches are struggling
because you pastors don't know about management. You
don't know how to manage your congregation. You don't
know how to manage the ministry. You don't know how to
manage the budgets."
So along came truckloads of books, courses, and seminars
on management, and all of us rushed out to read,
attend, and devour their wisdom. We kept hearing, "Pastor,
if your church is ever going to grow, you must learn some
basic management techniques and principles. If you attend
these seminars and read these books, you'll be better
equipped to develop mission statements, vision statements,
and strategic plans."
Of course, the "experts" failed to tell us that the people
in the business world from whom they took their theories
already knew they didn't work. They had also written big
strategic plans ... and found them useless. They stuck them
on a shelf and did nothing with them, except when stockholders
wanted to see something impressive on paper.
Excerpted from Escape from Church, Inc.
by E. Glenn Wagner
Copyright © 1999 by E. Glenn Wagner.
Excerpted by permission.
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