Do you like sushi?

If so, the next time you visit your local sushi bar order up a plate of finely pulverized white fish mixed with flavoring, salt, egg, flour and binders draped in red food dye 

Isn't the real thing better?
Isn’t the real thing better?

Sounds appetizing, right?

This is  why some of the solutions served up to stagnant and declining churches are so wrong.

Let me explain.

Have you noticed how many pastors end up with shelves full of three-ring binders, slick workbooks and a metastasizing collection of church growth literature, with nothing to show for their investment but personal defeat and a discouraged congregation?

Pop Evangelical Christianity, Christian media, and church growth marketing have conditioned us to serve up a cheap imitation and not the real thing We’ve been trained to strive for the bar set by others. We’ve been conditioned to look to others for answers to the problems that plague the humble practitioner of the pastoral arts.

So we’re tempted to dress, act and speak like our favorite rock stars. We sometimes want to parrot best-selling authors, popular conference speakers and social media mavens.

Bottom line?

On Sundays we offer up a highly pulverized concoction of needs-oriented homily mixed with artificial flavoring, draped in prayerless hip candor. We deny our congregations what they really need: a humble, transparent fellow-traveller on the road toward Christlikeness who happens to pay the bills by wearing the collar.

The prescribed solution is broken

I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t work. I’ve got the scars from a failed church. I lost a few years wandering in the desert of self-doubt. And I have the perspective borne of years that leads me to ask, “Why didn’t someone tell me this thirty years ago?”

Yes, a blessed few are capable of pulling it off, but they’re the 5% The rest doom themselves to lives of quiet misery, discouragement and disheartened congregations, wondering why the magic doesn’t work for them.

My colleagues and I at the Transition Ministries Group have served hundreds of churches, collecting decades of experience. We’ve served mega, mid-sized and micro churches along the West Coast, up in the Pacific Northwest, across the Upper Midwest to New England and back around to the Southwest. We have served many different denominations. Denominational executives and judicatories often refer us to their churches.

We have discovered that certain patterns appear again and again in our client churches. These patters occur regardless of the denomination, size or age of the church, or the demographic profile of the congregants or community. We’ve seen that there is only a small handful of problems that churches will encounter but underneath them all – in the majority of cases – is one common denominator.

It is the reason most churches and pastors can’t seem to solve their own problems: They look to others – respected colleagues, church members, or ministry success – and not to Christ for affirmation, love and self-worth.

Up next: confirming your identity in Christ is the first step to becoming a turnaround pastor


What causes you to feel discouraged in ministry or to doubt the call?

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