Do you want your church to experience a turnaround? If so, why?
There are a lot of good reasons. Among them, you might want to see your church move from:
- Unhealthy to healthy
- Inward-obsessed to outward-focused
- Stuck in the past to excited about the future
- Unloving to loving
- Uninviting to inviting
- Legalistic to joyous
- Shallow to deep
- Passive to active
- Struggling to vibrant
- Hurting to life-giving
But there are some misunderstandings on this subject. What one person means by a church turnaround might be completely different from what another person means.
So here are three things I don’t mean when I talk about a church turnaround.
(Today is the first post in Turnaround Week here at the Pivot blog.)
Turnaround Does NOT Mean…
If you’re looking for ways to make your church bigger, the turnaround posts this week are not for you. In fact, almost nothing I write will be helpful to you.
It’s not that a numerically growing church is wrong. It’s great – especially when it’s also kingdom growth. It’s just not what I do. I tried to grow my church, and failed at it. So I won’t pretend I can help you do it.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that your church has turned around just because it’s growing numerically. Or that it hasn’t if it isn’t. They aren’t necessarily the same thing.
Some churches need to be stripped down, emptied out, and started all over again.
Turnaround is not about that.
Very few churches need a total reboot. The need is rare enough that I wonder why anyone would bother with the dismantling process, at all. Why destroy an old church, when you can just plant a new one? If it’s because you want to use a pre-existing building, I’ve never seen a building that’s been worth that hassle.
Turnaround is not about destroying one church to build another one.
When I talk about a church turnaround, I mean taking an existing church, using its DNA, working with its congregation, re-discovering what drew people to it to begin with, then building on that core to see something new spring up.
Sometimes it means tweaking and redirecting existing good ideas to better uses. In other situations it means years of lovingly nurturing an all-but-dead plant back to life again.
This is spiritual healing, not spiritual demolition.
One of the biggest turnaround mistakes I see pastors make is thinking they know what the final product should look like.
If you want to turn your church around so it can look like a photo in your head, you’re in for a world of disappointment.
A church is not the pastor’s pet project. It is a living, breathing organism, designed by God and filled with people. And both of them – God and the people – have a greater stake in it than we do. And they’re pretty stubborn about it.
A church won’t go where you want it to go. It will go where the dynamic relationship between God and the people take it.
It’s not the pastor’s job to create something new. Or to duplicate something you saw at another church. The mature pastor recognizes that we are explorers, not inventors. Our role is to serve as a spiritual guide, leading people into a clearer understanding of God and a deeper relationship with him, then to stand back and see what that relationship ignites.
One of the best phrases I ever heard a pastor utter was spoken by a lead minister whose church was in the middle of a turnaround. It was going well, but the changes hadn’t been what the pastor had expected. He knew the final product wasn’t going to look like the picture in his head.
But he was okay with that. As he put it, “I’ve learned to worship God in a style of music that I don’t like.” Oh, for more pastors like that.
You won’t like everything that happens when God and the congregation start talking to each other again. But it’s not about you.
Perhaps the biggest challenge, need and obstacle to having a turnaround church is this: A turnaround church needs a turned-around pastor.
We take a look at that in my follow-up post, The 4 Most Overlooked Needs for a Turnaround Church.
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