Featured Leadership Preaching

The Demise of the American Church

The typical American toy box is filled with miscellaneous Legos, broken action figures, and toys that should’ve been trashed years ago.  What 11-year-old boy really needs a glowworm with dead batteries?  Yet American children are simply following the example of American adults who would rather spend $1,000’s per year on storage units than to be forced into the discipline of throwing something away.  “That Teddy Ruxpin was there for me, never mind I haven’t picked it up in years.”  “That was our very first sofa, never mind it’s been sitting in storage for 20 years and wouldn’t sell for free on Craigslist.”

We often keep what we should discard out of simple sentimentality.

American churches are no different than American people.  We like our stuff and we’d rather spend more time, money, and resources attempting to keep our collection of memories than move forward through serious evaluation and elimination.

Could sentimentality be leading to the demise of the American church?

Core Principle #8 for Ministry Teamwork is Evaluate & Eliminate.

At Southern Hills our team is as sentimental as any but we must continually remind ourselves that…

1. Less is More

If God is going to have our church add something new to our schedule, we need to remove something old from our schedule.  A new ladies event means an old ladies event must be eliminated.  A new 3-day conference in September means the 3-day retreat in October must be eliminated.  Too many church calendars are so heavily packed with unessential activity that we have lost sight of our main calling.  Our frantic busyness has rendered us ineffectual.   

2. Kill that Cow!

If it’s not advancing the Mission, Process, or Vision – Kill it!  Over the years I have had to take several well-loved ministries out behind the barn and put them to rest.  Oh, they were sacred cows indeed, but they just had to go for they were either taking up too much room, consuming too many resources, or had just grown too old.  

For example, I’ve had my eye on AWANA for the last 5 years.  That is 1 big, juicy, tender cow ready for slaughter!  It takes for more volunteers to function properly than many other children’s ministries.  It also costs for more to correctly run an AWANA program than most midweek children’s ministries.  So, what is stopping me from wielding the ax?  Is it that I personally remember being a Cubbie as a 4-year-old boy and still have the song memorized?  Is it that I remember learning the truth about Heaven through the Council Time as a Sparky?  Is it that the Scriptures I memorized in TNT still come to mind while I preach Sunday’s sermon?  Nope!  None of these things move me.

Instead, my leadership team continues to make the case that AWANA should NOT be eliminated for it is still advancing our Mission, Process, and Vision.  It must continue to do so. 

3. When Elimination is Unnecessary Improvement is Essential

So, just because a ministry is safe from elimination doesn’t mean it is safe from evaluation.  When it must stay then it must also get better.  This is why we have established evaluation meetings with ministry heads and direct supervisors to evaluate recent special events or quarterly ministries.  We desire to find the answers to 3 specific questions:

  1. What went right?
  2. What went wrong?
  3. How can we make it better?

As a local church we desire to be effective servants for the Kingdom of Heaven.  We must remember that the church is not here to cater to the whims of the congregation but rather to serve the desires of our soon returning King.  We will continue to do what we must in order to prepare for His arrival.  

(There are 10 Core Principles for ministry teamwork that our church staff has adopted. These 10 have helped our staff through our most excited days and challenging setbacks. I’ve already shared the 1st2nd3rd 4th, 5th, 6th , 7th principles in previous posts. Here shared our 8th – which is Evaluate & Eliminate.)

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8 Comments

  • Reply
    Danny Olive
    December 21, 2016 at 1:58 am

    I believe as my dad has taught me,God lays the issues on the pastor in which direction he is being led to do. Yes change is hard for people, if something not working than it needs to go. I would like to see a Wednesday night service. I’ve been going to Liberty. Great job Pastor. love your family.

    • Reply
      Josh Teis
      December 21, 2016 at 3:36 pm

      Great thoughts Danny. I too love the midweek service. Unfortunately due to limitations in space we don’t have an adult Sunday school program. Without an adult Sunday school program we need alternative methods for fellowship based bible study and prayer. Small groups that meet throughout the week provide this for our church. They serve as an excellent substitute for a midweek service we have found:

  • Reply
    Leon Stevens
    December 21, 2016 at 2:25 am

    Well said Pastor! This same principle should apply to our personal lives as well. The less clutter we have in our personal lives, the more room we would have for our Lord…

    • Reply
      Josh Teis
      December 21, 2016 at 3:33 pm

      Yes. This does seem to apply to our personal lives as well. Good point

  • Reply
    cornelio sacramento
    December 21, 2016 at 7:18 am

    You have a lot of things in mind and thats good however dont ever Jesus is the church builder and he gives and leaves us what to do and how to do it right, am I right the scriptures tells us particularly in the book of acts how he protect His church ang let it grown in His power and might.besides all of these things church is all about Jesus His body He is the Head he can manage His church His own way not our way.church worship is all about His beauty and holiness nothing can be add on it any addition becomes worldly.

    • Reply
      Josh Teis
      December 21, 2016 at 3:32 pm

      Cornelio- if you are saying that many things can change in the church but one thing must always remain the same – Jesus. Then I agree with you completely. Thank you for your thought.

  • Reply
    Garrett
    December 23, 2016 at 6:38 am

    Josh, here’s another way of looking at the same sort of evaluation procedure that you’re talking about here. I think it’s important to remember that when we’re evaluating something like, for example, AWANA (something that I have good memories of from growing up a part of it, too), all volunteering is not necessarily created equal, and treating it that way can sometimes skew this sort of cost/benefit analysis. Here’s what I mean: as far as I can tell, there are three basic types of work that we find going on in most churches. The first type is the sort of ministry that directly fulfills the commands of Jesus: feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, clothing the poor, ministering to those that are in prison. These are the sort of things that Jesus tells us to do directly, and so reducing the goal to “the hungry are being fed, let’s move on to the next task” has the potential to leave out something vital: Jesus wants the hungry to be fed, sure, but He also wants us to be the sort of people that have become the sort of people for whom feeding the hungry is the sort of spiritual discipline that we’re regularly practicing, and getting volunteers to do something like this isn’t so much the means to the end as much as it is the end in itself. (Or, to use the terminology that you do above, this is advancing the Mission, Process, and Vision.)

    Then there’s the sort of work that involves parts of the church body ministering to and building up other parts of the church body, and given that we see this sort of thing happening all over the book of Acts, I think it’s pretty important, too. (I would guess that AWANA falls into this category, for the most part.) I think that it’s pretty clear that the same sort of rules apply – while there’s a cost/benefit analysis, having members minister to other members results in growth for both people. (If it’s being done correctly, I suppose.)

    Lastly, there’s the sort of work that doesn’t minister to people directly (in or out of the church) but may still necessary for the church to function: something like mowing the church lawn. It’s pretty important (just see what happens if it’s not done), and can still be done to the glory of God, but it’s not core to the mission. From my perspective, churches have a tendency to create volunteer opportunities for jobs like this even if they’re not necessary – because, of all the types of volunteering, this is the easiest way to recruit people: comfort zones being what they are, there will almost always be more volunteers for church greeters (really, is this necessary if the body of Christ is reaching out to people like they should be?) than there will be to volunteer at a homeless shelter.

    I think that this last type of work may be best understood as a gateway drug, for lack of a better term, for the previous types of work, but most churches that I’ve been involved with don’t necessarily do that. They give people a job that’s not core to the mission of the church to make them feel like they’re involved. Even if that person stays involved, because their job is not core, they’re eventually going to wonder if they’re making a difference. I suspect that “does what I’m doing really make a difference” was not a concern of members in the New Testament church, and I wonder if thinking about volunteering in this way won’t help us to better follow their example.

    • Reply
      Josh Teis
      December 23, 2016 at 8:39 pm

      Fantastic thoughts! Very thought provoking! Thanks for sharing Garrett

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