“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” Colin Powell link
In August 2013, Kevin Galloway penned this blog post. He has not written anything since that time so it is difficult to know if it had any effect. He said:
While we are experiencing significant numeric growth as a local church, we face a disturbing statistic. Christ Church has grown by approximately 100% over the last year with steady growth over the summer months. What is disturbing is that only 40% of our regular worship gathering attenders show up each week.
Church attendance is the new "it topic" of the Calvinistas. Galloway attempts to tie the decline in his church attendance into this newly identified problem. "Hey, see, we are no different." But, in this instance, it is different. In our opinion, Countryside/Christ Church is an example of a church replanting fail.
It does appear that some "leaders" would not want to discuss this or other awkward matters, preferring, instead, to call it gossip link. It seems that they want the pastors to have oversight of the blogs. Why? Could it be that many blogs highlight the foibles of pastors and leaders? These pastors are jumping up and down, trying to get attention "for the gospel." They use all sorts of media to garner that focus on them. Do they want all the positives of media exposure without the concomitant critique? For example, notice the absolute silence of Mark Driscoll when it comes to questions of plagiarism. But he sure did lots of talking to the media about his sex book.
In the meantime, I rarely see any articles that reflect an understanding by certain leaders that sometimes pastors can do very, very bad things that hurt those who come to their churches. It appears that they want their cake and eat it, too. Who is out there for the church members-the very ones that the pastors are to serve? Perhaps, just perhaps, there is now some balance in the system with blogs who give a hoot about the little guy?
Is it gossip to pass on local bad news through a global blog? Are Christians independent agents, free to write and say what they wish with no supervision? And should church members be running blogs outside the oversight of their pastors? Are they accountable to overseers if they sin in what they say on a blog? Is every Christian an investigative journalist?
They totally screw up their argument by the following statement.
Gossip is not a small issue. Loose lips have sunk ships, ruined reputations, and destroyed the unity of local congregations. Protecting each other’s good name is a mark of Christ’s love, and giving diligence to preserve the unity he created means killing gossip.
How many of these leaders ever once called the families of those harmed by child sex abuse? Who cares for the lowly tithers? How many leaders surround their fellow pastors who are called out in scandals? How many of the same leaders surround the children and families who are in pain? Wade Burleson is one example of a leader who has consistently reached out to people, outside of his church, who are in pain.
Unfortunately, there is way too much silence on the part of some pastors and leaders.
What happens when local church leaders or extra local leaders destroy the reputations of church members by despicable church discipline practices, default on church loans, and destroy a once fine church with a history of good attendance, committed Christians and service to the community? Silence! These "gospel gossip" treatises on certain blog sites are dedicated to protecting church leadership while throwing the good and decent people who have worked hard, maintaining outside jobs, giving time and money to the church, under the bus. Suddenly, there are crickets *chirping* over at the Acts 29 website on which they continue to list, as a church in good standing, a failed church plant by this very church which, in our opinion, was also a massive replant fail link.
Christ Church NWI – Valpo Missional Community: Valparaiso, Indiana, US
We are going to list the problems one by one. It is our hope that other churches contemplating a potential church replant, will use this list to evaluate the potential success/failure of such a move. Caveat Emptor.
Members: Do not assume that the national organization will come to the aid of a church in distress.
From what we can tell, Acts 29 provides resources such as books, etc. along with conferences to "instruct" the replant pastor on how to do church. They do not give hands on assistance when things go south. You are essentially on your own.
Members: Cautiously read the website of any organization before your church becomes a member.
It will provide clues as to what is to come. We will discuss this more in depth of Friday. But, as a quick example, please refer to the bold section of this statement from the Acts 29 website link.
Therefore, women are to be encouraged, equipped, and empowered to utilize their gifting in ministry, in service to the body of Christ, and through teaching in ways that are consistent with the Word of God.
This statement is what we call a zinger. The problem is in the details. Ask questions such as "What do you mean by "consistent with the Word of God?" This leaves much latitude and can be interpreted quite narrowly.
Members: Cautiously investigate the idols of your current pastor.
For example, had you looked up Mark Driscoll, you might have seen this notorious video. I am placing it here for those in Indiana who have not see this stuff.
Now, if that didn't scare you; Google Driscoll's name. You will see controversy after controversy regarding alleged plagiarism link, calling Queen Esther a trollop link, throwing people under the bus link, and insulting British Christians link. Ask yourself this question. Does my pastor show sound judgment in using Mark Driscoll's materials?
Pastors: Do not marginalize women.
Some left because of Mark's attitudes about women in the church and how denigrated we women began to feel when our new leaders began adopting Mark's "bigotry" towards women.
Most churches tend to have a majority of female attendees as opposed to males attendees. Is Acts 29 "bigoted" towards women? I don't know but I certainly can understand how it could be perceived in such a manner. If such an attitude is being picked up by women in the church, you have a disaster in the making. You have the potential of losing up to 60% of your support in one fell swoop. Your church will die.
Pastors: Do not make a radical change in theology unless the congregation has requested you to do so. You will lose members-perhaps lots and lots of members.
- Caveat 1: I am not discussing real heresy here.
- Caveat 2: Arminianism is not a heresy in my neck of the woods.
- Corollary 1: Losing lots of members over doctrinal disagreement is just plain stupid.
Stress love over doctrine (see Caveat 1 above). We wrote a post on this subject which was directed at Calvinists link.
Here is my theory. I believe that many Calvinists, who have come to a place of peace with their doctrine, do not understand how to communicate their beliefs in a way that engenders a sense of the love of Christ in their narrative. They believe that they are logical in their approach to Scripture and do not understand what they perceive to be an illogical objection by those who oppose Calvinist doctrine. I believe that this has been the case since the time of Calvin and continues to this day.
However, until recently, those of the Reformed persuasion and non-Calvinist beliefs were, in general, able to co-exist peacefully and even participate in joint projects. However, with the rise of the Young, Reformed and Restless crowd, there has been a rise in tensions between these two groups. When you have Calvinist leaders, such as RC Sproul, claiming that non-Calvinists are "barely Christians" and committed Christians like Roger Olson, who are accused by Calvinists of "not being a Christian," something has definitely gone wrong.
If Calvinists believe that non-Calvinists are suspect, then we have a divide that cannot be overcome. However, I believe that most Calvinists would deny such thoughts
Our classes were now being taught from books published by Acts 29. One woman friend of mine who was a charter member of our church left one class in tears when she challenged the asst. pastor over the book being taught from. She like I could not believe that God predestined whether or not her newly born grandchild would go to heaven or hell. She believes like me in the free will given to us all to make that choice. She was told she was to line up with what was being taught or leave. She left. Many left.
Any pastor who intends to shift a congregation to Calvinism or "the doctrines of grace" should be honest and tell the congregation up front. Deception and strong arm tactics will lead to a rapid decline in members.
Pastors: If you are losing lots of Christians from your congregation, you are doing something wrong.
You are losing the people who are the backbone of the church. For example, reportedly, the lady who ran the food pantry, a major community resource, left and took the pantry with her. The food pantry was an identifiable ministry of the church in the community and afforded them the respect of the citizens of that city. That is gone.
If your church attendance radically declines, you have a serious problem.
Corollary 1: The older people who have built the church tend to give the money to the church.
If you lose lots of members, you can be sure that the word will get around that something is desperately wrong at your church. You can be sure that there will be many, many people who will not darken your doorway if they see a mass exodus. This will also mean a major loss of revenue.
Pastor: Just because Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, John Piper, etc. attract thousands, does not mean the same will happen to you.
- Corollary 1: You are not Mark Driscoll, Matt Chandler, or John Piper.
- Corollary 2: These folks built their churches from the bottom up. The people there want to be there.
- Corollary 3: The money will not roll in the door so that you, too, can have a mansion.
Pastor: If your church is experiencing a decline in both membership and money, do not do a church plant.
Corollary 1 If you are screwing up one church, you will highly likely screw up the second church.
This is precisely what happened in this instance.This should seem self explanatory. Acts 29 pushes church plants and insists that each member church give 10% of their income to do so. However, this broad brush approach is foolish if the church is experiencing a significant loss in monetary intake. Do they really want a church to give 10% to a church plant while defaulting on their obligations to their creditors? Wow- what a witness.
Pastor: Do not discipline members for asking questions about money, credit card statements, direction of the church, etc.
Corollary 1: if you are losing money and members, you darn well better listen to them.
I do not understand why churches hide their pastors' salaries and perks. This is bound to lead to dissension and distrust over time. People have a right to understand why money is being spent at a liquor store. They should know when money is being spent on conferences, eyeglasses, etc.
Instead, examine Wade Burleson and Pete Briscoe's approach to church conflict link. Both pastors have handled conflict way better than most.
Pastor: Be very careful when you discipline and shun a member for ill defined issues. It speaks volumes to a watching world.
When outsiders, as well as insiders see such nonsense, you will not only lose present members, you will also guarantee that few people will want you to shepherd them into the kingdom.
We pray that God will grant you repentance. Becky, we pray that you would repent of gossip, slander, deception, lying, failing to submit to your husband and failing to submit to your church leaders. Brian we pray that you would repent of failure to submit to God's Word by failing to lead your wife by continuing to ignore her unrepentant sin in your relationship and home.
Pastor: Never, ever perp walk a member with a handicapped child out of a church. In fact, never, ever perp walk any member out of a church unless you believe you are in imminent danger of physical harm.
You will come across as a jerk. There is no other way to describe it. A police escort for a mom with a handicapped child-for crying out loud! What is wrong with you?!
We could not know when that Police Officer escorted us out of our church home it would turn out that morning was the worst and the best thing that ever happened to us,
Pastor: Do not pretend to be a role model or start a leadership training institute until you actually succeed in being a leader.
This is hubris at its worse. Would you want a doctor who has had a 100% failure rate to operate on your heart?
Pastor: You have a problem when this hits the papers.
This sort of publicity is really, really bad. It will affect your potential membership base. When it gets to this point, you have lost almost all of your credibility.
Let's take a look once again, at some comments in the local newspaper link
Marty wrote on Sep 11, 2011 1:14 PM:
" I was a member of Country side for over 20 years and find it distressing that this has happened. The leaders of the church do not listen to their church body. Shame on them! Once leadership changed…things went downhill. "
Follower of Jesus wrote on Sep 14, 2011 11:25 PM:
" I am one who is conflicted during this whole thing. On the one hand I want to tell those that are lamenting over the loss of their building to get over it. On the other hand, as a former member there and a long time member of the LaPorte Community, I totally understand the pain and mourning that is going on right now. What you have here is more than a Church that has "sold" its building, what you have is a Church that has essentially been hijacked by a leadership that has not the slightest touch with reality, nor any real concern for it's flock. This event is the result of the systematic alienation of almost 1000 people in this community. There were times when Countryside numbered nearly 1200-1300 strong on a Sunday Morning. Now there are just 400 left. Churches split and compress all the time because of needed change. This is not one of those times.
Pastor: Do everything in your power to respond to your creditors even if it means giving up the Bose speaker.
Corollary: It was not cool that Driscoll admitted to stealing a sound system link.
Pastor: Reconciliation with former members is essential.
Go to those you have offended and work it out with them. It does require humility which is something that is increasingly rare in certain circles these days.
Acts 29 : Do something.
- You have a moral and ethical obligation to intervene in this situation.
- You should not keep advertising churches which have failed.
- You should not be pushing a pastor who has presided over both a church plant and church replant fail.
What is a success?
Losing a church building, community respect, a church plant, most of the members and moving to a rental is NOT a success. If anyone thinks that it is, that someone needs to take a couple of business courses.
It is the hope of Becky, Buck and others that their story will help some other churches avoid such a saga. They are decent Christians who had front row seats to the devastation of a church they once loved and served.
To Becky, Buck and other former members of Countryside, please know that we, at TWW, stand with you in sorrow as we observe the failure of your former church. May God convict the heart of your former pastor and his sponsors. We hope, one day, you will receive an apology. You deserve it.
Lydia's Corner: Isaiah 28:14-30:11 Galatians 3:23-4:31 Psalm 62:1-12 Proverbs 23:19-21