I was recently reminded of a quote by Thom Rainer in regard to dying churches. He has researched and written a great deal on the topic and has this to say: “When the preferences of the church members are greater than their passion for the Gospel, the church is dying.” In my experience, this is an extremely accurate assessment of the pervasive attitude of a church that has drifted off course.
To be clear, we aren’t talking about core theological positions. We’re talking about preferences as to how we do church. Generally these preferences are in the realm of music style, schedule and number of worship services, building design, activities and programs, and expectations of ministers and staff. Whatever the specific preference, members of dying churches generally prioritize their preferences over everything else, including God’s Word.
Unfortunately, this dangerous shift in thinking often goes unnoticed and undiagnosed until the end is inevitable or worse, the doors have already closed. In order to prevent this tragic scenario, we must be able to recognize this self-centered attitude before it takes over. Toward that end, I’ve made some observations that should help us recognize if our preferences have become our greatest passion. Your preferences may have taken over if…
- You discourage people with different preferences than yours from attending your church.
- You get angry at those who do not prioritize your preference.
- You view change as bad and those promoting it as the enemy.
- You would rather lose members than give in on your preference.
- You put more energy into your preferences than into evangelism.
- You believe your preference is scriptural and opposing views are sinful.
- You will sin to ensure you get your preference.
As I said before, these are simply observations. In my experience they are accurate, but they may not be complete. The root of this problem is selfishness, so it can manifest itself in a variety of ways. We would each be wise to pray that the Lord would reveal our own blindness in regard to our attitude toward our preferences. Beyond that, we should also seek to practice the admonition of Paul to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:3-5).”
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