When a Pastor’s Child Strays

By David Gough

I recently met up with an old friend. We’d served together in local church ministry, but hadn’t seen each other in several years. After he accepted a pastoral call to another state, we’d fallen out of touch. There were the occasional email exchanges and the annual Christmas card, but nothing more.

It was great to see him. But as we prepared to say our goodbyes, the conversation suddenly took on a somber tone. “Can I ask you to pray about something?” he asked. Tears began to fill his eyes; his normally strong voice faltered. He apologized, and then took a moment to compose himself. Over the next several minutes he told me about the heartbreaking story about his son who had recently walked away from the faith.

Sadly, I’d heard my friend’s story before. Another pastor’s kid, gone. Raised in a Christian home, seemingly trusting Christ at an early age, memorizing Scripture, serving as a leader in youth group, participating in mission activities—the story was all too familiar. Almost overnight and without much warning, his son had an epiphany: he no longer believed any of this stuff. The gospel and the claims of Christianity no longer made sense to him, if they ever really had at all.


I write not as a mere observer or sympathized, but as a father and a pastor who prays for his own wayward children. How desperately I long for them to embrace the faith they were taught and had imperfectly modeled for them. I’ve waited for years for the Lord to call them to Himself, even as I struggle with my own sense of failure in their having chosen the course of life they’re presently pursuing. What could my wife and I have done differently? How might we have made the gospel more appealing? The sense of guilt I sometimes feel, whether legitimate or not, is at times overwhelming.

Ministry is hard enough when things are going well. But it becomes doubly difficult when the path chosen by our prodigals withdraws from the Lord and weighs heavily upon us. Brothers, we need others to help us press on when the burden becomes too heavy to bear alone. Perhaps the following reminders will prove helpful in providing support and reshaping our perspective.

1. Don’t try and go it alone.

Surround yourself with a band of faithful and prayerful men. Perhaps this will mean the elders of your church with whom you serve. Or perhaps it will be a small group of fellow pastors that you’ve grown to trust. These should be men with whom you’re willing to be vulnerable and transparent, those who will not judge you or add to the guilt and pain you already feel.

Be willing to receive appropriate criticism when it is offered by other faithful men. You’ll likely discover that your situation isn’t as “unique” as you imagined, that you’re not as alone in the pain you feel. As these fellow brothers help you to reframe your perspective, the path forward will become more bearable. Though the recovery of your children won’t be immediate, you will enjoy a clearer view of the One whose hands hold much-needed mercy and grace.

2. Don’t fake it with your people.

Church members tend instinctively to look up to their pastors. They consider them either immune from or having overcome the daily problems that they so regularly face. This is perhaps especially true in matters of the home. Because of this, pastors may feel the need to mask the struggles that come with wayward children. They think this helps this ministry, but in reality it more likely hinders it.

As pastors, we shouldn’t be ashamed or embarrassed to reveal our own parenting imperfections. We shouldn’t downplay the disappointing outcomes for the sake of protecting our reputations. Even the most respected man of God has “feet of clay,” and we should not yield to the temptation of pretending that we don’t. It can be altogether appropriate to admit that we are hurting, and to ask for prayer for ourselves and our families. Consider discretely weaving brief vignettes of your own parenting struggles into an occasional sermon, being cautious not to say too much. But a word of caution is fitting here: we should exercise care in not doing this too frequently or too vehemently, lest we’re guilty of soliciting sympathy for ourselves.

3. Never stop loving your children—really loving them.

Despite what some people think, pastors don’t have “all the answers.” Nor do we think we have all the answers. Privately, we know that all too well, but publicly we sometimes don’t like admitting it. Rarely can we discern what God is doing “behind the scenes.” That’s true in the lives of our children, perhaps especially when they’re “far from home.” So resist blaming a specific cause, and instead receive the troubling providence as a humbling lesson from the Lord.

Nonetheless, our love for them must not be allowed to fade. Nor should it be conditionally dispensed. Warmly embracing our offspring while not condoning their chosen lifestyle is a practiced skill—and it must not be faked. If we hope to keep the communication lines open for the gospel, we must learn to love them well even as they stray.

It’s at this point where pastors sometimes veer off course in their emotion-laden appeals to their wayward children. Consider how the Lord pursued us when we were in the “far country,” and how his consistent love eventually drew us to himself (Luke 15:11–32). We owe our children no less. Therefore, let us continue to pray that the Holy Spirit would grant them faith and repentance so that they would turn from sin and embrace the Savior.

4. Don’t let go of the grace of God.

We have have no assurances that our children will ever be brought to saving faith. But we do know with absolute certainty that the God we serve is good and perfect in all his ways. He is merciful and just. As we persistently plead with our Heavenly Father to spare and to save these precious ones whom we love, may our dependent confidence in him never fade. He alone is our hope and in him alone do we trust.

In the closing words of Malachi’s prophecy, we are told that the Lord “will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers” (Malachi 4:6). Of course, that’s not a carte blanche promise that God will save every pastor’s child who has abandoned the faith. Some he will save; their waywardness will end in their salvation. Others he will not; their waywardness will end in their destruction.

So the question that remains for us is a difficult one: will we continue to serve the Lord faithfully with no strings attached . . . even those that are tied to our very hearts?

“Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” (Genesis 18:25). This assurance gives hope to both my friend and myself as we pray without ceasing for our children to come home.

David Gough is the former pastor of Temple Hills Baptist Church in Temple Hills, MD, a local body he served for 13 years. Prior to that he served as the Chairman of the Educational Ministries Department at Washington Bible College for 25 years.
Article originally posted on 9Marks.org

Help! I’m a Pastor!

By Joe McKeever

“In a multitude of counselors there is victory.” (Proverbs 11:14 and 24:6)

I said to Pastor Marion, “I’m glad to exchange notes with you like this. But you need a couple of mentors–older guys with long histories in the ministry–whom you can sit across the table from and talk about these things.”

He named two such, a seminary professor and a retired pastor.

Pastors often find themselves in tough situations.  At the moment, Pastor Marion is leading his church in a massive building campaign, while working night and day to minister to his growing flock.  In the five years he has been there, his church has doubled or more in attendance. And then, this happens….

A deacon who is used to getting his way in the church called a meeting of the key leadership. He was upset about some of what Marion has been preaching, he says. Furthermore–it will not surprise you if you have ever been the target of this kind of abuse–-“many others in the church feel the same way.”

He threatened that steps may be taken to remove the pastor from the pulpit.

What is a pastor to do?

I mentioned a few possibilities, but with the caveat that “these are just some thoughts.” No way do I want to take responsibility for whatever he decides.


–a) I said, “You can take it to the church. This Sunday morning, tell the congregation that a couple of deacons are suggesting you need to resign, that they are unhappy with your leadership. And that you are calling a business meeting for Wednesday night to discuss this.”

The upside of doing that is you take the initiative, take the matter out of their hands and put it where it should be, in the hands of the congregation. This tends to stop a bully in his tracks. His anonymity has been a winning technique for him–that is, working on the pastor in the background. But you are now flushing him out.

The downside of this is that anytime you ask a church to affirm your ministry, you should anticipate the possibility that they might just hand you your walking papers. More than one pastor has gone into a church meeting expecting affirmation only to suddenly find himself jobless.

–b) Another possibility, I told Marion, is “You can meet privately with the other deacon or two who had partnered with the bully. Find out if they feel strongly the way he does or are allowing themselves to be pushed along by the force of his personality.  Get them thinking about the cost of forcing you out in the middle of a building campaign.”

–c) “But before you do anything else, Marion,” I said, “I would meet with those two mentors and give them the entire picture. See what counsel they have for you.”

Every pastor needs a few counselors.

Proverbs says, “In a multitude of counselors there is victory” (Proverbs 11:14).  The wonderful KJV says there is “safety.” Not wisdom, necessarily, but surely safety and eventually, if we do it right, victory.

We’re more likely to make the right choice after running the situation by several people whom we respect and considering their take on matters.

One question we would like to ask Marion is, “So, what have you been preaching that would cause this deacon to react this way?” There is always the possibility that the deacon is right. Older mentors could help him look at all angles.

Another question to be asked by the older guys: “In case the church should terminate you, do you have any fall-back support, anywhere you could go, any way to support your family?” If not, this will limit the pastor’s choices.

“Marion, how strongly do you feel that God has placed you there in that church and still has His hand on you?”  This may be the most important question of all.

I once had a deacon take me to lunch with an offer of a lot of money if I would walk away from the church. I said, “I’d love to leave. I’m so tired of this stress. But God won’t let me. I have to see this through.”

It’s not about me; it’s about the Lord.

Get that straight and you’d be surprised how quickly it clears up matters.

No young pastor should ever do anything just because his mentors advised it.  But they can help him reason things out, can pray for him, and can be there in the future when and if things go badly.

Why pastors are reluctant to get mentors

Something inside us wants to go it alone. That feeling is not from God. No one in Scripture was commanded to go into the Lord’s work all by himself. The Lord intended that His people would have partners, co-laborers, advisers and counselors and helpers. Some will be–you will understand the expression–“above” you in ranking and some “below” you.  You need both groups.

Your pride can become your worst enemy. “I don’t need anyone else. The Lord is with me.”  The last part of that is true, the first part is a fatal error in your machinery.  You need lots and lots of people in your life. Check out all the “one anothers” found throughout the New Testament. We are to love one another, pray for one another, encourage one another, rebuke one another, and so forth. At least 31 different such commands are given in the NT. That ought to tell us how strongly the Lord wants us to be part of His team and not long rangers.

Notice how often Paul identifies certain ones as his co-workers, co-laborers, and partners in ministry.

How to get a mentor

First, toss the terminology. When a deacon asked if I would “mentor” him, some 20 years ago, I asked what he had in mind and then declined. He was looking for someone to meet with regularly, with whom he could share his every wayward thought, and who would function as his manager in spiritual things. I was his pastor, admired a hundred things about him, but simply did not have the time or energy for this.

Just call these guys your “friends.” That’s what they are and all they need to be.

Second, if you have had a favorite professor or pastor along the way who lives in the area and is still working in the Lord’s vineyard, call him up for coffee.  That’s how you start. And, under no circumstances should you tell him you want to meet with him like this every week or month or whatever for the rest of your life. That sounds burdensome.  Don’t do that to him or yourself.

Just enjoy the visit. Be sure to ask what he’s doing and what you can pray for concerning his work. And don’t overstay. Thirty minutes may be a tad short. Forty-five minutes is ideal. An hour is pressing it. Two hours is too long and will cause him to hesitate the next time you call inviting him for coffee.

Third, wait two weeks, then call him again. If the meeting place was ideal, stay with it. If it was too crowded or noisy or the chairs were uncomfortable, find another coffee shop. This time, have a situation in your church or your sermons for which you need his advice. Take notes. Jot down his advice, scriptures he mentions, books he recommends.

Then, wait a month before you do it again.  After that, you will know–and so will he–if this should be an ongoing thing.

Remember, it’s fine to have several such friends. You are not betraying the first to do the same thing with one or two others.

Finally, if you are leaning heavily on those two or three friends, at least annually drop them a personal note to say how much you appreciate them. Every couple of years, give each one a gift card to a local bookstore with a note of thanks.

They may make the difference in your ministry.

Now, while you’re at it, look around for some younger minister who may be needing you.  What comes around should indeed go around.

Pastor Joe McKeever

Five Marks of a Spiritually Immature Staff Member and What to Do About Them


Seven Sentences We Never Expected to Hear in Churches in 2020

Seven Sentences We Never Expected to Hear in Churches in 2020

By Thom Rainer

I can only imagine how we would have responded in 2019 if someone had told us we needed to be prepared not to gather in-person in worship services for several months in 2020. Indeed, if we had been given a glimpse of this crazy year ahead of time, we would have thought the world had gone crazy.

It probably has. 

Look at these seven sentences we hear in churches today. We could have never predicted them. 

  1. “We need to decide if we are going to require masks in church.” If I had heard this sentence would be common in churches, I probably would have wondered if we are having mandatory costume parties in 2020. With the different masks used today, maybe we are.
  2. “We can’t take the offering anymore.” Really? I think many leaders would have freaked out if they heard financial support would become dependent on digital giving. Probably many more would have been surprised how many members were willing to move to digital giving.
  3. “We can no longer have the stand and greet time.” This issue was contentious in many churches before 2020. While many churches held tenaciously to this tradition, it was fading overall. But, imagine if we outright banned it in churches. That has happened for the most part. In case you’re wondering, I’m really okay with this development.
  4. “We need to measure our streaming views over 30 seconds.” For sure, a few churches were doing live streaming services prior to 2020, but they were a distinct minority in number. I don’t think any of us anticipated that streaming views would become a common church metric.
  5. “We need to arrange our worship center seating to accommodate social distancing.” Prior to 2020, I would have thought social distancing was only something we introverts practiced. Now it is something church leaders plan on a regular basis.
  6. “We need to move all of our small groups to meet on Zoom.” If most church members had heard this statement in 2019, they may have wondered if small groups would be in some drug-induced state. Zoom? What is that?
  7. “We will no longer visit church members in the hospital.” This development in 2020 is painful both to those confined to the hospital and to those in the church who really want to care for these members. It is indeed one of the tragedies of the pandemic.

Who would have predicted the articulation of these sentences in churches prior to 2020? It has been a strange year. It has been a painful year.

What unexpected sentences would you add?

This article was originally published at ChurchAnswers.com. Thom S. Rainer serves as founder and CEO of Church Answers. Dr. Rainer publishes a daily blog and podcast at ChurchAnswers.com and can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.


What Spurgeon Said About Homosexuality


  • Richard

    Sure would like to have the written copy of this as well. The videos are nice to watch, but nothing beats having it in “His written word”.

  • Dale

    I can with the tongues of angels but have not love I am a resounding symbol. Please tell me in what way are you extending the good news of Jesus’ love to gay people? Your hate is overpowering!

    • Barry L. Davis

      Hate? The video was filled with the Gospel and Grace of God. What specifically are you referring to?

      • Danny

        No hate Dale. Barry shows God’s love through Jesus Christ in this video. Christ died so we can be forgiven and know God’s love. Christ did not die so we can continue in filthy acts of sin.

    • Edward

      Dale, there’s really no hate in the video. But the truth has to be spoken. Let me ask you a question. Do you have any friends of yours or people you know who are alcoholics and are drinking themselves to pieces? Now imagine yourself using all the tactful kind words you can think of to convey a message to them that what they are doing is wrong. Would they be justified to say that you are hateful? The very same thing applies to gay people. They are human beings of value no doubt at all, but if they choose to indulge their sinful tendency of homosexuality, they must be told out of love that they are wrong. Hoodwinking them that their sexual tendency is ok is the real hatred, not the other way round.

  • lb mckinstry sr

    i like it well said

  • Eladio Villanueva

    It’s amazing that people view the truth as hate. I have friends who are gay and I love them but the truth is the truth and The grace and the gospel of Jesus Christ is filled with nothing but love!

  • lb mckinstry sr

    the devil has been deceiving people from begining and he still doing it now some sin is so simple that a baby can tell the different god said multiple male and female .

  • Bro WM

    I am blessed by this message. I hope the leaders who are condoning homosexuality can see and understand how they have condemned millions to eternal death by giving in to this diabolic act.

  • esther

    The truth had been said. We have heard it, we have seen it; No man can pretend they have never. Let him that have ears hear what the spirit of the God is saying.
    Thanks Bro Barry.

Seven Ways to Deal with CAVE Dwellers in Your Church

Seven Ways to Deal with CAVE Dwellers in Your Church


By Thom Rainer

They are in every church. They are critics. They are naysayers. If your church has regular business meetings, they will be the negatively outspoken people.

They often begin sentences with “I love you pastor, but . . .” And the moment you hear “but,” you cringe. You wait for the verbal assault.

Critics and naysayers are in every church. They are CAVE (Consistently Against Virtually Everything) Dwellers (This phrase originated with Curt Coffman in his work on disen-
gaged employees.). They can make your life miserable . . . unless you learn to deal with them.

I am not the best role model for dealing with CAVE dwellers. When I was a pastor, I struggled with critics and naysayers. I still do. So I asked some church leaders who, in my opinion, have a very healthy approach to these people. Here are seven things I learned from them.

  1. Accept the reality that every church and organization will have CAVE dwellers. You will deal with them in a more healthy fashion if you are not blindsided by them. And you will realize than the green grass of other churches may be a bit brown.
  2. Pray for your own attitude. I am glad Jesus did not hold my sins against me through his death on the cross. My attitude should be like His, and I should seek prayerfully to have the right attitude toward CAVE dwellers.
  3. Pray for the CAVE dwellers. Even if you consider them your enemy, we are supposed to pray for our enemies. Sometimes I have to ask God to give me the grace to pray for these people because they have hurt me so much.
  4. Stay above reproach. Don’t stoop to the negative, gossiping, bickering, and deceitful level of CAVE dwellers. Pray that God will give you the strength, wisdom, and grace to live above such attitudes and actions.
  5. Spend more time with positive church members. CAVE dwellers can be the squeaky wheels that demand constant oiling. If you spend too much time with these members, you will become emotionally and spiritually drained. Be intentional about spending time with church members who energize and encourage you.
  6. Spend more time with church leaders in other churches. You will develop invaluable friendships and camaraderie. And you will soon discover you are not alone with these issues.
  7. Ask other members to help you deal with CAVE dwellers. I recently heard from a pastor who did just that. He was shocked to find more than one encouraging church leader willing and ready to help him deal with these people. The comment from one of these positive members hit home: “Pastor, we did not know you were having to deal with these issues. We wish you had told us sooner.”

Yes, you will always have people in your church who seem to be consistently against virtually everything. They are emotionally draining. They are discouraging. And they never really go away.

Our challenge, in God’s power, is to deal with CAVE dwellers in the most positive and God-honoring way we can. So, how do you deal with CAVE dwellers? What would you add to the seven ways I noted above? Let me hear from you.


This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on November 17, 2014. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam,  Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.


  • linda newman

    You could also think about approaching them and making them allies; many may be left-brained analyticals whose first response to an issue is to take it apart and find potential issues to reduce risk, and they are motivated by their love for the church just as the pastor is. They may have been there, done that, have the t-shirt, and may have words of wisdom. Consult with them in advance, get their perspective, and use it or not, but if they feel heard, the comments in the meeting may go away. (I’m the worst of all possible combinations of this, a lawyer who has been a 35+ year member, been a member of every committee, and a compliance officer as part of my day job. I recognize that my analytical nature is not an inspirational gift, but it is a gift that can help anticipate problems. I show up to do the “dirty work” too, teaching sunday school, singing in the choir, cleaning up after fellowship luncheons.

  • Dear Linda Newman. Thank you so much for your comment and perspective, I too am a left- brained analytical , very much a member of the body of Christ. Yes I have learnt to temper my “Ah but….in committee meetings, but so much is achieved and runs smoothly in church because of it. Wrongly used all I did in my younger days was to stifle vision now I help dreams and vision become reality. I see all the problems 6 months before anyone else and within seconds of the idea being voiced, but with Gods help it becomes strategic thinking and facilitating , making others look good- Glory to God for all the gifts within the Body –

  • Floyd Knight

    A board meeting is NEVER the time for analysis or nay-saying. The chair should control the floor and have people speak to the issue or recommendation. So called “left brain” folks should volunteer for the committee or working group which will explore and consider the issue or purchase or programmatic action. The leadership should then distribute the proposal/recommendation and the “summary” document notating the methods and/or procedures used to come to a decision or recommendation–including pros and cons. Questions regarding the same by “left brainers” who have failed to read the document before the committee meeting should be cut short and referred to the section of the document. IF they want to make comments, they should be required to specify the page and section of the summary document or recommendation. They shouldn’t take up the church board’s time and should voluntarily refrain from voting on the recommendation since they didn’t read the same before the meeting.
    |——On the other hand, if recommendations and proposals come to the board without written justification and rationalization, then such proposals should be withdrawn and referred to committee or tabled. Individual responses, personal statements and proposals should also be stopped. The person should be referred to the proper committee, workgroup, or person. Such comments should not be tolerated from the floor–especially if you are following parliamentary procedures. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD CRITICAL ANALYSES AND REVIEWS TAKE PLACE DURING A CHURCH BOARD MEETING;otherwise, you are running an effective board.

  • Floyd Knight



Ten Troubling Statements Church Leaders and Members Make

Ten Troubling Statements Church Leaders and Members Make

Arguing-WorkersBy Thom Rainer

If you want your church to move toward a slow yet certain death, make certain your church leadership and membership affirms most of these ten statements. They are troubling statements. Indeed they are proclamations that virtually assure your church’s decline and probable demise.

What is troubling is that these statements are not uncommon. They are articulated by both staff and lay leaders at times. See if you have ever heard any of these ten.

  1. We hire our pastors and staff to do that. “That” can be evangelism. Or discipleship. Or caring for others. Or visiting people in the hospital. Some lay leaders view pastors and staff as hired hands to do ministry they should be doing themselves.
  2. We have enough churches in our community. I rarely see a community that is really “overchurched.” The number of unchurched people in any one community is typically increasing, not decreasing. This comment usually comes from church leaders who view new churches as competition.
  3. We are a discipleship church. Or an evangelism church. Or a ministry church. Church leaders who say their churches are focused on only one area of ministry are offering excuses not to be obedient in other areas.
  4. We have never done it that way before. Yes, it’s cliché. But it’s still a very pervasive attitude among change-resistant people in the church.
  5. We don’t have the money to do that. More times than not, the church does indeed have the money to focus on necessary priorities. The problem is that some church leaders don’t have the courage to reallocate funds toward those priorities.
  6. We really don’t emphasize small groups. Churches that do not give a priority to small groups or Sunday school classes can count on a big exodus of people out the back door. Those in groups are five times more likely to stay involved in a church than those in worship services alone.
  7. We have enough people in our church. This is a tragic statement by leaders of inwardly focused churches. And it is an excuse not to do evangelism and ministry.
  8. We aren’t a church for those kinds of people. Though similar to number seven, this statement is an appalling declaration made by church members who really believe people of a certain race, ethnic group, income group, or other descriptor should be excluded from the congregation.
  9. We really shouldn’t expect much of our members. Low expectation churches are far too common. Too many church leaders communicate unwisely that it’s okay for members to do nothing, give nothing, and not be concerned about growing spiritually.
  10. We focus only on our members, not guests and others. Many church leaders make this statement either explicitly or implicitly. Sometimes the facilities, the worship services, and the small groups shout “Guests not welcome!” I released a resource today that addresses this critical issue of guest friendliness.

What do you think of these ten troubling statements? Are they accurate? Are they fair? What would you add or change? [Please leave your comments below]



This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on December 8, 2014. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam,  Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.


  • “We don’t have enough _________ to do that. ” “We’re too small”

  • Thanks for telling it like it is. Our churches need to wake up band realize it’s not about our church. ..it’s about the kingdom agenda.

  • Francis K. Tamba

    This is amazing and most acurate especially for a dying church.
    To add also, We will preach only the word the increase will come by faith.

  • Francis K. Tamba

    Amazing and acurate.

  • Pastor Jerome

    I agree that those are statements that can ruin a church. We as church leaders should look to the father for our guidance. When we make decisions on our own 9 times out of 10 we make the wrong choices. Only God knows the direction He wants His people to go in, when we look to Him for those answers, we can’t go wrong.

  • Robert Walker

    I have been involve in my church for over 30 years ,and as a lay leader, 25 of these years. Unfortunately, I have ,and even more so, am experiencing the slow death of my church. I and my Pastor both have introduced Dr. Rainer book ,The Autopsy of a Deceased Church, to the membership, in trying to get them to understand our present state. The 10 symptoms are so prevalent in so many churches. Thanks!!! for your acknowledgement of this subject. I see it as confirmation to keep pressing onward. I believe Christ, that the gates of Hell will not prevail against His church. Thank you and Please!!! don’t stop bringing your prayerful insight of these subjects to the populations.

  • Bob

    Not accepting help when some one wants to help.

    Being judgmental and not supporting others in there walk.

  • Dr. Mark Lynch

    I agree with these statement whole heartily. I have always led smaller churches and I have found that most of the problem with smaller churches growing is the fact that they are stuck in a tradition that they are unwilling to change. In my case it is most often the unwillingness to even try to bring praise & worship music into the service to help draw younger families into the church. Most smaller churches are stuck using 250 and 300 year old music and unwilling to use any newer more spiritual praise and worship music into the church which will both bring life, spirit and joy into the service. They all to often consider it “satanic music” when in reality it is just as or more spiritual than some of the older hymns. They have sung the older hymns so long they have lost most of their meaning in the peoples lives, they simply sing the words without feeling what they are singing. Another major problem I have faced in my 27 years of ministry is the unwillingness for smaller churches to evangelize the community in which they reside. They claim “it is the Pastor’s job to do the visitation” and say “that’s what we pay you for” when the Bible is very clear that Pastor’s are called to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry.” If a Pastor is doing what God “called him to do” he will have a full time job and if the members would do what they are called to do then ” we would all come together in the fullness of God’s glory and our churches would grow and prosper.

  • J. R. Padgett

    Very accurate.
    If your not part of the solution,
    Then your part of the problem.

A Question for Pastors…


  • The Bible says that in the last days there will be a great falling away. This is the evidence. I don’t feel that pastors are leaving the flock, I feel that people don’t want to hear the gospel truth. A spirit of compromise and assimilation has taken over. People want to feel good about where they are at in the walk with God. If the preacher is telling them something they don’t want to hear, they go somewhere in which they can. Just my opinion.

  • Times are changing, people are changing, cultures are changing, societies are changing. If we look at some of the data that exist, this trend of closing churches and decreases in membership is not new, it’s been,happening for well of a decade.

    I believe there is one significant cofactor that affect this trend:

    1-the church has lost it’s vision.

    Before Jesus ascended, he had ONE last conversation with his disciples, those that would continue to carry out his work. We find His words in John 13: “and by this shall all men know you are my disciples that you love one another as I have LOVED you”.

    It’s really that simple. However, we are living in a day where scripture is blatantly being misused, used out of context and continues to be used as a whipping post and battering ram.

    I realize this is a hard truth!

    We are living in a day, we’re individuals have become, frankly, disgusted with all the light shows, the flashy banners, the lists of “do and don’t” and “cans and can’ts”. There’s and ole song that has a line in it: “I know the tricks behind the magic show”.

    In addition, the church should be about, simply Jesus, and unfortunately today it’s more about politics.

    We know what Jesus said about that.

  • Gene Hutter

    The Church will always be . . . it has existed for almost 2000 years . . . sometimes good, sometimes bad. Perhaps a pastor is suffering from burn-out. Rather than leave, he/she stays ending in apathy. Change is a challenge but sometimes necessary . . . and, a congregation should not be afraid to ASK for change. Also, there is the issue of “all-inclusive” churches: this is not to open up to a debate, but some denominations are closed to LGBT persons. Everyone is a child of God, whether one likes it or not. Also, some pastors interpret scripture to their own liking as a control mechanism to scare people into staying. But, the intelligent person sees through a controlling pastor and if they don’t challenge a pastor, they leave.

  • Chris

    I have been a pastor of small churches all my pastoral life and what I see is that culture is changing and church people do not know how to interpret it. Some say that the changes would cause the church to be led away from the gospel while others just don’t do well with change. So I say that the center of this decline is the churches lack of understand the world and trying to get the world inside the church so that they can hear the gospel. The churches that are growing are able to see what needs the world has and then respond to that need and as the world comes in they present a gospel that is not controlling nor damning. The gospel has always been about love and receiving the lost and loving them. We as Christians should not condone their sin nor embrace it but simple love and embrace the sinner. We love them and desire to help them find the gospel. Let the Holy Spirit convict them thatnis his job. Our job is to bring them in so that they can hear the gospel in a safe place that they don’t feel that people are judging them. The methods to accomplish this endeavor might require us church goers to change our methods of evangelism but it would never require us to change the gospel message.

  • Roger Hagan

    The church has lost its identify as the vehicle of evangelism God has chosen to save the world. We do not lack programs, we lack power. The church seems to be in competition with the world when it should be the world in competition with the church. Though our goal is not to be offensive in our nature or delivery we have become silently complacent rather than be politically or socially incorrect. Our slogans and themes are all catchy enough but I desire to see a demonstration of Acts power for my congregation. I am afraid that even in the church the flesh has overcome the Spirit. Congregations have become more concerned about “when” we get out of church than “what” we get out of church.

  • This is near and dear to my heart because we are facing the option of closing. I came to this church a little over a year ago, and now it’s down to my family and about 4 other people. Of course, it was already tiny when I came, but more left.

    But here’s the thing: I’m staying. The people who left were those who said they were willing to do anything, but it was only words. When I scheduled a month of prayer (every night in May), none of those who have or are leaving came to pray with us. That says something. So, what we are going to do now is start over, just like a new church plant. On top of that, tradition and format are going to go out the window (except what’s necessary and biblical). We are going to narrow our focus and concentrate on wearing out our shoes and making disciples.

    Ultimately, I want to see God get the glory for raising the dead.

  • Rev. Ronald E. Davis, Jr.

    People have quit believing the Bible is the unerring Word of God. They think they can pick out and choose what they want to believe. These same people think the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution and the Bill of Rights are only suggestions. And yes the LGBQT in tearing the church apart. It has happened to the Lutherans, The Presbyterians, The Episcopalians and now the Methodist. All are welcome in God’s church, but that does not mean we have to accept their lifestyle. As the end approaches our Lord is separating the wheat from the Chaff. In the end It is God that I have to answer to and not man.

  • Kevin K. Chapman JD,MA, DBS

    Why are Churches closing? Its an Epidemic! What happened?

    Indeed in the end times Scripture reveals a falling away; and indeed, the times are changing. Further, there is no question that we in American are no longer living in a Christian era and people have quit believing in the unerring Word of God, but you asked why churches are closing, and to get to that we must dig deeper. It is not about the LGBT sins permeating society, nor is it about the Republican/Democrat debacles of the day or even about the evolutionary and untruthful teachings of the elementary and higher education schools. It goes much further back than all that. Although some may say it goes all the way back to the thought processes which brought people to America for religious reasons and even some would say it goes back to the period of the Puritans or even to the original Methodist (both of which I honor as groups trying to do what is right at the time) I think the reason is deeper and yet simpler than all that.

    Why are churches closing all over America (and I am one who has had to close one, putting all the assets in a church planting trust and using the resources to plant 5 new churches)? It is because the pastors of what appears to be the early second half of the last century, failed in a major way as they led their churches, no matter what denomination they were. (It’s only my opinion that it must have happened in a big way about this time.)

    What didn’t they do? They failed to “equip the Saints for the work of the ministry.” Paul writes to the Ephesians “11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:11-16 (ESV)

    If this one instruction had been fulfilled, we would not have the epidemic of church closings we are seeing. Oh, I of all people I know there are times, due to sin (usually) but sometimes because of population shifts, where it is best, if not necessary for a church to close. However, if the people had been properly taught and equipped to do the ‘work of the ministry’ (and the pastors/employees were not the only ones working) there would be enough equipped people in the next generation(s) to sustain the ‘work of the ministry’ which should be lodged in and focused in the local church and fewer if not most would not be closed and/or abandoned.

    I am looking to pastor such a church which is willing to be the ‘church’ and be so equipped.


      Iam indeed inspired by your comment.There is always a need for a visionary plan into the future of any denomination.Foundation work to ensure future challenges are overcome and sustainability ensured.The Disciples were fully prepared for missionary work that would follow.They were rigorously trained for ministry and they succeeded.This is what we need in the church ,ensuring that we have a compliment of Christians as explained in Ephesians 4:11 who will carry out God’s work to the end. Thank you so much ,iam inspired.

  • Arthur Courchesne

    I retired from a church in which I was the Assoc. Pastor (By-Vocational Pastor). The church did close it’s doors about a year after I left. I don’t believe it closed it’s doors because of me leaving,( just a tired leadership with no replacements.).
    Our two oldest sons are members of a CMA church in western Mass. of which my wife and I attend on occasion. My oldest son is an Elder there. They seem to be a growing church providing the physical and spiritual needs of the congregation. They are also actively involved with Campus Crusade at the nearby UMass campus.
    I believe that in order for a church to thrive it has to go beyond a meeting on Sunday. There needs to be weekly prayer groups and weekly bible study groups as well as Pot Luck dinners and church socials. In other words, the congregation should be consumed in church activity.
    My wife and I are “snow birds” we spend our winters in Florida. On Sundays we attend the Hernando Church of the Nazarene in Hernando Florida. Over 90% of the congregation are seniors and yet they have a thriving youth ministry.Many of the youth’s parents don’t attend church, so volunteers take a mini church bus and pick up the kids for Sunday School & church. On an Easter Sunday, there can be as many as 400 in attendants. They also have an outreach program for those who struggle with drug addition. This is a vibrant church!!!.

  • John Peeling

    For one, Churches are not preaching the Full Gospel. They are not preaching Salvation. Also, The flock sees much hypocrisy in the church and just throws up there their hands and walks away. Convicting messages are not being preached. Everyone wants to be politically correct. Whatever became of SIN, the author once asked. The Bible Belts of the country have become “Bible Suspenders”. Christians need to hang in and contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints. AMEN and Thank you.

  • Margerita Murib

    Yes that is also true and l also wonder could it be that the Church was not build on the proper foundation of God’s word as in Biblical teaching and expository preaching.?

What to say to a Church Bully

What to say to a Church Bully

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joe-mckeeverBy Joe McKeever

(This is the type of article some church people will find objectionable. I’m fully aware of that and am willing to run the risk of the flack from writing it. If it results in one congregation standing up to a member who has held the church in a stranglehold and run off preacher after preacher, if it puts just one bully out of business, it’ll be worth the flack. This is a far bigger problem than most people realize.)

No church bully thinks he’s one. He’s just (ahem) looking out for the interests of the church, since a) no one else seems to be willing to do it and b) even though it’s a difficult task, he has the courage to step up and do this difficult thing.

Cooper Manning, oldest son of Archie and Olivia Manning and thus older brother of football champions Peyton and Eli, admits that he gave his little brothers a hard time when they were children. “I never thought of it as bullying,” he says.

They never do.

Bullies—whether at home or in the workplace, on the playground or in church—think of themselves as a) natural leaders, b) gifted for ruling and c) willing to speak up and take action when everyone else backs off.

In their minds, it’s all about strength and courage, vision and leadership. Let’s talk about church bullies.

Someone is calling the shots behind the scenes at your church, perhaps running off preachers, intimidating new pastors or pushing his own agenda as though he knows best what God wants in this place.

Know anyone like that?

We think of Diotrephes in the little epistle of 3 John. The apostle John writes, “I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren [traveling missionaries who need hospitality in their ministry], either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church” (NASB).

He loves “the preeminence,” is how the KJV puts it.

Sound like anyone you know?

Someone, you say to yourself and your spouse, ought to stand up to such a person and see if he can’t be put out of business before he destroys the church. He’s already ruined the ministry of several preachers and besmirched the good name and reputation of this church.

Someone should. Not you, of course.

You’re too nice to do that. And maybe a little fearful?

My question to you is: What are you afraid of?

“Well,” you reply, “I wouldn’t know what to say. Mr. Bully is a powerful person in our town. And he has a way with words. Why, he can cut people off at the knees with just a few words. I couldn’t stand up to a person like that.”

So, you’re not a fighter? Is that what you’re saying?

Good. You’re just the one for this job.

In fact, the last person who needs to take on a tyrant is another strong-willed, acid-tongued, outspoken church member who is the equal of Mr. Bully in every way.

The best person to stand up to him is the sweet-spirited and humble little lady who teaches Sunday school to the senior women and has not risen in a church business meeting to question the leadership in her lifetime.

Second best would be some older man who has served the Lord quietly for a generation or more, going about his work, always supporting the church program, loving his pastors and never engaging in gossip.

OK, we’ve got our leader. It’s you. Now all we need is a plan.

Pray. Ask the Lord. Listen to Him. Wait on Him.

Listen to church members around you. Surely you’re not the only one concerned about what Mr. Bully is doing to pastors and your church. Who are they? What are they saying? Listen and learn.

Bide your time. Again, listen to the Lord and obey Him. And remember this: The Lord is not pleased when His children wimp out.

By listening to the typical church member today, you’d think all God has is wimps.  In his wonderful book (from 1986) No More Mr. Nice Guy! Stephen Brown tells of attending a gathering of Christian leaders in Washington, D.C. During a lull in the session, a black bishop rose and asked to speak.

“My friends,” he began, “I have a message for you from the Lord. The Lord says that if you Christians ever get over your fear, you’re going to be dangerous.”

Brown says in His first miracle, Jesus turned the water to wine. Ever since, “Christianity has been turning the wine back into water.”

“Now when they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

Don’t wimp out, Christian. “Be strong and of good courage” (Josh. 1:6, 7, 9, 18).

How to Confront a Bully and Live to Tell About It

You ask him a question. That’s all.

Just hold him accountable for what he has done.

What question should you ask? Whatever the Holy Spirit puts in your heart. Trust Him to tell you. It could be something like:

“I’d like to pose a question to Mr. Bully. I know you were chairman of (whatever) committee. How was the decision made to (do whatever)?”  Then sit down and be quiet. (Do not overspeak. The simpler and more direct your question, the better.)

“Mr. Chairman, I wonder if Mr. Bully would like to respond to the rumor that he is responsible for our pastor leaving.”

“Mr. Moderator, may I ask what offices Mr. Bully holds in the church?”

“Brother Pastor, could we ask Mr. Bully to explain to the congregation why he is leading the movement to get our pastor fired?”

1. Be sure you know what you are talking about. Few things are more embarrassing that rising in a business session ready to set some people straight when it becomes obvious that you have your facts wrong.

2. Know the answer you are going to hear before you ask it. Lawyers say never to ask a question to a witness you don’t know the answer to; otherwise the matter will blow up in your face.

3. Be sweet and kind but persistent—wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove (Matt. 10:16). No inflammatory language. Nothing but kindness. Do not allow Mr. Bully to outsweet you or outspiritualize you.  Claim the high ground and stay there.

4. Do not lose your cool. Saying too little is better than saying too much. The last thing you want is to make Mr. Bully appear to be wronged and yourself the aggressor.

5. If no one else in the church rises to support your questions or to further challenge Mr. Bully, don’t push it. You cannot do this by yourself. But trust the Lord to work on people’s hearts. These things sometimes require more than a one-hour business meeting.

6. Do not let this be a personal thing, as though you and Mr. Bully are enemies. Your concern is for the welfare of your church, the honor of the Lord Jesus Christ and the man whom He has sent as the shepherd of His flock. You are not trying to humiliate anyone.

7. If Mr. Bully gets upset and displays his temper, good. Let people see him for what he is.

8. If he threatens to leave and “take my substantial contributions with me,” remind everyone present, “This is the Lord’s church, and He doesn’t need any of us.” This might be a good place to quote the line from Psalm 50 that goes, “If I were hungry, I would not ask you; the cattle on a thousand hills are mine.”

9. Where is the pastor in all this? Standing by, observing, sending up urgent prayer messages to heaven, hoping you and the rest of the membership are going to be strong and finally put Mr. Bully out of business, that’s where! If you do, or if tonight’s business meeting signals to Mr. Bully that his days are numbered, there will be joy in the pastor’s home throughout the night.

10. Do not get into a tit-for-tat argument with Mr. Bully’s wife or adult children who rise to his defense. Do not take that bait. Be sweet. Saying less is better than too much.

What happens next?

11. If the pastor is moderating the meeting and feels impressed by the Lord, he might ask the congregation at some point, “Does anyone have a motion to make?” And then wait. See what God does.

Once the pastor knows that the membership has Mr. Bully’s number and that they are reining him in, he becomes encouraged to resist the man himself. After all, what is going to happen—mark my words—is that the pastor’s office phone will ring early tomorrow morning. It’ll be Mr. Bully trying to cut his losses and still come out on top.

This is critical now, pastor. Don’t you wimp out. Do not give in to him.

Ask the Lord what to say to him.

If necessary, ask if you can call him right back in a few minutes. (Don’t give him a reason. You could be in your bathroom or have someone standing there. Just say, “I need to call you back. Give me three minutes.”)

Then get on your knees and ask the Lord what you should say.

And remember, pastor, this is not about you. Even though you will feel it is in some respects and if Mr. Bully is neutralized, you will feel you have just been handed a wonderful present.

But you are going to love the Bully family and be kind to them. After all, they are bruised now. They had taken pride in Dad’s domination of the church (they wouldn’t have called it that in a hundred years, but no doubt felt he is the leader of the laity and stands up to lazy pastors, that sort of thing) and now he has been humiliated.

Do not apologize. You didn’t do anything in that business meeting but moderate. The congregation rose up and held him accountable and took whatever action they did. Just assure them of your love and tell them, “It’ll be all right.” Then shut your mouth.

Don’t you undo in private what the congregation has finally gotten up the nerve to do.

Dr. Joe McKeever writes from the vantage point of more than 60 years as a disciple of Jesus, more than 50 years preaching His gospel and more than 40 years of cartooning for every imaginable Christian publication. For the original article, visit joemckeever.com.

Nine Observations about Announcements in Worship Services

Nine Observations about Announcements in Worship Services

origin_4274024184By Thom Rainer

To have or not to have announcements in the worship services? That is the question many church leaders ask today. And indeed there are several tendencies or trends related to announcements, and they are often related to the size of the church.

I asked a number of church leaders of congregations of varying sizes about their practices in this area. They pretty much confirmed what I am seeing as well. Here are my nine observations:

  1. More church leaders do not think announcements should be a part of the worship services. Their churches are more likely to have announcements projected on a screen prior to the worship service, or not to have them at all in the worship center.
  2. Large churches (700 and up in average worship attendance) are highly unlikely to have announcements as a part of the worship service. As noted above, they may have the announcements projected on a screen prior to the worship service.
  3. Smaller churches (under 200 in average worship attendance) are very likely to include announcements as a traditional part of the worship service. Excluding them would likely cause some level of conflict in the church.
  4. Video or projected announcements have grown commensurate with the growth of projected lyrics during the worship music. Because the technology and equipment is available for the music, more churches also use it for announcements.
  5. With greater frequency, pastors limit making announcements unless they are a major or visional issue. This trend is growing in all churches except smaller congregations.
  6. More congregations limit announcements before or during the worship services to those issues that affect most or all of the congregants. For example, it is becoming less likely for announcements to be made about a committee meeting that involves only six people.
  7. Many pastors are still asked to make announcements right before worship services begin. Often they are handed a slip of paper or told adamantly that something must be announced. I will address this issue in a later blog post.
  8. Pastors also receive pressure from different groups and individuals to make certain their announcements are made. Most every church member has his or her own idea about priorities in the church. One pastor recently told me that a church member got mad at him because he did not announce that the member’s daughter was named salutatorian of her senior high school class.
  9. Most church leaders believe that the retention rate of announcements by members is low. If retention is indeed low, it would indicate that most times of announcements are done due to pressure or tradition or both.

What is your church’s approach to announcements in the worship services? How effective do you think they are? What is your reaction to these nine observations?



This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on January 7, 2015. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

One comment

  • Glen McBride

    Our church is a small congregation, and I attempted to simply encourage the congregation to read the bulletin that is circulated. … Wow, the respose of some was great, but there were some, you would have thought I was asking for the sacrifice of their first-born. I went back to making announcements, but slowly began to minimize them and eventually was able to go from a 8 to ten minute block of time to about three minutes, now making only basic highlighted remarks to encourage people to read the bulletin. I have also added some humor to the weekly bulletin to add interest for people to read it … that is of course if they have a sense of humor. Thanks for the idea of projecting the announcements, good idea I will pursue.

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