Why Most Churches Would Rather Die Than Change

I'm convinced that most pastors would rather lead their church in slow, painful death than deep, painful change. They wouldn't admit that out loud, but practically that is the choice they are making. The church grows older, it shrinks by small percentage points each year, and rarely baptizes a newly saved adult. So they are choosing to die rather than change (even though that death may take 100 years).

But why? Why would a church rather die than change? I would suggest a few reasons:

  • LESS PAIN: Slow death is typically less painful than deep change. We all want to avoid pain. And the slow pain of a dying church is immediately less painful than the pain of change. A slowly dying church can feel like things are going well for decades without knowing they have spiritual cancer.
  • TOO HARD: Status quo is always easier. Always. 
  • DON'T FEEL SICK: Slow death is so slow, a church doesn't even feel sick. So why change?
  • TOO PAINFUL FOR LEADER: A change always involves sacrifice for the leader. It is typically easier on the leader to not change.
  • AVOID CONFLICT: Many leaders would rather hurt the cause than hurt someone's feelings. Change will hurt feelings – church members' and the leader's making the changes. 
  • CHURCH STRUCTURE: Many churches have so many committees and leadership structures that it is next to impossible to make significant changes without a majority "buying in." A majority of people will almost never buy into a new idea. This creates a problem if a change must go through multiple groups, or (worse) if it needs to be voted on by the church.
  • FEAR: We fear failure – so it is easier to do nothing. Failure is embarrassing. Failure will make people leave. Failure could cost your job.
  • LOSING PEOPLE: We aren't willing to lose people to other churches so that later we can win lost people to Christ. This is really hard and difficult to convince others that it is "worth it" – especially when those new people don't give, and those upset are big givers. 
  • UNEXAMINED CONVICTIONS: Church leaders would rather have a shrinking church with unchallenged theological convictions than to ask the difficult questions of examining if a view might be preference. 

What am I missing?

I think it really is true – in the long run – your church must choose between slow, painful death and deep, painful change. 

Church Rochester NY_10

7 comments
  1. This is not only true for churches, but true for life. All Christians will likely face a point where they must “choose between slow, painful death and deep, painful change.”

  2. I would add one thought. Many Pastors lack vision or the ability to cast vision. They know that what they are doing is broken, but they have no idea how to fix it. They truly love Jesus and are faithful in shepherding His flock, but lack the skills or the gifts needed to bring about the changes that must occur for the church to thrive long term…

  3. i think it is wrong to blame pastors because in many/most churches deacons and congregation are the ones who refuse to change, even when pastor has great innovative ideas. they are older, set in ways and hate change

  4. Pam – 

    I hope you dont think Im blaming pastors. 

    Yet, at the same time, no church wants to change and is really ready for change. They MUST be led to change. That requires a lot of hard work, leadership gifts, patience, determination, prayer, and many more things.

  5. Wow, Andrew – that was a long response. 
    But there certainly are some things we agree on – that you assume we disagree on.
    And youve definitely misunderstood or misrepresented some things Ive said (I will assume misunderstood).

    And on other things – we see differently – theologically, biblically and philosophically.

    I will be down in your area in July then October. If youd be interested in dialoguing on things like this – let me know. I will buy you breakfast or lunch.

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