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.