Two or Three (.net)

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. - Jesus


Why Most Churches Suck

by danielg [+/-] show/hide

Joe over at the evangelical outpost has a nice post on his struggle with attending church. Here’s my outline of what is wrong with most churches. But let me first say this – almost all of the problems in a local church are the fault of the local leadership, not the congregation.

1. Church Leadership Perpetuate Spiritual Infancy by Failing to Help Members Grow
This, IMHO, is the biggest problem with churches. They perpetuate spiritual infancy by:

  • Always Preaching to Sinners About Getting Saved
    How many times can saved people hear the "everyone is a sinner and must repent" message before they get tired of being "beat down?" And who wants to bring their friends and neighbors to a hell fire and brimstone church anyway? I’m not saying we should shy away from the gospel. What I am saying is that it is the goodness of God that leads men to repentance, not the wagging finger of a shouting preacher. And Sunday services should be to teach Christians how to grow as spiritual people and disciples of Christ. I understand the Seeker Sensitive idea, that Sundays should be for visitors, while you may have a "believers service" midweek for more indepth teaching – that’s cool, as long as your Sunday service isn’t just about SIN all the time.
  • Failure to Allow Lay Leadership to Share in the Work of the Church
    Do they not know that their job is "equipping of the saints for the work of ministry?" This weird separation of "we are the ministers, you are the people" is unbiblical and keeps people from serving God with their gifts. Even in churches where they let lay members lead ministries, many of these churches have little infrastructure in place to train and support lay leaders.
  • Failure to Call People to Discipleship and Leadership
    If leaders don't tell people that Jesus calls them to follow, and to grow up into those who can teach others, they just don't do it. My favorite passage with respect to this is Hebrews 5:12-14:
In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

2. They Have Song Leaders Instead of Worship Leaders
As a former Charismatic worship leader, and current member of the worship team at my current SBC church, I have to say that many churches think that if they just make their worship contemporary, and get some excitement going, that their worship is real and dynamic. So how come people exhibit such lame participation in such worship? Because it is song leading, not worship leading. The congregation doesn’t need good eye contact and smiles from the worship team, they need a group of people who get lost in worship, whose hearts and eyes are looking upwards. The congregation will then follow.

One small aside about non-charismatic churches doing contemporary worship. I think many, if not most of them have a tepid anointing on worship because their doctrines overemphasize everything being done "decently and in order," but what they really mean is "we are afraid of emotionalism, and don’t believe in speaking in tongues or fainting because of the Holy Spirit in our church. In fact, even if the Holy Spirit does work in that way, we don’t want that here." While I understand their fear of fanaticism, they would do well to remember that the charismatic movement birthed contemporary worship. They seem to want the fruit of this movement (reinvigorated worship) without the spirit that birthed it.

One further note about contemporary worship. Every time there is a true spiritual awakening, people without church backgrounds become Christians, and when they then start to worship, they worship using the musical language they know – they don’t start singing in the style of the 1800’s. This is why the Salvation Army was initially a pariah to the churches – their converts were playing brass band music, which was not church music. But they couldn’t deny the powerful spirit upon the converts. If we want real anointing on our worship, we just don't need a new wineskin (contemporary music), we need new wine (revival in our spirits).

3. The Main Pastor / Teacher Is A Poor Teacher
I have left churches where the main teacher handled scripture sloppily, used trite aphorisms to make his point, and otherwise showed that he had not spent the time to really teach properly. I believe it was Chuck Swindoll, the excellent bible teacher, who said something like (my paraphrase, can’t find the reference):

The bible is like a tarnished brass rail that a man is hired to polish. The poor teacher is like the man who rubs the railing a few times and calls it polished. He reads the scriptures superficially, gets a good point, perhaps even a true point from his reading, and teaches that. However, he has not spent the time to determine what the true meaning of the passage is. You see, all scriptures has specific intended meaning. The good teacher is like the man who rubs the rail repeatedly until the true brilliance of the brass is revealed. The good teacher studies and meditates on a passage until the specific intended meaning shines forth.

4. The Main Pastor is only a Preacher and Not a Teacher
Someone once said that the difference between teachers and preachers is this: one is telling, the other is yelling. This is close to the truth – better said, teachers instruct, while preachers motivate. Some people are great motivators, but really do not do any systematic teaching very well. And that’s OK – but for a church to really be growing, you need someone who is a teacher, not just a preacher. Even better, someone who does both. If you have only a preacher, you’re motivated but have no instruction on how to do a good job at the tasks you are motivated to accomplish – if you only have a teacher, you probably are well educated but do little of what you are taught because you aren’t motivated to action.

5. The Church Leadership Has Bad or Unbalanced Doctrine
Nothing kills people like bad doctrine – be it religiously controlling or hopelessly humanistic and liberal. The former produces Pharisees, the latter nice people with none of God’s power to transform and save people.

6. The Leadership Isn’t Interested in Seeking God
Without an earnest desire to do God’s will, without regular prayer, fasting, study of God’s word, personal holiness and obedience, church leadership will never produce a vibrant spiritual community.

7. They Fail to Create True Community – Poor or No Small Groups
In small churches, there may be some community, but in a group larger than about 10 people, you are only going to get mostly superficial relationships. If a church only emphasizes church attendance, or emphasizes it over small group involvement, or has a poor network of small groups, they are fooling themselves if they think they are really helping people.

And if the church is big, but lacks small group fellowship, you can bet that it means only one thing – cult of personality. Everyone comes to see the great preacher, or the great music, but they go home and hardly know anyone else in the church. Even in churches that have small groups, if they have a weak small group philosophy and follow-through on that philosophy, they will suck at creating true community.


  • As a worship leader in my own church, I think the lack of expression in worship has two root causes. First, so many people come out of churches where worship is so formal that it does not allow for expression of emotion and consequently people don't feel the freedom to raise their hands, close their eyes, or express any kind of emotion for fear of what others will think. Second, it is the misuse of spiritual gifts such as tongues in some charismatic churches that has caused many to be wary of the more charismatic styles of worship. Although I don't have a great understanding of tongues and have never personally experienced a service where tongues were spoken, I do believe that it is still a gift for today. Many of us (myself included) lack a true biblical understanding of tongues and consquently we shy away from it just like many other things we do not understand.

    By Blogger Daddypundit, at 3/02/2005 5:27 AM  

  • Yeah, my friends and I have been discussing this. We don't know much about tongues, but we can tell when charismatic styles of worship are abused. They can be abused just as many churches abuse worship in the opposite way (by showing no emotion). I have seen many cases where people get in emotional fits on Sunday, yelling, shouting, praising, falling on the floor, but there is no change in attitude or actions on Monday. Just as most who come to dry services leave just as they came.

    I don't think you can blame any type of worship service. People can choose to worship God regardless of the setting or music style. Some of the hymns make me raise my hands (a rarity in my church) just as much as some of the praise choruses do (which I love by the way, don't get me wrong).

    I do agree that we need the Holy Spirit more in our churches, though I am not sure if that by definition means we must have tongues and passing out. Not that they can't be part of it, but I would not box the Holy Spirit in to say that He has to operate like that.

    I think each point you raise, also has the opposite that is true. Some churches don't preach sin enough, they preach "feel good" messages that leave everyone warm and fuzzy but holiness is never brought up.

    I think my main problem is the Church has misunderstood the Great Commission. It doesn't say go and make converts, it says go and make disciples. We need to refocus on that and get our passion for Christ back.

    Excellent post and very thought provoking ideas.

    By Blogger Aaron, at 3/02/2005 9:05 AM  

  • As a post-charismatic christian ;), I have to say that I like the charismatic style of worship where people who are happy can sing, dance, lift hands, even sing in tongues, but shouting in tongues, or speaking loudly with an interpretation during the service kinda creeps me out, I'm not really into it.

    Also, this thing about unctrollable shaking and utterances is just plain soulish nonsense to me - it has little to do with the spirit of God, except it might stem from our warped reaction to God's presence - but we can't blame our reactions on God.

    Fainting, or being "slain" in the spirit is often emotionalism, but I have been in services where that type of surrender in the presence of God, and the type of healing and ministry you recieve from the Holy Spirit while on the floor can be amazing. But I don't think this essential to spirituality or church. I'll have to post on the whole charismatic thing.

    By Blogger papa, at 3/02/2005 1:41 PM  

  • I don't think it has to be labeled "charasmatic" for people to raise their hands, sing, dance, etc. The tongues thing may be where it moves into charasmatic territory (again not sure because of my limited experience and knowledge).

    I also, don't want to downplay any significance of God's presence that drives someone to the floor. God has "caused" me to go to the floor in prayer and in worship, never passing out or just falling.

    All of these are interesting things that I would like to see you delve into a little more deeper, seeker.

    By Blogger Aaron, at 3/02/2005 1:47 PM  

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