Almost a decade ago, I led a major study on churches that had reversed negative trends and become positive breakout churches. I established the criterion that the breakout had to take place without changing pastors.
I knew from previous research that most breakout churches had new pastors. I wanted to see if it was likely for a church to turn around without getting a new pastor.
My beginning database was 52,333 churches in the United States. Without boring you with all the details of my data screening and research (you can read about it in Appendix B of my book, Breakout Churches),
I was only able to identify 13 true breakout churches. For the interested statistical nerds like me, that’s only two-hundredths of 1 percent (.0002).
That extremely low number has bothered me for years. As a result, I have attempted to discern what the primary hindrances are.
Why is it so unlikely for a declining church to become a growing church?
Surprisingly, demographics have little to do with the turnaround.
So far, I’ve been able to identify four simple reasons breakout is hindered in most churches.
1. Lack of leadership development.
Most pastors have little training or background in leadership. But they are expected to lead a church.
Some may have extensive theological and biblical training, but they are weak in leadership.
Jethro had to tell Moses that his leadership approach was all wrong. Moses was headed for a leadership disaster.
Many of our churches have leaders who have few leadership skills.
2. Unbiblical understanding of church membership.
I have written quite a bit on this topic lately, including my new book, I Am a Church Member. Basically, an unbiblical understanding of church membership is one that is self-centered.
Members have an attitude that the church exists for “me” and “my” preferences. If I don’t get my way, I’m either going to cause conflict or leave the church.