5 Specific Ways the Current Approach to Church Seems Badly Outdated

5 Specific Ways The Current Approach To Church Seems Badly Outdated

You open the doors to your church every weekend hoping more people will come (or in some cases, hoping somebody comes) only to discover that, with few exceptions, more people rarely do.

It can get discouraging, and many leaders wring their hands over what to do and how to respond.

Even once-growing churches hit plateaus and stumble into decline, and we wonder why it’s so hard to gain traction.

One of the reasons so many churches struggle these days is that the way we do church is badly outdated.

Culture is changing rapidly, which means people are changing rapidly. If you want to reach people, that probably also means you need to change your approach rapidly.

That freaks out a lot of Christians who think that because the message never changes, nothing should change.

There’s a huge difference between changing the message and changing the method.

In the church’s case, the historic message doesn’t change. But the methods have to.

Here’s why: If you don’t change your methods, eventually no one will hear your message.

I have a sinking feeling if we sat down with young adults and asked them why we do things the way we do, we’d hear an earful.

As the pace of change accelerates around us with every passing month, here are five ways the way we do church appears ever-more outdated.

1. Making People Go to Church

As I outlined in my 2018 church trends post, the idea of only doing church in a ‘box’ on Sundays is an increasingly stale idea.

In the (very near) future, people won’t go to church. The church will go to people.

Not sure what that means?

Think about how much your life has changed in the last 15 years.

Quick example: Let’s say I want to buy a specific wooden monitor stand for my iMac (which I do). I have two options.

Option 1: Traipse to store after store looking for what feels like a needle in a haystack (I want a walnut one), realizing, in the end, I likely need to go to Toronto or some major city to find one that: a) I like, b) fits my particular computer and c) is in my price range. (Not factoring in, of course, a lot of phone calls, a day of lost travel time and tons of gas money).

Option 2: Browse Amazon and Etsy from my phone, order the monitor and have it shipped to my house next day.

Which would you choose?

Exactly.

Despite a welcome and thoughtful backlash against technology and what it’s doing to our minds (and souls), the Internet is still not going away anytime soon.

There was a day when going to church was the only option you had if you wanted to be part of a local church.

A century or more ago, you lived in a village or city or on a farm, and you made the trek into town or over a few blocks to hear the local preacher. It was also a chance to connect relationally and socially. Honestly, for many people a century ago it was a highlight of their week.

The car gave people mobility, so we created bigger suburban churches to which people drove.

As a result, our entire model for the last century or more has been built on people going to church as though it was a destination and physical place.

But back up the timeline earlier than that, and you realize that the church going to people is not that innovative. Entire denominations and movements were premised on bringing the church to people (think circuit preachers or even the Apostle Paul).

Now, of course, we have the Internet. Which most church leaders still seem to ignore as a serious tool for ministry.

So many churches remain stuck in the idea that the only way you can access the Gospel is to come to our building at a set hour every week.

Want access beyond that? Not sure how to help you.

Too many churches operate an analog model in a digital world.

Churches that want to reach people will bring the church to people, through:

-A great social media presence

-Messages available anytime, anywhere in multiple formats (web, social, podcast)

-In-home gatherings

-Practical help/advice/encouragement for everyday life (like the ParentCue strategy and the ParentCue app)

-Partnerships in the community with other organizations that are making a difference (which not only does good, but takes you out of your box and into where the people you’re trying to reach gather)

Ironically, when churches begin to go to people, it makes people also want to go to church.

Because you went to them, they will want to come to you.

It creates a reciprocal, daily relationship. Whatever you do during the week builds on what happened on the weekend. And whatever you do on the weekend built on what happened during the week.

But most churches still only want people to come to them. That clock is ticking…fast.

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Carey Nieuwhof
Carey Nieuwhof is founding pastor of Connexus Church and the author of several books, including his latest best-selling work, 'Lasting Impact: 7 Powerful Conversations That Will Help Your Church Grow.' Carey speaks to church leaders around the world about leadership and personal growth.