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How to Kill Your Church in 5 Easy Steps

The following is based on experiences I’ve had with churches I’ve consulted with in more than 20 years of service in ministry. Over that time, I have become convinced that we have perfected the pathology by which we can accelerate the decline and eventual demise of a local church.

I’ve seen the following happen in different orders, with different emphases, and I can guarantee that if you implement these five things, you will be pushing the nuclear button on your congregation.

I’ve seen it happen enough times, and western evangelicalism has developed habits that have perfected this approach.

1. Perpetually send an unclear sound. 

Make sure that key leaders remain clueless, and divided, when it comes to the identity, purpose, vision and direction of the church.

Speak in spiritual euphemisms that seem holy, like “we just want to love Jesus and each other,” or “we just want to follow the Bible.” These sorts of nebulous statements, absent of any contextual application, are a way to sound thoroughly biblical without actually being biblical.

Furthermore, they are the perfect way to stay adrift in a sea of irrelevance, and never identify who God created your local church to be, and what He wants her to do.

The result, of course, is that the church will do nothing.

2. Invest more time in needy people than in leaders. 

You know the old saying; “The squeaky wheel gets the most grease.” In many local churches, those who “squeak” the loudest seem to get all the grease!

And the grand mistake of church leaders is to give inordinate attention to the loudest and most needy people in the congregation, rather than invest in those God has gifted to lead the church.

This sets up an environment in which people learn that the most attention will always be paid to the loudest complainers. And this is precisely the kind of environment that will suck the life out of any real leader—or inadvertently push leaders right out the door.

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Dr. Joel Rainey is an imperfect, but growing follower of Jesus Christ, husband to Amy, father of three, and Executive Director of the Mid-Maryland Baptist Association. He is on the adjunct faculty of two seminaries, the author of three books, and numerous articles.