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5 Grave Dangers for Any Local Church

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One of my favorite movies is the 1992 modern classic A Few Good Men. It starred Tom Cruise as Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee, Jack Nicolson as Colonel Nathan Jessop, and Demi Moore as Lieutenant Commander Joanne Calloway. It’s a great leadership movie, and illustrates a point I want to make about working in local churches.

You probably remember the famous “You can’t handle the truth!” dialogue, but do you remember this scene?

Kaffee: Yes, Sir. Colonel, at the time of this meeting, you gave Lt. Kendrick an order, is that right?
Jessep: I told Kendrick to tell his men that Santiago wasn’t to be touched.
Kaffee: And did you give an order to Colonel Markinson as well?
Jessep: I ordered Markinson to have Santiago transferred off the base immediately.
Kaffee: Why?
Jessep: I felt his life might be in danger once word of the letter got out.
Kaffee: Grave danger?
Jessep: Is there another kind?

Grave danger…is there any other kind?

That may seem over-the-top or a bit dramatic for a blog post intro. Most of us who are leaders in the church are not nearly as intense as Kaffee or Jessep, our work doesn’t require us to carry weapons, and we aren’t often in a courtroom.

But as I think about the gospel story, it is dramatic. It is about life and death. When it comes to the local church, the stakes are high and we do stand post for the Kingdom!

We don’t have to get weird about it, but there are grave dangers that we face as we do our part of leading the mission forward. It’s easy for work in local churches to become “business as usual.” Therefore, it’s wise and helpful to reflect on the depth of five dangers that can really hurt your church.

5 Grave Dangers for Local Churches

1) When systems take the lead over the Holy Spirit.

I’m an advocate of church systems. Good stewardship requires efficiency of time, energy and money.

However, if we ever begin to lean into systems over the power of the Holy Spirit, we are skating on thin ice. Under the demands of a seven day turn around, 52 times a year to “produce” the next service, it’s easier to do than you might think. The machine can take over the mission.

The idea is not to ignore your systems or get rid of them. In fact, you may need to develop them better. It’s more about keeping them in the right priority and knowing how to keep them subject to the Holy Spirit. That’s not easy when you have deadlines.

The Holy Spirit can’t be a tag on at the end if the leaders still expect divine power. We must let Him lead the way, and the systems help us unleash that power to reach even more people.

2) When your church name is lifted above Jesus’ name.

The name of your church matters and a good reputation in your community is important. But there is a subtle and all the more dangerous potential to talk more about your church than about Jesus.

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Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together.