20 Hidden Killers in Your Ministry

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Discover these hidden factors that are undermining the health of your church congregation.

Life is fragile. But you know that.

All of us who are more than a generation old realize the physical and mental sharpness of our childhood and youth has diminished. It may not be obvious when we are 20-something or 30-something, but it is there. It becomes more obvious when we are 40-something and 50-something and still trying to trying to push ourselves like we were much younger.

By the time we are 60-something and 70-something, the aging process is in full swing. Many of the symptoms of our aging have been present for decades, but they are just now having an obvious impact on us that we cannot overcome by just working harder. We must work smarter and choose carefully those things to which we commit ourselves. Health conditions that were not obvious in earlier decades are now part of our daily concern and actions.

If we make it to 80-something or 90-something, for the vast majority of us, health and life expectancy issues are not only a primary concern for us, but often for our family who love us and have a responsibility to help care for us.

Is the Same Pattern True for Congregations?

Absolutely! The patterns are clear.

Congregations often thrive for the first generation of their lives. At some point when they are 20-something, their founding dream or vision wanes. If they do not intervene in their own journey in response to the spiritual nudge of the Triune God, the vitality and vibrancy of their congregation will diminish incrementally for the succeeding decades, and they will approach death at some future date.

Or they may realize the underlying spiritual, strategic, social and structural health issues and redevelop forward in response to a new or renewed vision. This is possible as a Christ-centered, faith-based, spiritual community. This is not something that is ultimately possible for us as individuals.

The ideal is that following the first generation of life, congregations will re-envision their future continually and effectively live into that vision as FaithSoaring churches. However, that is an ideal realized by less than 20 percent of congregations at any given time.

What about the rest of us?

Hidden Factors Undermining the Health of Congregations

George Bullard George is President of The Columbia Partnership at www.TheColumbiaPartnership.org, a Christian ministry organization that seeks to transform the North American Church for vital and vibrant ministry. George is the author of three books: Pursuing the Full Kingdom Potential of Your Congregation, Every Congregation Needs a Little Conflict, and FaithSoaring Churches. George is also General Secretary [executive director] of the North American Baptist Fellowship at www.NABF.info. George is also Senior Editor of the TCP Leadership Series books with Chalice Press at www.ChalicePress.com. More than 30 books have been published in this series during the past seven years.

More from George Bullard or visit George at http://www.bullardjournal.org/

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  • ePHraimAg

    Murdering The Mind Of Christ within His Vessel…only wickedness left in a church ?

  • Harold Lloyd Daley, P.h.D.

    I am the lay associate pastor of a SDA church in LA and this is the most enlightening church developmental argument I have ever experienced. I am also 68 years old. I would like to use this article as an opening torche discussion for a suffering and dying congregation; but I need help. Please help!?

    Harold Lloyd Daley, P.h. D

  • ServantHeart2012

    Excellent article, but how does a church address numbers 2 through 19 if they can’t get past the last sentence of number 1?

  • revst

    What do you have to say to churches that are over 150 years old?

    • Jw

      It was dead a Long time ago. Either resurrect it or have a funeral service for it.

  • Maria

    Lord help us all! Revive us again!

  • http://www.greenlightministries.org/ Robin Gates

    Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.” Mark 10:21 Brothers, Preach truth and establish the Church according to Isaiah 58:6-7 –

    “Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
    To loose the bonds of wickedness,
    To undo the heavy burdens,
    To let the oppressed go free,
    And that you break every yoke?
    7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
    And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
    When you see the naked, that you cover him,
    And not hide yourself from your own flesh?

    I fear that the Body of Christ is hiding herself in the comfort of their buildings, from their own flesh. Jesus is calling, and He wants His bride back. Compromise, comfort, and complacency are the evil. Old buildings are old buildings.

  • Paxman

    Thanks for the wonderful articles

  • Paxman

    Thanks for the wonderful articles

  • Dr.nelapati samuel

    An I open to all the pastors and congregations. Thanks a lot

  • Dr.nelapati samuel

    Church need this teaching for this hour. Thanks for such a eye open article

  • Ben

    Good morning,saints after reading this post. i am amazed, the reason we are growing old it is we been taught to be old, we are taught to die at certain age like 70. we were sold a bill of goods. why are we not living as long as the people who lived lets say Noah,s day or Abraham,s days. how about Moses days. just because Moses sang a song to the Jews who grieved God 10 times would not enter the new land, now we gentile believers are going to die as they the Jews did. I have posted several times about the dumb sheep mentality, will some one please tell me how in God,s name can a man and sheep have the mind of Christ, how does one become a son or a daughter of God our Father and still be called a sheep. this blows my mind. the old generation did not see a man on the moon, the old generation did not have the knowledge that we have now what did the Lord say about looking back ward if you do your not worthy to be His. why don’t we look straight ahead towards Jesus and not are yesterdays. Ben

    • Ryan

      I laugh at some of the things you say. So if I believe I will live 500 plus years, I will? The sheep thing is just a metaphore. I find church now days do a lot to promote corporate worship and ‘community’. My fear is people in the church go to church, learn everything there is to know about God. They do thier time with all this feel good church stuff, even serving in various ministries. They are taught to believe in Jesus which is good and all but I fear very few have a real intimate relationship with God. Many will say in that day, “Lord, Lord, did I not go to church every week, serve here and serve there, gave 10%, sung praises to you and even prayed?” Jesus might say something like, “Now who are you? My sheep hear my voice, and I know them…”

      • Ben

        Hey Ryan, thanks for the response. i made a comment on living a long time, why did people live much longer than, than we do to day? where they maybe different than we are. I have no idea. as for the sheep mentality I know it is a metaphor but have many are living in it. you said if i believe i live to 500 years you would well why not? The Lord said if I abide in you and you in me ask for anything and I will do it. Ryan Our God spoke in the book of geniuses did He not promise man 130 years to repent? is that promise still good today? thanks Ben

        • Hersh, or is it Harsh

          I believe it was ask within HIS will, not ask “anything” at all. Let’s see if I’m wrong…. Dear Lord, please turn me into a Unicorn right this very moment so my loving wife can become a billionaire selling pony rides to the kiddies and support Angie our Missionary friend in Africa, build a new children’s hospital, and tithe to Your work of grace and mercy 28.7% MORE than we do now. Nope…. I’m still me…. BUMMER!

  • Dave Irwin

    Apostatizing from the Word of God.– that’s a real ministry killer, no matter how large or small your church is. The fact that the fear of God is anathema in many of our churches — that’s a real ministry killer. Treating God as if He were light and fluffy and of no consequence — that may be popular for a while, but it’ll end up making the church and her message totally irrelevant.

    We don’t need better techniques for success as if we were a business or a secular corporation . We need to fear God again, and call the church to repentance if we’re going to survive in this culture. Then maybe we’ll have a message to give to the lost again. .

  • Jerry Edmonds

    Just like with substance abuse, until the why is dealt with the what will never change. It is all
    a process.

    Especially discipleship. We have the idea that discipleship is a program, that it ends at some point and we graduate. Nope. Not even close. As we are seeking to be discipled, we simultaneously seek those who we can disciple. Similar to the Gesundheit Institute model for healthcare.

    We also need to be real. Most aren’t, for various excuses (you notice I purposely avoided the term reasons) that are lame. Why can’t we admit that we’re all human, which means we’re all broken, and that’s OK?

    Thoughts? Is this a good place to start?

  • Ryan

    Number 11 is the very reason I could never invite anyone to church. Like George said, “They want to attract new people to provide leadership where needed and to contribute generously to the church budget and any debt.” I just never had the heart to pull someone into a financial obligation. “Come and get to know my Jesus. Believe on him and be saved. Salvation is free! Oh by the way, now that your saved, there is this little 10% God tax you need to pay.” I don’t know but this really bothered me.

  • Tounahos

    Great article! I feel that we could add that many churches do not rely on the Holy Spirit for anything, they don’t even mention him. Also, going to church in many places is a spectator sport, with only a few people getting involved. Thirdly, programs were mentioned in the article, and I agree with what was written, but I also want to add that many of these church programs have merely become social clubs. Another reason to “fellowship”. I would love to see Christians going out into the world and living out their faith, and actually making disciples! Peace.

  • greg@kingsway

    the best sermon I’ve SEEN in years! great — article!

  • scott


  • Cesar Gil

    I’m glad to see a message here that talks about church life, not revolving around administrative practices as the way to the solution.

  • J

    This is invigorating stuff but some balance would also be useful. While many churches are indeed staid and dying inside because of these things, I have also seen the opposite – too much continual renewal that creates plenty of activity and excitement but also disrupts much of the depth and maturity every solid church still needs. Disruption for the sake of disruption is not good.


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He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? —Romans 8:32