Is Your Church Full of Customers or Owners?


How to change the atmosphere of your church from receiving religious goods and services to authentic participation and service.

I continue my series today about laypeople and the mission of God. Let me start with a crisis point in my ministry that helped me to see the issue more clearly.

When I planted a church in Pennsylvania, we started strong, particularly for the North, by growing to 125 the first year. We had 25 people in our core and 100 new people who came over the course of the first year.

But the new 100 people didn’t do anything. They were passive spectators rather than active participants in the mission of God.

And so we recognized we had a cultural problem within the congregation.

There was a culture of non-participation.

People came to be objects of ministry rather than co-laborers on mission. They wanted to be what I could call today “customers of the religious goods and services” distributed by our exciting new church.

And it was killing me.

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I spent hour upon hour ministering, calling, working and begging others to do the same. It was not working, as people preferred to receive rather than to give.

So, we began to change the atmosphere to one of expectation that people will serve in ministry.

My motivation was not so complicated. What I tried to do was to shift the culture in my church from passivity to activity.

When new people came into our church, most of them connected to the 100 passive people instead of the 25 active. A bad situation became worse.

So, we took a full year to make a change through preaching, teaching and training.

We realized we had to help people get it, so we did.

Ed Stetzer Ed Stetzer is President of LifeWay Research and LifeWay’s Missiologist in Residence. He has trained pastors and church planters on five continents, holds two masters degrees and two doctorates, and has written dozens of articles and books. Ed is a contributing editor for Christianity Today, a columnist for Outreach Magazine and Catalyst Monthly, serves on the advisory council of Sermon Central and Christianity Today's Building Church Leaders, and is frequently cited or interviewed in news outlets such as USAToday and CNN.

More from Ed Stetzer or visit Ed at

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