Why “Insiders” Are Killing Your Church

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If the problem is not strategy, theology or leadership, why aren't we reaching the lost?

Let’s cut to the chase on something.

Almost everybody who follows Christ, and almost every gathering of those Christ-followers constituting a church, says the same thing:

“We want to reach the world for Christ.”

Yet, most don’t.

So where’s the breakdown?

It’s not strategy. There are vast numbers of churches who are successfully penetrating the culture of the “nones,” growing through conversion growth, and who willingly offer their tried and true strategies to any and all who wish to learn.

It’s not theology. As mentioned, almost every Christian church would have evangelism as part of their core values and integral to their mission statement.

It’s not the new generation of leadership. Most young leaders got into the game to see a lost world won to Christ. They are sold out and ready to rock.

It’s not the new generation of Christians. If you want to meet an evangelistic animal, spend time with a new believer. They are, in the best sense of the word, shameless with enthusiasm.

So what is the problem?

Jesus knew.

When challenged about His own missional emphasis toward those on the outside of faith, He responded: “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what the Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders'” (Matthew 9:12-13, Msg).

The problem? Seemingly, long-term “insiders.”

Countless numbers of leaders and members of churches have given in to a Christian consumerism. They embrace a mentality that gives ample rhetorical support to evangelistic intent but resists violently at the point of implementation because—at the point of actually “doing” it—it “costs” them.

In other words, scratch the surface of a sacrificial, pick-up-your-cross, to die is gain, eat my flesh and drink my blood, Christian …

… and you have an it’s-all-about-me, spiritually narcissistic, turned-inward, meet my needs, feed me, consumer.

Don’t believe me?

Let’s listen in:

“Of course I want to reach lost people,”

… but I’m not going to see us change the music.

James Emery White James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His latest book is What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary (Baker). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log-on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

More from James Emery White or visit James Emery at http://www.churchandculture.org/

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  • Pastor W.

    This is so true! So many “old timers” are selfish and could care less about a dying world going to he’ll!
    Pastor W.

    • Christian

      And so many “young-timers” are equally as selfish – willing to come in and criticize and accuse and demand change while they tear up a church and a beloved community for “what they (or their children) want”. Many old-timers ALSO care, and pray – and support missions… even if evangelical hipsters laugh at them and scorn their parents spiritual values and traditions. NEW people and agents of change- clothed in “missional rhetoric” also be mean as heck, and NOT care about a lost and dying world as well. This also is sad – and so true! I’ve seen BOTH sides of this coin… from both kinds of “churches”. Lord, have mercy upon your weak people!

      • Hallelujah anyhow!

        Yes, the younger generation can be just as mean. I had one girl tell me it is “their time”; we’ve had ours. I believe we can minister to all ages and still grow the Kingdom. In fact, it’s happening in our church! Praise the Lord!

  • Keith

    Good article. Echoes of Kinnaman’s “Deliver Us From Me-ville” and Macarthur’s “Ashamed of the Gospel”

    • Paul Collier

      Macarthur would IN NO WAY, SHAPE or FORM endorse this article- just listened to a sermon by him the other day that decried the seeker-friendly, lost-focused sunday services now sweeping across this land

      • Peter Mahoney

        Only if I endorse your presupposition that the article is endorsing what you identify as “seeker friendly.”

        • BJQ
      • Dalia

        I LOVE MacArthur. He works for God, period! He takes his role as a shepard very seriously and humbly. He backs everything he says with scripture. He explains what he is preaching with biblical accuracy. He is one FAITHFUL witness to the Great I Am. Just love him!!!!

      • John McElhaney

        Thank you; Amen

  • revcurtis

    That one wad right on the money. As a minister I see all the points u made all to often every one that has been on the inside for years seem to have forgotten that it’s not about them,but about them whom are yet lost.!

  • Brian Taylor

    I agree with the article, but I’m not sure if the giving of money should be included. Not that financial giving isn’t important or needed to reach the lost. But from my experience, financial giving can be an “out” for people to rationalize not making any sacrifices of their time, energy, or anything else. Financial giving may be hard for some, but for others, it’s a way of getting out of the “harder” and more costly sacrifices to reach people with the Gospel.
    But still, a great article!!

  • Michael Parks

    I agree with the premise of this article but some of the example statements bother me. It seems as if I don’t agree with your methodology of growth then the implication is I don’t really care. For example, “…but I’m not going to watch someone on a video.” Perhaps the best way to reach the lost is NOT via a video. A “mega church” method does not guarantee growth nor does it translate to “we care more because we have more.”

    • Rowena

      Our church is a pioneering church and just celebrated our first anniversary. When we started our worship service we watched and listened for the messages being preached from the website of a church that we know very well.. Because of that there are some who did not came back , but for those who wanted to know more about the savior we share to them came back. The insiders who have the same attitude with those who did not came back left. For those new believers who stayed , they stayed because they saw that we practice what we preach. It humbles us because we know in truth that without Christ we cannot do it on our own. Our group actually came from a pioneering church too. As the number of the church grow, there are some who wanted to be a leader, did the evangelism follow up the people and the very person that destroy their own missionaries to these new believers. And they don‘t want to share the offering to the mission. They want God‘s money for themselves. To feed them and help them in their needs. What’s worse they don’t even give give their tithes.. If there are contributions they are the first one to grumble.. Now, it saddened us to know that their number are diminishing, because of the attitude of these leaders. Do you have these kind of members in your church? Be on guard they almost destroy our missionary. But by God’s Grace she continue serving and getting her strength only from the Lord. And serving she does as she always ”THE LORD IS MY AND OUR JEHOVAH JIREH” She minister to us without pay. But by God’s Grace her needs and the church needs are supplied by God. God is trully faithfull. And I give all the Glory back to HIM!

    • J Calaway

      I understand your point but I am not sure he is trying to make the point that video venues or large church methods are the key focus. The list points to most if not all venues from small churches dealing with people taking parishioners seats to traditional churches dealing with worship styles to… The point is no matter what the size, methodology, location, style…to reach the lost it will force change and sacrifice from all who are involved.

      • kirk

        Well said!

    • Peter Mahoney

      Not really sure the examples we’re meant to be taken literally in specific contexts… but the author can address that if he chooses. As I read, the point being made seemed clear… There ought to be NO boundaries or limits to the extent that I will go to advance God’s Kingdom, see people apprehended by the Gospel, and discipled to repeat the process… even if that means I have to sacrifice some of my personal opinions or preferences to get it done.

      Beyond the principles of Luke 9.23 being lived out, there is the question of submission to authority. If the leadership points and say, “Let’s Go!!!” then we go, so long as we aren’t sacrificing the essentials of the faith and biblical unity is being maintained (so long as it depends on me). If you’re not going to follow your leaders, why did you call them? Either get behind them, leave quietly, or fire them.

      Has the American church devolved to such an extent that we now believe that this is a democracy?

      • long time staff member

        Yes it has – and most are dying a slow, painful death while blaming anyone who is living..so sad.

      • Tod Thompson

        If you can fire the leaders it is a democracy, no? However, I agree with what you say in terms of lead, follow or get out of the way. We should all be willing to sacrifice our sacred cows and comfort zones if it will help us accomplish the mission.

        • Peter Mahoney

          There is a distinction between an organizational structure that may be “democratic” in certain aspects and a democracy.

          As a pastor, can I “fire” staff members? Yes, but I would never do so without first consulting other members of my staff team for prayer and insight. Only in the most extreme cases would I make such a decision unilaterally. In any case, I would report the action to the church body ASAP. Again not for approval, but for there information. If ever there was a circumstance where I believed a member of the staff team needed to be terminated and the church negated that decision, my resignation would be swift.

    • misa.fiji

      We watch videos to learn from what others are doing to help us in building our churches….

      • misa.fiji

        No man is an island Mr. Parks…

    • Steven Leapley

      Hi Michael, I see where you are coming fro, and I think others may have alluded to this as well… of course not everyone will do or be interested in outreach in the same fashion…… the insider, as he sees it, and for that matter so do I, ends up being more of a ‘if you dont do it my way, then Im not gonna do it at all” kind of talk. It would be wonderful to see more people step up and say I dont prefer this method, but can I try this way… what happens, is congregants are wanting things that tailor to them that they can do on their own time to feel like they are involved. Bottom line here is a complacency that erupts throughout churches to the point that they are essentially killing themselves….. does that make sense?

  • Jeanna Payne

    Wow did you hit the nail on the head!! Christains are spoiled and most won’t even get up and give their seat so to care if their neighbors are going to hell is just too costly!! people have a hard time getting to christ because of the so called Christians!

  • Jay

    Add this to the list:

    My flock fills out a brown registration pad during the service where they can list their name, address, and phone number. The congregants are in the habit of only listing their names, because we already know their addresses and phone numbers.

    We discovered that guests modeled the behavior of congregants, and only filled out their names. We had no follow up contact info! So I encouraged the congregation to take an extra twenty seconds to fill out all their info, because when they did that, the guests would also fill out all their info.

    Even though I repeat this every week from the pulpit, only a small percentage of the congregants do it.

  • Wendy

    Here’s my question. Let’s say the church does embrace the new ways, does embrace seekers, and welcomes with humble hearts. Do we then forget those who are life long Christians who need to continually grow in their faith as well? Sometimes we forget that out of these people leaders can come to help those who seek, and that they need to be fed to grow more intimately in their relationship with Christ to further serve the church. It isn’t consumerism, narcissism, etc. It’s balance. Yes we are to reach out, yes we need to follow the great commission. Yes we need to embrace seekers. But we can’t forget those who have been around awhile, there can be balance.

    • Mikebbh

      It’s a fair question. What I tell our church is that we care deeply for those who are missing and that Sundays are the most evangelistic thing we do. So Sundays are primarily about the outsider and I tell Churh folks to help me make Sunday amazing and bring their friends.
      Then, I’m very clear that you don’t fully belong to our church unless you’re in a LifeGroup. That is where fellowship happens, discipleship continues, pastoral care takes place, etc.
      it’s been a great shift for us to cater to outsiders on Sundays, but its been hard too, and costly. Some have left over it, but they have landed at other churches which I’m glad about.

      • Paul Collier

        Sundays being primarily about the outsider means you are not fufilling the great commission on Mondays through Saturdays- if I were a part of your congregation, I would have no need to show up on Sunday- I would seek fellowship with the body elsewhere and continue to fulfill the great commission every day of the week- you should run an evangelical ministry and stop trying to be a congregation because anyone who comes to hear any real council of the Word is only going to get milk from you

    • long time staff member

      Those who have been around should be doing the serving, right? The church is not a restaurant for the insiders…we are to serve the hungry and the lost. The insiders get re-charged in leadership groups and should know how much personal worship is where to get recharged to serve.

  • Gregg 575

    Doesn’t it really come down to vision? If the vision of a church seems to be inward, then change which is already hard will be even harder. It takes a lot of time, perseverance, and consistent leadership to move people from an inward focus to an outward one. Leaders struggle with seeing the problem and desiring a large scale correction suddenly. I struggle with seeing newer works who come to the field without baggage and who seem to be very effective in reaching the lost – I get jealous. God has placed me in a place that needs to change and me along with it. I think we all desire to be effective and relevant. But we also need to recognize that God is at work in all of us in different ways and He has different specific things happening in different places. Lets keep casting a vision that is focused on reaching the lost and discipling the found. True disciples will happily do many of the things listed – and some marginal ones will as well when they see lost people coming to Christ. New believers can really energize a lethargic fellowship. I pray that we will continue to lead even where and when we are frustrated. We are sheep leading sheep and at times it is a lot like herding cats.

  • rtp000

    Having done missions in Africa and served as a Pastor to a care home and a church for First Nations people, the issue is the leader’s relationship with Christ and how the leader is lead by the Holy Spirit. If the leader is self centered and doesn’t trust the Lord to provide, why would the congregants? If the leader doesn’t equip and empower his congregants to step out, why would they?

    Many church leaders today are unfortunately leading by charisma, not by submission to the counsel of the Holy Spirit. To many, it is a job with a pay check and not a calling and trusting in God’s provision. In turn, their faith is weak and so their leadership is weak and their congregants get fed watered down scripture. In truth, congregants of a church are a mirror reflection of the leader of the church and what the leader has taught and set by example for them. All of the above “… but I’m not going to…” statements are a reflection of failure of the leadership, not a failure of the “insiders”. The “insiders” aren’t killing those churches, it’s the poor leadership!

    • http://www.facebook.com/RScottWagoner Scott Wagoner

      You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. In reality, the problem is probably a combination of both ends of this spectrum. <

      • rtp000

        The question at stake is how many horses in the congregation aren’t drinking? If it’s a few, that’s to be expected as even Jesus states that some seeds will fall onto rock and other places where it can’t take root. If it’s many, the leadership needs to take a long, hard look in the mirror!

    • Paul Collier


  • God of Jacob is mine

    In a few years, those reached by the method of producing “seeker-friendly” churches by feeding peoples’ desires, will become like the “Insiders” described in this article. The answer lies in “PRAYER,” “BREAKING OF BREAD,” and “TEACHING” of the solid meat of the Word of God. Authentic fellowship grounded on the Word of Truth and empowered by God’s Holy Spirit will ignite the people to break loose the chains of hypocrisy and the leaven of “self indulgence”

    Isaiah 52:1-3 (NIV)

    Awake, awake, Zion,
    clothe yourself with strength!
    Put on your garments of splendor,
    Jerusalem, the holy city.
    The uncircumcised and defiled
    will not enter you again.
    Shake off your dust;
    rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem.
    Free yourself from the chains on your neck,
    Daughter Zion, now a captive.
    For this is what the Lord says:
    “You were sold for nothing,
    and without money you will be redeemed.”

    • ServantHeart2012

      I see nothing wrong with being “seeker friendly” as long as there are also environments and programs to lead the seeker to become a believer, and the believer to become a follower of Christ. The problem lies in failing to lead the seeker once he or she is “inside.”

    • Paul Collier

      Amen and Amen brother

  • ro

    This article can be summarized by one awakening statistic: 80% of new conversions happen in churches that are less than 10 years old.

  • Pastor M

    How about….
    Not by OUR power…or OUR might…but by the HOLY SPIRIT!
    Where is He in all of this??
    Have we changed His Name to Grace???
    Have we made a doctrine other than the Gospel of Jesus Christ???
    How about calling Him by HIs Name…..the Holy Spirit and rely on HIS power in and through us and the church to birth forth the lost….?
    His Word says….IF we lift HIM up….HE will draw all men!
    There is a sacrifice….but it is NOT in our changes of programs…dress….etc.
    It is a change to get on our knees and pray without an agenda!
    As Mary said….Not MY will but Your will be done!
    As Isaiah said….Here I am Lord….use me!!
    When will we get it that it is not about what we do but what GOD will and can do when we obey the Uncompromised Word of God!!
    “Food for thought!”

    • BJQ

      Thank you for saying this Pastor M, I was beginning to think from this article and the posts that no one out there believes this truth anymore

  • http://www.facebook.com/buck.fleming.7 Buck Fleming

    This sounds like a discipleship problem. Were does it say we’re supposed to use worship services as our primary means of evangelism? Didn’t Jesus say that by our love for one another the world would know we were His disciples? Is our job to make converts or to make disciples?

    • http://www.facebook.com/buck.fleming.7 Buck Fleming

      Sorry, I meant where does it say?

    • Paul Collier

      Right on! The fact that we use sunday service to be our primary witnessing method shows that we are critically ill equipped to actually go out and make disciples

  • Paul Collier

    This is wrong on so many counts- the witness to the Lost is to be done daily in all our lives- when we take them to ‘the church’, we should take them to a place that is teaching the FULLNESS of the Word and not a watered-down, seeker friendly, cleverly packaged and glitzed out message of the almost Word- the job of the “Church” is to serve the “Church”- the body of Christ- if our messages and our focus on Sunday sermon day is about reaching the lost with a simple, baby-steps message, then why should the body show up at your church at all? Shouldn’t you be witnessing Monday-Saturday, individually and corporately? What is the purpose of your Sunday gathering? To fellowship or to witness to the Lost? The witness the Lost should see at your ‘church’ is Christ being lived out- but ‘churches’ don’t live out Christ with one another- they don’t even have the basic understanding and skill of building Christ-centered relationships with one another. The few that do connect usually connect with denominational or cogregational centered relationships, not Christ-centered ones. This is everything that is wrong with a model of the body of Christ where congregations are given supremecy and hegemony over the whole body of Christ, but failing to meet the full needs of the body of Christ

    • Paul Collier

      oh- and to say theology is not a problem is also reflecting woeful ignorance of the actual state of Christianity in America today- infested as it is with false teachers and false doctrines

  • Tim Hodges

    Great commentary to the truth. Christians who do not live to change each day (and this applies to me) for Jesus Christ may have to examine themselves to see if they are even saved! Radical as it may seem, we all are known by our local friends and neighbors, thus “a prophet is never accepted in his own town.” Luke 4:24. Believers who don’t take the time to STUDY their Bible will never understand their faith enough to be fruitful to Christ, but stay a spiritual infant. It really takes LOVE AND FAITH. Patience runs long and hard for pastors today, because of a lack of commitment of his congregation. Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy, not with groaning, for that would be of no adventage to you.” ESV.

  • Paul Collier

    Is this a Rick Warren inspired article? Like him, you take scripture out of context- this is what you said – “When challenged about His own missional emphasis toward those on the outside of faith, He responded: “Who needs a doctor: the healthy or the sick? Go figure out what the Scripture means: ‘I’m after mercy, not religion.’ I’m here to invite outsiders, not coddle insiders'” (Matthew 9:12-13, Msg).”- Christ is NOT confirming your seeker friendly philosophy, He is identifying that the Pharisees are self righteous. They fancy themselves healthy, not that they ARE healthy. I am ill. I am a sinner. I need a doctor, Christ. This is the ACTUAL scripture- Matthew 9:12 But on hearing this he said, Those who are well have no need of a medical man, but those who are ill.
    13 But go and take to heart the sense of these words, My desire is for mercy, not offerings: for I have come not to get the upright, but sinners. – We are sinners, We who believe Christ is our only salvation and KNOW we sin because we know righteousness, through Christ. Most nonbelievers only know they are ‘basically’ good people. They need to be made aware that they are, in fact, unhealthy, in need of a doctor. “my desire is for mercy, not offerings”- this has huge ramifications as far as Old and New Covenants are concerned- the Old Covenant is being fulfilled by Christ- so that the Law is now written into our hearts (Jer 31:33)- not that when we assemble we should make our assembling focused on the nonbeleivers who are not part of the body.

    • Paul Collier

      Also- Christ spent the bulk of his work building leaders- the 11 disciples (sans Judas- who was only there to fulfill prophecy)- He coddled his ‘insiders’ big time!

      • Paul Collier

        Christ called people to repentence and into His Kingdom- if you rejected His call to repentence, He did not invest much time in you- those ‘sinners’, the tax collectors, the prostititues, they were made righteous by submitting to Christ and FOLLOWING Him- They were the actual body of Christ- the Pharisees were actually outside of belief- they were the unbelievers plotting to murder Christ

        • Elsie

          Amen, Paul. Thank you for your comments.

  • sinner saved by grace

    See the series of pithy lessons in Master Work study Jan/Feb 2013 (maybe end of 2012) – Lifeway is publisher, author is Michael Catt wherein he writes a direct and incisive series on “Surrender”. Exposes why the church has an aversion to revival and holiness.

  • J Calaway

    Great Read. Thanks for the challenge to make it about the true purpose of why we are here. Hopefully when they scratch our surface they find a willing to sacrifice at all cost, totally devoted, radically inspired disciple who is willing to advance the kingdom

  • audie

    Basically, this article is seeker-driven propoganda. Move along, folks, nothing to see here.

  • Jake E

    From what I am reading in the comments section, some of you are totally missing the point of this article. Paul Collier, is one I have notcied repeated trying to refute the truth of the article. The writer is not saying we are not to carry the Gospel message with us everyday. In fact he closes telling us the exact opposite; that we have a daily responsibility to love the people we come in contact with. We are to seek relationships with the sinner so that we can freely share the message of Christ with them. He places an emphasis on our duty of bringing lost people to church, because that is the one of the most efffective place you can share the Gospel to them through different means: song and word. There is no easier place to talk to someone about their soul, than the place where we come specifically to worship God without distraction. This article is not about the specfic examples he used…those are just EXAMPLES of hinderances that have taken control of the church. All the article states to me is that our primary focus should be to “seeking the lost”!!! To do that we have to “equip the saints” and learn to evangelize using different methods for different groups of people. WE ARE TO GLORIFY GOD IN ALL THINGS…not cause division and strife. I believe the God and the world would be better served if “Christians” would go sit and eat with the sinners, and INVITE them to church this Sunday!!!!!!!

    • NarrowGauge

      I have been to over 30 different churches in a 5 year period, of different non-denominational and denominational backgrounds, and not one of them was worth inviting someone to so they could hear the Gospel. Almost all of them were churches that were trying the new thing to reach the lost. They were not “stuck in the past” The problem is that there is no gospel mentioned in the incoherent lyrics of the songs we sing, and the pastors message is something practical and relevant, with little exegesis and no cross, the cross in the sancturary is missing, there is no communion or explanation of what it means. There is nothing at these services that an unbeliver can not find at Starbucks, the local bar or the library.

      Sadly, the church has become the place where we go to be entertained on a Sunday morning, drink coffee, mingle with friends, learn how to be more succesful in life and listen to a band sing “worship” songs for us. It is not a place of evangelism. It is not even a place of discipleship. And leaders like the one who wrote this article are the reason for it!

  • Hank

    Reaching the lost is messy. It means putting Philippians 2 and 1 Cor 10 into practice. It means going to church to serve rather to be served. It means not only dealing with pagan lost people, but new believers that have just begun the process of change. It means taking more time out of your week than just Sunday morning to help these people on their spiritual journey. It means change. People are willing to support the church in making disciples but very few want to do it. Those of us who are passionate about actually doing this need to motivate others to follow.

  • Hoosier

    It appears to me most of the commenters here (and possibly the author) totally misunderstand the purpose of Sunday service. It is to worship and worship only. It is the other activities of the week that are/should be focused toward evangelism and edification.

    • Phil

      Thank you!! Someone who gets it!

  • Danek

    I don’t know if this is how the writer meant for it to read but evangelism and outreach have very little to what happens insude the church during a worship service. I don’t disagree with the fact that there are plenty of self-centered people in the evangelical churches today, heck I’m one of them. However in regards to evangelism, Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus says “Go”. He doesn’t say, let them come to us and make disciple of those who come, but as for Him it is our job to seek out the lost.

  • Ryan

    I think part of what happens is the old founders of a church spent thousands of dollars and gallons of blood and sweat to start and build the church, making it into something they enjoy. God forbid any new young pastor or any other new young people come in and change anything or think for a moment they have any say as to what the new carpet color is going to be. It’s the founders chruch. They built it. They paid for it. They pay the pastor. It is going to be what ever they like it to be. Try to change anything and they’ll spit nails and pin you to the wall.

    • Phil

      Perhaps if the new young pastor or any other young person came in with a heart of humility and servanthood, not a sense of “I know what you’re doing wrong and I’m going to change it!” then the older folks wouldn’t be so cold to the change. If you spent your life building something that you thought was to the glory of God and someone who has contributed nothing to it told you you are not pleasing God or doing his work and if you question me your “Killing the Church” (Which, by the way will happen when you are the older generation. Don’t kid yourself, this isn’t the first generation this has happened to.) how would you react?
      My guess is that the older people are not afraid of change, they just don’t want to bullied into it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Louis-Bonfiglio/100001970056478 Robert Louis Bonfiglio

    I have it how about we start, 1)with the Bible 2) stop with the Easter sunday, Easter is Egypts goddess of sex and fertility, the Rabbt is there symbol of fertility, Tammuz the sun god, ok now its the Resurrection of our Lord, not easter there’s no sunrise service, thats ok if you believe in Tammuz the sun god Plz do me and all Christians a favor and read the Bible, Oh you will see in the KJV 1611 Bible in Acts 12:4 the word is easter,but its wrong, the word is passover, may the Lord our God Bless all of you, Happy Resurrection Day,

  • Hersh, or is it Harsh

    WOW… I feel like sending this to most/everyone at the church I just left. All talk and no action…. in anything or in any direction…. unless you believe talking about doing something for 4 years is “action.” I was…. very frustrated, that is until I walked out the door in search of a church that is “ALIVE”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! A church where the head AND the heart was connected.

    I will always credit the Pastor as being a good teacher of the Word…. but somewhere most of the church wasn’t inspired to act out on the head knowledge we gain by him. A few of us had a true passion for the Lost, but when it came up in conversation with others it was a “Deer in the headlights” moment????? In 4-1/2 years I can only remember a few times the Pastor hinted about Outreach with me over coffee…. but never to the pew-polishers at church nor in any passionate sermon. Just plain sad….

  • Bishop Kenner

    Bishop Otis Kenner II, our motive for evangelism should not be to build membership at the cost of discipleship, but to win lost souls to Christ. The bibical idea of evangelism is not a formal movement or strategy but as Jesus Christ just went about doing good to all men and changing lives. When we as the body of Christ take this approach God will add to the Church such as needed to be saved. Our job as pastors are to teach the congregation that evangelism is not just the pastors job but every born again believer of The Lord Jesus Christ not to build membership but the kingdom of God. 2 Corinthians 5:20

  • garland orhue

    Salvation is a continuous process and will for ever remain so! We must not forget that this so called “insiders” were new comers yesterday or better still most founders and general overseers to most churches fall in the same category as “insider.” I think it is very selfish of us to expect God to shake them off, for every Godly race in christ jesus the price is heaven. Should there be any insider in our churches, it is our duty to continues to call them to christ so they too can become a pertaker of this race. jesus parable about the physician was widely misinterpreted in james emery white article. the insiders here should continue to be seen as the sick that still needs the help of a physician as well as every other unbelievers. Christ died that we all might receive salvation.
    about a minute ago ·

  • Christian

    “Which means that evangelism is fine in theory, but not in practice,
    because in practice evangelism almost always involves death-to-self, the
    complete anti-consumer state of mind.”

    Some things said in this article are very true…AND YET ~ MANY of the things that James White mentioned and promotes “to change and grow” the church key right INTO consumerism… “new and improved”: music – technology – theology – “leadership models” (as opposed to servant-shepherds) and on and on.

    It runs BOTH ways ~ you can’t just point a finger at “conservative” believers who are holding on to their faith in ways that are spiritual and meaningful to them – and call them selfish and uncaring…. when the “other side” who wants radical change and spiritual revolution can be JUST as consumer driven ( if not even MORE-SO). Evangelism isn’t about what programs/music/structure/style/practical application…. that people want, it’s about bringing people to the LORD and what He’s done – and what HE wants, and calls us to be and do. Yes, Consumeristic Christianity – conservatively dug in OR progressively up-rooting IS “me-centered… and that’s idolatry.

    Careful about demonizing your fellow brothers and sisters, my brother ~ even those who you think are “holding-back” the emerging modern Church. Don’t toss out grandpa with the bath-water ~ just to make room for the baby!

    Jesus said it truly – Mark 1:15 (KJV) “And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” REPENT! ~ that’s where Christ driven evangelism starts… NOT in what what 20-somethings OR Baby-boomers “want” to feel spiritual or live their own “best life now”.

  • Christian

    Outsiders can be “church-killers” too! ~ so says the Lord Jesus in Luke 21:7-8 (KJV)
    “And they asked him, saying, Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass? And He said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.”

  • The God of Jacob is mine

    The church needs to be intentionally, and intensely missional, abiding by the following guiding principle, in love:
    1 Corinthians 6:14-18 (NASB)
    Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said,

    “I will dwell in them and walk among them;
    And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
    “Therefore, come out from their midst and be separate,” says the Lord.
    “And do not touch what is unclean;
    And I will welcome you.
    “And I will be a father to you,
    And you shall be sons and daughters to Me,”
    Says the Lord Almighty.

  • Bryan


  • glenn paddock

    The father in the parable of the father with 2 sons cared for both. Both were out of relationship with the father. The prodigal in a very visible way and the elder son in a more none visible. The father watch and ran to embrace the prodigal when he returned. He also left the party to go speak with the elder son who had his nose out of joint. Both were meant to be in relationship and a part of the fathers house.

  • Marjolijn Joosten

    We have a world wide problem on our hands.The article is 100% true.

  • vins

    Shame on these “insider murderers of the church” who have served, worshipped, supported and given to the church for entire lifetimes, now to be told that if the music isn’t drastically changed, people are going to Hell. And if every piece of music is NOT changed and these “insiders” don’t welcome a wholesale change to the worship, then the insiders are to receive the blame for anything negative that happens to church numbers.
    It has been my experience that it is the people who demand a change who become bullies with a microphone, telling people who have supported the church for decades to “get over it”. I didn’t write any of the gospels and don’t claim to have any “inside” information as to hidden meanings of said gospels, but I doubt that the message is for pastors or worship leaders to turn on specific members of the congregation simply because they don’t fawn over the latest 7-11 song of the day. We are all on the same team here.

  • Dan_Cartwright

    If you are saying we need to bring the nomes to ‘our’ church to find Jesus we have a serious problem!

  • Dan_Cartwright

    Reaching the lost is not a matter of strategies, music styles or any human invention. It’s a matter of a God opened heart and the true gospel message delivered.

  • Deb

    If anyone wants to find a church, the church, where believers are so spiritually charged for truth and knowledge, get hooked up with the poor and persecuted churches in foreign nations. (China, Korea, Paskistan, Iran…….) They have to hide and fear for their lives and the lives of their families constantly, but they stand strong! Who in America would ride a bicycle over rough terrain for miles and miles while risking the possibility of being imprisoned or killed to spread the Gospel? Not many. This is their testimony to their love for Christ.We pale in comparison to their drive and courage. I love them. They need Bibles, so I try to help. They are our family.

  • Blasted

    I would have to agree that many people reading this article do not seem to understand what was written. As a member of mainline congregation that is still recovering from a nasty fight that took place over six years as the “chosen and frozen” fought any changes a new pastor tried to make because they had gotten used to a long-term nice-guy pastor who just allowed things to pretty much roll on however the movers and shakers wanted, I can tell you this is right on. I would argue that many of these people objected because we finally started talking about money, which had not been done in over 30 years, we finally begin to make changes in worship that reflected where the church now was instead of where it was 40 years ago. There were also other issues, such as the church suddenly starting to grow because we got in the way of an out-migration from a major city nearby, and a lot of other changes to what was once an introverted rural farming community. Many of the agitators consider themselves “good Christian people” but then in the next breath, will tell you that our old church sanctuary and the site it sits on, are more important than God. Things are in a constant state of change. Those churches that cannot, or will not change probably do not have real good prospects. Remember, Christ called for change, but it was the long-time, religious people that opposed him so much they had to send him to the cross.

  • Ray Houser

    Sadly, you are right on the money with this article. Too many church people think of the the church as a kind of ecclesiastical club instead of a movement on mission to build the Kingdom of God by making disciples of their neighbors near and far.

  • Joe McKeever

    So true. I can take you to several dying congregations here in metro New Orleans where the leadership says this very thing: “We want to grow. We have to grow. We just need to find people who like the way we do things and will come and join us.”

  • Steve Dixon

    Wow…so very well said!

  • christoph

    there are tons of assumptions reflecting “American Culture Christianity” If you look closer it is what happens INSIDE the four walls. The two highest price tags in our churches are pastoral salaries and church buildings. It is not lack of money or lack of greater building and all that stated stuff. It is lack of compassion. As I look at our own church, and I am NOT one of these overpaid pastors, the leadership thinks everything is well. We have too many Laedocia churches. Well stop here

    • JeffBB

      WOW! Everyone but you is overpaid. SMH.

      • christoph

        I’m not getting paid at all. I have to raise my support. $75,000 salary is okay and then take a sermon word for word from a book

  • Mac

    Wow…the depth of emotion in the responses surprises me, and seems to continue the battle of ‘the old verses the new’. The operative question is not which one is better. Whatever ‘new’ is, it will become old. It seems problematic that any of us seem to gravitate to a wave of style or genre in the expressions of our faith, and feel the need to ride that wave to the end of life itself. As if that is the essence of what our walk with Christ is all about.

    I pastor a small church of just under 100 people in a small town. The political pressure created by the tension of old and new is incredible at times. Yet I see the churches in our town that have not budged in change are dead and dying. The few churches that embraced some level of change are enjoying success, at least in the numerical sense. And yet I wonder if numerical success gained by stylistic change has not supplanted the very essence of the Gospel mission.

    The early church struggled with many things, but I doubt music style, parking places, and a demand to keep things as they are were among the problems they faced. They were too busy sharing the Gospel while trying to stay one step ahead of the persecution taking place.

    As an older generation pastor, the author’s words gain traction with me. I’ve just been around long enough to know that style is overrated. We use it to share the Gospel, and stop sharing the Gospel by fighting over it.

  • Tyler Mase

    I am really annoyed by the fact that we have a great article here, but at the very end, Dr. White felt the need to twist words that have a very unwholesome use into something spiritual for the sake of shock value. I think we need to be better than that. When we use “hell” in it’s double sense we minimise it. If, just for one second, we could glimpse into hell we would never endorse the casual use of the word. Hell is a place that is so beyond horrific that it deserves to be mentioned “only” in the most careful and genuine terms lest those who use the word frequently and out of context cease to fear it. Is this what he means by making changes in the culture of the church? It is now OK for christians to use unwholesome words? If that’s what kind of changes you want to make to feel relevant then you are missing the point. If you want to adapt in positive ways without compromising the truth fine.

    • Cj Bloyer

      I don’t think he’s using the phrase “we act like they can go to hell” as a shock factor. I think that’s exactly what he means, and to be honest, I agree with him. It’s a long, hard, uphill battle to convince others that reaching out to the lost, the broken, the messy, the challenging, and the downright uncomfortable is worth the sacrifice of parking farther away or giving up their traditional seats on Sunday morning. The problem is that we don’t think about what NOT reaching out to those people results with: they stay in their sin, they may never meet Christ, they may never hear the Gospel and accept it as truth, and by way of those possibilities, they may go to hell. This is not a “shock value” statement. This is a statement of the utmost truth.

  • Ernest

    I myself, a pastor of a small church, would have to agree. Compelling the people to come out of their comfort zone, takes more than just a prayer or an encouraging word. Action speaks louder than words! So, I end up assertively, driving them into outside works for the Lord. I agree whole heartedly with Dr. White.

  • Amos8

    “We” are “killing” the Church by not faithfully and accurately teaching the truth.

    Yes, this of course comes from those “inside” the Church, so the title is accurate.

    When those who do seek and insist on accuracy then they are marginalized and demonized … by those “inside” the Church (as “Pharisees,” etc).

    To prove the point of our lack of concern for accuracy, did you really quote from the erroneous “Message” to prove a truth, let alone a crucial point of your article? And, I believe, that was the only Scripture quoted or used. [we can get just about any teaching into the Church if we use the “Message.”] And if anyone is not aware of, or does not see, or is not alarmed about the many problems with the “Message” then that further proves the Church’s problem with discernment and truth.

    The “end times” are marked by deception and the lack of discernment and concern for the truth, if not hatred of the truth … partly in the world, but mainly “inside” the Church (2 Tim 3:13; 2 Pet 2:1-2; etc). Yes, the lack of willingness to do some of the things in the article might have some validity, but the Church has lost the truth … or lost the concern or passion for the truth … and attacks those who do. That is what is “killing” the Church.

    The Church is in dire straights, yet so man “leaders” are straining at gnats while swallowing a camel … and contributing to her decline.

    • JeffBB

      Please point out the erroneous interpretation of the verse he used as quoted in The Message. Oops. Somebody catch the baby! So you don’t like The Message. Read the KJV below, then comment on the content of the article rather than rabbit-trailing into a Bible version debate:

      Matthew 9:12-13

      King James Version (KJV)

      12 But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.

      13 But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

      • Amos8

        If you can’t see the difference here (i.e. between the KJV or ESV or NIV or … vs. the one-man’s mystical, New Age-ish “paraphrase”-not-“translation”) then nothing will do (hint: the gospel message/accurate description of our problem and solutions/personal responsibility and actions vs. nebulous “inviting outsiders”??? or inane “coddling”????).

        If you can’t see that then you have perfectly proven my points. If you can’t discern that, and if you call the tragedy of the “Message” — and using, relying on, and not seeing the many problems with the “Message” — a baby/bathwater matter (if that is what you were saying), and if you jump to the defense of error rather than addressing error, and if you avoid everything else I wrote then, you have proven my points.

      • Amos8

        That is what I thought …

  • Jessie Lee

    Pro-active is the key word…don’t just sit down there and wait for God to do something for you…instead you have to do things for God.

  • Carrie

    The Bible says to GO reach the lost. Jesus was the perfect example of how this should be done. He did it in love. LOVE. Why in the world can’t we quit getting hung up on “changes” and GO do what we have been commanded to do? Stop arguing less, and SHOW the love that Christ did. I’m not a big theological scholar here and even I can see that some of you are so bent on proving your different points that you’ve lost the meaning behind the article and what the Bible says. It’s very clear. This is the reason why many will not go near the church nor want the God you preach. You preachers need to get it together and figure out a way to Love people first and that means learning how to love each other enough to put aside your differences on petty things that mean nothing in eternity. Probably should figure it out before your all stuck together up there not divided but under one Heaven and one God who reigns. Spend your time wisely. The time it takes you to prove your way is better is another soul that’s lost lost.

  • Mark

    Yes, anything that might upset the old people or large donors is prohibited. So many people refuse any change, even when it has nothing to do with theology.

    • bushrat49

      I’m sorry, but I’m tired of getting beat up every time I read another article on “Why the church is or is not growing.” It’s not my fault I’m over 60 yrs old. And it’s also not my fault that most churches in this country are dying. Give me a break and quick always blaming old people, okay?

      I happen to know some pretty useless young people. Young people may have some useful thoughts, but they don’t have all, or even most of the solutions to this problem. I attempted to revive two different churches that were dying several years ago. The average age of one was 58 yrs old. The average age of the other was 35 yrs old. So, how about you explain that one. In my mind both of them made some pretty bad decisions for their church.

      • Mark

        Average age does not mean that the rulers are that age or are competent. A church full of young people may not have young people in leadership. Frequently they don’t,

      • Amos8

        When individuals or groups have a strong bent toward not taking responsibility then they have to have one or more main targets to blame when things go wrong. An obvious example is in politics, but we Christians do this in many other ways, like blaming “The Devil” or “disorders” or “diseases” … etc (note: there is often SOME truth to these) rather than correctly owning up.

        The “younger generation” has been taught (by the “older generation”) in many ways to blame other things/people. How funny is it–and horrifically sad–that many in the YG rely on blaming the OG?!

        Perhaps never has a “generation” had it easier, yet many think they have it hard!? If not exceptionally hard. What a disconnect! And, in many ways, a lot of the responsibility, ironically, goes to the previous generation(s).

        Not only has there never been a generation (in general) that struggles to take responsibility like this one, it seems they will always be stuck here because, instead of seeing this glaring pattern and owning up, they continue to blame and attack those that point it out and for their failings. Nothing is more hopeless than that.

        • Mark

          It is one thing to take responsibility for things that you did incorrectly. It it another thing to be shoved down every time you try to rise up. The young go to school for so many years and then they are told they are inexperienced. Just how are you supposed to get experience if you are just starting out? If you are blaming the young for failing to own up, just what did they fail to own up to?

  • Grady Walton

    Well said. But allow me to play devil’s advocate (something my wife says I thrive at). I watched a gifted senior pastor, a man who sincerely desired to reach his community outside the church, implement numerous changes to that end. He saw other churches reaching thousands of new people and he emulated many of their methods. It didn’t work. His church went from over 1,000 people to less than 200 with no sign of a turnaround. The pastor had to step down and the church is slowly recovering. I’m not suggesting church leaders should live in fear of doing something new to reach new people. But unless God is genuinely in the movement, it runs the risk of abject failure. What’s the lesson? Just because other churches are making it happen and reaching oodles of people does not mean God wants to do the same thing at the same time in a different place. It can take years, even generations for some efforts to pay off in reaching new people. Not a popular message in this I-want-results-now culture.

  • Roy

    Jesus’ last words on earth….You shall receive power …to be My witnesses.

    But it seems that many pastors and believers have been duped into believing the Holy Spirit’s power is for all other aspects of the Christian life EXCEPT witnessing.

    Pastor, it’s pretty simple….If you don’t share Jesus one-on-one, neither will your people. We don’t need more spectacular messages, we need more spectacular examples of Jesus on earth. Seek some “woman at the well” encounters and see God’s power at work.

  • Steve McCall

    The bottom line is that people need to know that Christianity is about relationships. Jesus said that the most important command was to love God and the second to love your neighbor and all the law and the prophets hang on these two commands.
    Amos8 made a very good point, the truth must be taught. Not everything we do to reach people that is different “from the way we used to” is bad, however, we need to be careful about what paths we choose to take. I knew some Christians who justified their drinking with friends as a form of evangelism because Paul said he became all things to all men, and that is what they were doing. They forgot that Paul also said without sin. (Yes, they were getting drunk.) We just need to be careful to be led by the truth and ask God for His direction, because without that it is useless anyway.

  • Troy D.

    Their are two issues that I see presented in this article. Yes we live in a very consumer based society and that extends to the Church by extension. We judge most things from a Profit formula. What do I get – Cost to me in a profit based world should always come up stronger on the receipt / revenue side of the equation otherwise we sense we are getting the short end of the stick. By human nature we are uncomfortable with a loss situation. However, Christ’s economics works in the opposite direction. He take an outside in few vs an inside out perspective. Paul lived this life after his transformation. The other aspect is comfort. People cope with stress by having some elements of their lives they can count on not to change. These patterns and routines in our lives provide a sense of peace in a world where things change all the time. The last place people typically want change is where they draw the most peace and stability (For many that is their local church community) They may not even like what they currently experience but they know and understand it and they like what they know and understand. Disruption in this area of their lives is equivalent to foundation shifts in their coping mechanisms. Neither of these two elements are reasons not to stay relevant, or to follow the great commission but they are two important aspects of human nature and western culture to understand when dealing with the issue. We are talking about shifting Attitudes, Behaviour and Culture. Never an easy task and this is not limited to the church. All human systems and associations which are intended to be other’s centric face the same challenge.


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