The sad fact is that most churches can trace their stagnant growth to a source having nothing to do with distance or inconvenience or population growth. The road blocks to growth may be sitting in the pews every Sabbath or even standing in the pulpit. If you’re tempted to stop reading right now, it’s understandable. Nobody likes to think of themselves as a roadblock. Especially is this true if we think we may be keeping someone from knowing Christ or enjoying the peace the Truth adds to our own lives.
How can a church member retard congregational growth? Ask a pastor! Horror stories abound of insolent, crass, unthinking, and just plain mean-spirited members approaching visitors and “running them off.” From the erring member’s perspective they were not being ugly at all. They were “standing up for the truth,” or “keeping unwanted influences out of their beloved church.” Thus, we see the problem.
Roadblock people seldom recognize themselves as a problem! When another member confronts them about their treatment of a visitor or a struggling member, the result is often a grand spectacle of defensive moves. Very often it is not the Roadblock member who leaves. Can you begin to understand the power issue here? Roadblock members have developed a powerful clique of support, and they make sure their supporters have a clear concept of the importance of “purifying the church” or “keeping bad elements” away from the youth. The supporters never think to observe that the Roadblock member has already cleared out a number of the youth in the purification process.
One more example of Roadblock mentality will suffice before we address a plan to overcome the problems. Growth is an inconvenience and sometimes even a danger to Roadblock people. After working diligently for their position of revered personage, it is tiring to fight for more influence each time growth takes place. Yes it is the “better to be a big fish in a little pond” philosophy. In a family owned business or limited environment this may be okay. But when Roadblocks keep people from enjoying a life full of encouragement and help from God, it is most definitely a problem!
Roadblock people must be overcome. The question is how do you uproot these blinded people? How do you fight and prevail against someone who may have been a member of the congregation for decades? If you want growth and you recognize the pernicious nature of the Roadblocks, how do you rid yourself of them?
In business, although it can be complicated, you’d find a way to replace and fire them. It’s not that simple in a church. Pastors can’t fire people or unilaterally transfer Roadblocks to another church. Some leaders approach the Roadblocks head on and most often have little or no success in their offensive. This emboldens the Roadblocks and their support base as they watch more than one congregational leader fall into a “wait and get out” lethargy.
HOW DO YOU WIN AGAINST THE ROADBLOCKS?
First, make sure you’re not one of the Roadblocks yourself! Do you want growth? If you do desire for the congregation to enlarge, ask yourself why you want growth. Are you on an ego trip? Is it because your denomination grants larger pay checks to those with larger churches? All these reasons can come into play for a pastor because pastors are humans too. Soul searching must take place before implementing a plan to overcome the Roadblocks. Be as clear as you can be that your prime reason for removing all hindrances facing the church is so many others can be introduced to the most satisfying, fulfilled life on planet Earth.
Your first step in diminishing the number of Roadblocks to your church’s growth is not one of confrontation and all out war. Think for a moment. If you pray and confront the Roadblocks, the result is probably not going to go well for you. This has nothing to with moral fiber or personal courage but with accomplishing your goal of church growth. If you spend time with the Roadblocks speaking with them, trying to convert them into supportive members and to wholeheartedly join in your grand mission of church growth, you’re in for some serious disappointment. See it from their perspective. Why would they give up their power position for something they can’t understand, can’t envision, and don’t want?
Now, let’s look at the results of that approach from the eyes of the Roadblock’s support group. “Wow, the pastor is spending a lot of time with our “hero.” Our Roadblock must really be important. I knew I had hooked my wagon to a rising star.”
Confrontation with the Roadblock is not the answer. If you agree, please read on. If going after the Roadblock isn’t the way to go, what is? Glad you asked. Roadblocks are power people. They want power and sometimes they are powerful. However, their support group is comprised of less powerful ones who may simply be attracted to strong leading people or they may be deluded by the sophistries of the Roadblock.
These supporters are your target. Demonstrate your commitment to the Cause. Show the other members of your church that you not only love God, but that you are dedicated to seeing others know him too. Tell them you think not to share this treasure of Christianity with the community is akin to a child not sharing candy. We aren’t a selfish congregation, are we? Don’t allow yourself to be derailed when a lack of resources or energy or people is thrown up as a “roadblock.” God can and will overcome all those other obstacles if we open ourselves to growth. Help the support base to see the wonder of knowing Christ and how right now someone is sobbing alone and that they have no idea that Christ is available to them. He wants to comfort them, but because we haven’t sacrificed to take word of Him to the community they don’t know He’s there.
In personal interaction, in the pulpit, in board meetings, in all of it, stress the necessity of growth. Unless a plant grows, it dies. Without renewal every living thing withers and loses its life. Tell them how Christ suffered from hunger, from thirst, from ridicule, and even gave up His life so we could be introduced to Him. When we hurt we know without any doubt that He is near us. When we don’t know which way to go, we place our plans into His hands having absolute trust that He will guide us. When we lose a loved one, we don’t lose ourselves in unfettered grief. We know Someone who has power over death and the grave. The world looks like it is falling apart, but we don’t despair. We know Christ is soon to return and that all that is happening reaffirms His promises to us.
Shouldn’t that sobbing person down the street, across town, where ever a person is suffering and has no where to turn have a chance to know Jesus too? You must succeed in bringing members to the place where they understand they must grow and why they must burst out of their lethargic habits. They must stretch and fight to get excited to help, not hinder, church growth.