The Two Phrases That Kill Churches

It’s never fun to talk about topics like this. But it’s even less fun to sit in a conference room, or on one end of a phone meeting and hear someone say these deadly phrases.

I’ve sat with more pastors, boards, and committee members than I can tell you who have held on to one of these phrases, and it has always led to a painful “come-to-Jesus” type of realization, at best, or, the complete destruction of a ministry, at worst.

If you are the head of a church, or even if you are just in a position of some influence in that local body, be aware of the inherent dangers in these phrases.

Phrase #1: “We’ve never done it that way before.”
I once heard a pastor say that these were the seven most used words in any church member’s vocabulary, but it is often the mantra of those in leadership as well. We like things the way we like them, and, especially if things are going well, we are reticent to change. But the problem with holding on to the status quo is that it keeps us right where we are and prevents any real forward motion.
If you’re a leader and someone comes to you with an idea, don’t be dismissive of it. Consider the options. Think it through. Ask tough questions of the person making the suggestion (a side benefit is you’re simultaneously training another leader). If you don’t think it works for your ministry, don’t do it. There’s nothing wrong with that. But don’t use this phrase as a catch-all excuse for never trying anything new.

Phrase #2: That’s how they do it at .
This one is just as dangerous as the first. Why? Because now you aren’t being to true to who you are and who God has called you to be. You’re aping someone else and their ministry. You know what I’m talking about:

  • We should set up a coffee bar in guest reception because “Church-down-the-street” has a coffee shop and they’ve been getting a LOT of visitors lately.”
  • We need to make sure that Pastor doesn’t wear a tie sometimes because “Pastor Whats-his-face” at “Giant-Church-on-TV” doesn’t wear ties and his church is exploding!”
  • We really need to make the investment in high-powered motion LED lights because that’s what “Really-Famous-Church-Growth-Expert” said that the youth like and that will grow the church.”

Don’t get me wrong. There is absolutely nothing wrong with coffee shops, wearing (or not wearing) ties or suits, motion lights with fog machines or any of that stuff. NOTHING. However…

When you start making changes in hopes of replicating someone else’s success, you’ve already lost.

As my friend Ken Davis is fond of saying, “You’ve got to be you, because if you don’t be you then you doesn’t get done.” God has called you to a specific place, in a specific time, to be a specific person. Be that person! Be who God has called you to be! Lead the church where God wants THAT church to go!
When you do that, you’ll have success. More importantly, because you were obedient, you’ll have all those blessings you were trying so hard, through human plans and methods, to get in the first place (and probably even more besides).

Only people who don’t know God are always worrying about such things. Your Father in heaven knows that you need all of these. But more than anything else, put God’s work first and do what he wants. Then the other things will be yours as well. – Matthew 6:32-33

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