Tag: programs

Christian Fatigue Syndrome

Growing up, I went to church (I know…that’s a theologically loaded phrase. Just hang with me) a lot. A lot. (read that last sentence slowly for dramatic effect, please)

image credit: CreationSwap user bokeh20

On any given week, we had Sunday morning services, Sunday school, youth choir, discipleship classes, student ministry, Tuesday night outreach, Bible drill, Royal Ambassador’s, and Friday night at the gym. Sprinkle in the occasional Saturday brunch, outreach event, and Judgment House, and our lives revolved around being at the church building. (I’m incredibly thankful for the commitment my parents made to raising me in a godly home…it set me on a trajectory that would shape my life in massive ways)

I remember vividly one late Sunday afternoon sitting on the back deck grilling with my dad. My little brother was swimming in our blue kiddie pool, and mom was there taking it all in. I felt guilty the moment this thought passed through my head, but I let it pass anyway. I guess I was just a little devil child.

I sure wish we could just skip out on going to church tonight.

As I thought it, fire from heaven spit down into my eyes and scorched me.

Turns out, though, the rest of my family was thinking the same thing. We weren’t trying to be heathens, choosing to indulge in our sin rather than worship Jesus. We just all wanted to be together as a family and relax…ahem *Sabbath*…instead of cleaning up, putting on our “Sunday best,” and driving across town to our second worship service of the day.

Maybe you grew up in that sort of environment, too. It’s not that churches set out to heap burdens on people and create guilty feelings when they even think about not attending a Sunday evening service. “Stuff” just happens. One good idea gets thrown on top of another, and before you know it, every night of the week is loaded with a different event.

The Simple Life

“Simple church” (HT: Thom Rainer) doesn’t happen unintentionally. No church drifts into simplicity. Currents take a church towards complexity. Towards an increasing number of functions, events, and opportunities to “go to church.” Since each of these events is linked with a grand idea, a dynamic leader, and the heart of a person who wants to lead people to Jesus, they’re incredibly difficult to stop even when the timing is right.

“Simple” churches give families the time to invest in one another. Time to serve their community. Time to enjoy a Sunday Sabbath. Time to minister to their neighbors. Time to invite people into their home. Time to be the church, rather than simply go to church.

Complex churches give people “Christian Fatigue Syndrome,” wearing people out with good things and not freeing them up to do what’s best. When people are hit with CFS, they become desensitized to authentic worship, boil evangelism down to sharing a tract, and treat biblical community as just another activity on their already-too-busy schedules rather than the life-giving gift God intended it to be.

Time to quit giving people Christian Fatigue Syndrome.


What does your church ask you to do? Is it increasingly simple? Or complex?



Removing the competition

(graphic by Aaron Justin)

The bigger a church gets, the more the tendency creeps in for the church to offer more and more programs.

More nights of the week.

With more variety.

Seemingly meeting more needs.

But the more you offer, the more you show how little you believe in each one of them.  Allow me to explain.

If I believe that Justin Bieber-style music is the way that people truly experience God through song on Sunday mornings in our context (I don’t…but just hang with me), then I’m not going to let any other genre of music happen on stage.  I’m going to work my tail off to get more and more Bieber music in front of the congregation.  I’m going to have CDs ready for people as they leave.  I’m going to find musicians who are gifted pop artists.  I’m going to recruit volunteers who have an ear for the way creative pop music can/should sound.  And if I’m asked, “Can we start incorporating country music into our worship experience, because we used to do that at my last church, and I liked it…” I can easily say, “No.”  Not because there’s anything wrong with country music, but because in our context, Bieber is the most effective.

If we open up the door for country music as well, what we’re saying is that your spiritual growth isn’t that important.  We’re diluting the water with things less important.  Things less effective.  And what we’re communicating is that we don’t strive first and foremost to help you best understand the Gospel…we strive first and foremost to make you happy, and keep you from leaving.  Because if we believed that the Gospel was first and foremost, we would do that thing that most effectively helps you understand and apply it.

Adding more and more programs sounds great.  It sounds like you’re doing the right thing.

But instead of adding more, try honing in.  Figure out the most effective thing you’re doing to help create disciples on Sunday morning…and do that with excellence.  Figure out the most effective thing you’re doing to create disciples in small groups (whether that’s Sunday school, home groups, cell groups, or shallow small groups like THIS), and do that well.

The more programs you offer, the thinner you spread your volunteer base.

The more programs you offer, the weaker each becomes in the mind of your congregation.

The more programs you offer, the more your people are encouraged to do “church” stuff, instead of investing in their family and in their community.

So next time someone says, “Can we start doing __________ program,” you may just want to say no.

Have you ever said, “No” to a program idea?

Have you ever said, “Yes,” but wish you’d said, “No”?


Movers and shakers

Every church has ‘movers and shakers.’  You know who I’m talking about.

They’re restless.  Never content with the status quo.  Always have a good idea.  Ready to move, grow, and change.  They want things shaken up.

They tend to frustrate people…at least the people who are comfortable and content with the way things are.  They’ve been called unruly and out of line.  Disrespectful and clueless.  They’re the ones who ‘just can’t be content with anything.’  They challenge the effectiveness of programs, methods, and the well-worn path.

Church leaders have to do something with these folks.  Because they don’t just slowly and quietly disappear if you ignore them.

What to do with Movers and Shakers

1. Ignore them. This will end up going badly for everybody.  Church leaders will be frustrated because these folks just keep stirring the pot.  The movers will be frustrated because nobody is moving with them.  Nobody will be happy.  Trust me.

2. Shut them down. This way, you maintain the status quo, get fewer feathers ruffled, and squeeze out the mover.  You stifle change, and avoid risk.

3. Listen to their ideas. Give them a voice, and hear how God is stirring their hearts.  Work to see how their thoughts fit within the culture of your people.  And be willing to adapt your methods if these ideas can help further the Kingdom.

I’m convinced that God stirs discontentment in people’s hearts for a reason.  It’s no accident.  And if you believe that God is sovereign, you’ve got to affirm the same.

God loves His Church and wants to see her prosper.  And, yes, God doesn’t change.  But He’s perfect…we’re not.  We should be continually evaluating our systems and methods to help more and more people come to a saving faith in Christ. Because if what we’re doing isn’t increasingly leading those who are far from Christ to take steps of faith towards him…then let’s change some things and reverse that trend.  And if the ideas that are brought to the table by the movers and shakers doesn’t seem to fit who you are and what God’s calling you as a local church to do and be…then consider sending them out as church planters to do what God’s calling them to do.  Not sending them out as heretics…but as people on mission.

Continue to tweak.  Improve.  Move and shake.

Have you ever been a part of a church that pushes ‘movers and shakers’ away?

Are you a ‘mover and shaker’?  How has the Church served you well?


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