Of all the possible causes of poor health and even death, poison is unique for a couple of reasons. Poison can take a while to fully manifest its harmful effects, yet it can also be largely avoided—if one is vigilant. I believe the same holds true for the health of the church body. A recent online post by Todd Gaddis identified numerous poisons that can kill any church. Several of these challenged me, and I hope that we will carefully consider the caution he offers.
Mirrors without windows
Too many churches stare at themselves in the mirror, primping and preparing for the home town fans. Instead, we should be peering out windows, looking for local needs and global opportunities.
- Attachment without commitment
Those who used to attend two or three times a month are now coming once or twice. Most people I run across claim an affiliation with a congregation, yet too many lack affection for its mission. They want to be included on the roll without taking a role.
- Prosperity without generosity
Most congregants are employed and making decent money, yet this good fortune isn’t spilling over into the offering plate. Tithers are dying and tippers are taking their place. “Donations are on course to drop by 70 percent within twenty-five to thirty years—due to the deaths of the most generous generations,” says John Dickerson in The Great Evangelical Recession.
- Addition without reproduction
Much of what we call church growth is actually sheep swapping. We play musical pews, as Christians hop from church to church. Some churches may be adding to their membership, yet how many of these constitute a net gain for the Kingdom?
- Birth without growth
It’s wonderful when the nursery is full of newborns, yet not so good when they make up a sizable portion of the congregation each Sunday. If your first grade child or grandchild made an A on a test of one-digit addition and subtraction problems, you’d beam with pride. However, would you feel the same way if your high school calculus student aced that same set of problems?
- Membership without conversion
Having spent 14 years as an unsaved church member, I’m especially sensitive to this sad situation. A name on the church roll doesn’t forward to the Lamb’s book of life.
- Duty without love
Too many 21st century congregations are modeling the first century church at Ephesus (Rev 2:1-7). Calendars are full but hearts are empty. Love for Jesus, fellow saints, and one another is growing cold in these later days (Matthew 24:12).
As we are careful to identify and avoid such potential poisons within our fellowship, I pray that we continue grow as faithful and healthy disciples of Jesus who make other disciples of Jesus.