Recently, I consulted a large church in Michigan.  The pastors and staff were frazzled, like gerbils running on a wheel.  One pastor shared, “We feel like all we do is race from one thing to another.  We’re spinning our wheels, focused on running the machine.”

“Burnout, without progress,” is common.  Church leaders seem to be buried in (1) administrative details, (2) meetings, (3) patching up problems, and (4) serving as caretakers.  There is nothing left for mission, outreach, pioneering, building, growing, expanding – all those activities that represent health, vitality, and the mission to make disciples.  How does this happen?

Forgive my analogy – I love and respect the church – but when the Bride of Christ becomes a monster that needs to be fed, the joy of ministry has collapsed under the weight of maintenance.  The mission of Christ is not engineered to be that way!

As a church grows, more people come.  They come with ideas.  The programs and activities grow exponentially with the size of the church.  Pastors and church leaders – the good ones – tend to love people.  The dark side of loving people is being a people pleaser.  It is hard to say, “No.”  It is difficult to process proposals through the grid of purpose.  Difficult, but not impossible.  It takes discipline, but this is the responsibility of leadership:  to keep the team headed in the same direction.

With almost every new project, every new activity, there is a new committee or board.  In time, this adds layers of bureaucracy that subconsciously operate with high control and low accountability.  Unfortunately, the decision-making mechanism of most churches is influenced more by secular approaches than biblical principles.  The end result is more bureaucracy, using methods contrary to the spiritual identity of a church.

High control feeds on meetings.  The meetings are the symptom.  High control is the issue behind the issue.  The result is a machine.  Boards and committees talk a lot about ministry.  There is more talk than action.  This changes the definition of ministry.  Ask people, “What is your ministry?” and many will respond they are an elder, deacon, sit on a church board, council, consistory, session, or (in the super corporate model), the board of directors.  This represents little of the mission side of Christianity.  It births a worldview that the church is an institution, bureaucracy, and political system focused on control of a myriad of activities.

It may sound like an incredibly naïve and radically simplistic concept to de-organize the organized church.  Yet, there many churches that have incorporated the elements that are clearly taught in Scripture.  They have reduced the bureaucracy and returned the machine to the living organism called the Body of Christ.  Be prepared:  This is more powerfully caught than taught.  Could this happen for your church?  Why not?

Read more in the May/June 2012 Church Doctor Report.

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