If you’d like to journey with us, THIS is your spot.
This article, from Thom Rainer’s great blog, speaks to a serous danger he has observed in the life cycles of local congregations.
To any church experiencing significant growth, it points to a potential pitfall.
To any church wishing to experience significant growth, it raises the questions: What is driving us toward this? And are we well rooted enough to survive if we became what we dream of?
Rainer’s article has been copied below:
When Hubris Comes to Church
For nearly the past three decades, I have been studying the life cycle of churches. I continue to be amazed at how a certain pattern plays out repeatedly in most churches. And I continue to be challenged to discern how churches can avoid the last two stages of the life cycle: irrelevance and death.
In this brief article I won’t take the time to review all the stages of the life cycle of churches. I am working on a complete book on that topic. Instead, I will focus on one particular stage, a part of the cycle that may be the most dangerous for the health of churches. I call this stage “hubris.”
When Hubris Happens
Simple defined, hubris means pride or arrogance. It has its origins in Greek tragedy where an excess of ambition or pride ultimately causing the transgressor’s ruin.
In churches hubris is an insidious enemy. It comes at a time when members are typically feeling great about the health of the church. Indeed, it often comes when the church is on its best growth trajectory, and when the congregation is receiving accolades for its ministries and programs.
The feelings of well-being and the abundance of accolades can cause church members and leaders to get comfortable and proud. If and when that happens, the church is already on a downward trek. Decline may not manifest itself right away, but it is inevitable unless serious steps are taken toward a corporate attitude change.
Why Hubris Happens
So-called success in local church ministry often creates a sense of self-sufficiency. “Look what we’ve done,” some members may say or think. “We have truly become a great church,” others may opine. But self-sufficiency is the opposite of God-dependency. And when church members and leaders lean on their own strength and understanding, they are headed down a dangerous path.
Hubris often manifests itself in the idolatry of ministries, programs, or preferred styles of worship. Those ministries that were once a means to the end of glorifying God become ends in themselves. Inevitably the church will experience conflict when any leader attempts to change or discard those ministries, programs, or worship styles. They have been become idols. They represent in the minds of some the accomplishments of the church rather than just an instrument to glorify God.
Likewise, hubris comes to church because we enjoy the accolades of others. We believe that we are as great as others say we are. We like the recognition. We enjoy the attention. We forget the Author of all good things in our church.
How Hubris Leaves
Churches that are experiencing numerical attendance decline eventually understand that not all is well. Churches whose budgets are shrinking grasp that the elimination of ministries and personnel is the result of being an unhealthy church. But, by the time a church has such a wake-up call, it is often too late to reverse the trend. Numerical and budgetary declines are not the real problems. Numbers are not the ultimate gauge of the health of a church. But those declines are typically the result of an attitude of hubris that took place years earlier when all seemed well.
The presence of hubris in a church often leads to the stages of irrelevance and death. But such a downward spiral is not inevitable. When a church seems to be experiencing its best days of growth and community impact, its members and leaders should constantly be asking themselves questions. “Are we proud of our accomplishments?” “Have we implicitly given glory to ourselves rather than to God?” “Would we be willing to let go of anything in our church, even if it has become a sacred cow for many members?” “Do we compare our church to others with some level of pride?” “Have activities replaced prayer and time in the Word?”
Hubris is a dangerous and deadly attitude in churches. But it can be overcome.
It begins in our own hearts with repentance, and a willingness to do whatever our Lord asks for His glory.
A change is here.
Some recent reading from fellow bloggers has left its mark on me. They spoke of the positive power that their blogging habits have had in their lives. While I liked the sounds of their words, I knew I was listening as a partial outsider to the experience. I’ve derived pleasure from the occasional bout of word-wrestling on here. I like the avenue for sharing oddness found online or making general observations about life. On a simple level, it is nice to have a venue where news can be shared and life can be chronicled.
And for those items, this blog works.
But those observations from others confirmed something for me. This activity (blogging) could wield more weight for me. Translation: A venue for more focused thought might do me good. There is a natural clarifying power found in writing. Swimming through thoughts deeply enough to give words to them is, for me, a helpful process. However, walking those steps for a rant about the Roughriders or a musing about the latest election results doesn’t wield nearly the same power in my life as writing about spiritual life and all the ups and downs of that journey. I think I began blogging largely for that purpose. The title “Wandering and Wondering” was chosen to keep the blog-borders fairly loose. Under that guise, anything went. And it has! And it will continue to.
But I’ve reached a point where I’m feeling the need to re-assert my original purpose in blogging, with a renewed focus.
So I’m blogging elsewhere.
It may or may not surprise you that over the past few years, the word “mysticism” has come to be one of my favourite mental toys. I look at it, feel it, roll it around. I wonder about it and crave after it. While the term itself suggests mystery, even oddness, I have felt drawn toward it for years now.
In a sentence, “mysticism” speaks of the pursuit of God. It is wrapped up in a desire to know Him intimately and experientially. It speaks of a longing for oneness with the Divine.
On one level, this may sound “out there”. On another level, it should sound straight out of the New Testament.
Meandering Mystic is where I’ll pursue this topic in written form. You’ll see even in that title my “wandering nature” still present. However, the meandering of that site will be driven by a single quest to seek more of God.
I am looking to become more myself in the process.
A funny bit from Rod Pedersen’s blog this morning…
Immediately after returning from Vancouver on Saturday, I found myself pinballing between school gyms at Ruth M. Buck and Winston Knoll Collegiate watching junior girls volleyball.
I’ll tell you something….
Last weekend I was in Commonwealth Stadium with over 60,000 fans and this Friday I was in B.C. Place with over 31,000.
But NOTHING is as flipping loud as a gym full of teenaged girls cheering their teams on in a volleyball game.
JEEPERS! I almost ran out to get ear plugs. These kids made the ACDC concert sound like a librarians convention.
Only funny because it’s true!