As I was reading an article entitled The Dynamics of Small Church Ministry, the word sabotage jumped out at me. It’s a term that is typically used in describing an enemy’s tactics in war or a spy’s activity when involved in some kind of espionage. The fact that John M. Koessler mentioned in the context of the inner life of a church caught my eye.
One definition of sabotage, found in the Bing Dictionary, is “an action taken to undermine or destroy somebody’s efforts or achievements.” As you read Koessler’s observations below, ask yourself if these kinds of dynamics might be going on in your faith community, be it large, small, or somewhere in between. Here’s to not being unaware of our enemy’s strategy to undermine the work of Jesus, through his church.
“Small congregations are closely knit…These ties can produce a subtle bias that causes a small church to sabotage its own growth. Members sometimes feel threatened as they watch the congregation’s size increase…Their frustration increases as attendance expands, because the church seems less familiar than before.” (Page 179)
“A pastor who encounters this mentality…reacts with outrage when he realizes that he and his congregation are actually working at cross purposes. He prays and struggles to see his church increase in numbers, but the church’s members attempt to maintain the status quo or even decrease the size of their congregation…Ironically, when the congregation reacts this way to newcomers, it does so in the belief that its behavior is in the best interests of the church.” (179)
“Often the pastor mistakenly decides that the problem with the “old guard” is that they do not care about Christ or the church. In reality, the opposite is sometimes true. Their resistance however misguided it may be, is an outgrowth of their genuine love for the church and a reflection of their investment in it.” (180)
“The pastor is probably correct in his assumption that the church must move away from the past if it is to grow. But it is unlikely that he will be able to make any headway until he first affirms that past. When long-time members see that he is willing to acknowledge the investment they have made and guard their history, they will probably be ready to set their sights on the future.” (180)
To quote Rick Warren, “it tales unselfish people to grow a church” and “for a church to grow, both the pastor and the people must give up control.” There’s plenty to chew on here, for leaders and members alike.