I’ve been in church all my life. Along the way I’ve seen and learned a lot. Almost all the insight I have into church has come by experience.
I have observed, for example, that paradigms can often shape a church’s culture. A paradigm in simple terms, is a mindset; a way of thinking. In this case, a collective mindset of the church, often programmed into the church’s culture.
If the church is unhealthy part of the reason could be because it has some wrong paradigms. In that case, it will almost always need a paradigm shift in order to be a healthier church again.
Recently, I’ve been thinking about some of the unhealthy paradigms that impact a church. Here’s my short list.
1. “This is more my church than yours.”
No one would ever say that, but a sense of ownership can set in the longer someone has been at a church. They have invested in the church personally and feel, often rightly so, a need to protect and care for it. The negative of this mindset, however, is when people don’t easily welcome new people. They own seats. You better not sit there, no matter how much the church needs to grow. They control programs, committees and traditions. Obviously, the church is not your church or my church. God has not released the deed.
2. “We’ve never done it that way before.”
And, if this is the “go to” paradigm, you probably never will. People with this mindset resist all change. Even the most positive or needed change. Small change is big change to these people.
3. “The pastor needs to do it.”
Whatever “it” is … the pastor, or some church staff, must be involved at some level. It keeps a church very small. (And, doesn’t seem Biblical to me.)
4. “That’s for the big churches.”
Don’t sell yourself short. Some of the greatest people in ministry came from small churches. Maybe your only role, for example, is to raise up the next generation of Kingdom-minded leaders. That could be a great purpose for a church.
5. “That’s for the small churches.”
I’ve seen a few big churches with attitude. Bad attitudes. This mindset can keep a church from reaching the most hurting, because their only focus is on growing. A strong, narrowly defined and driven vision is powerful. It builds churches, but a church with this paradigm never welcomes any interruptions in their plans. Jesus is our best example of this. He kept the vision before Him, but was never afraid to stop for the interruption yelling in the streets.
6. “My comfort level for change is ______.”
This paradigm says, “We will change until it impacts our individual personal desires.” Does it sound self-centered? It is.
7. “My people would never support that.”
Well, pastor, maybe if they weren’t “your people,” they’d be more willing to be “God’s people.” He has ways you can’t even imagine of leading His people to do His will.
8. “I can’t.”
Not with that attitude, but one question is vitally important: Where is your faith?
9. “This is the best we can do.”
Are you sure? Is that your opinion or God’s? Sounds like a dangerous paradigm to me.
10. “We have plateaued as a church.”
Really? You may have quit growing, but plateaued? The word means leveled out. That indicates you’re stable. In my experience, you’re either going forward or going backwards. Standing still is usually not an option.
Those are just some of the dangerous church paradigms I’ve observed. You’ve seen far more, I’m sure.
Do you know of any other dangerous church paradigms? Post your comment.