10 Warning Signs of an Inwardly Obsessed Church

As a body of believers, the church has been commissioned to make and develop disciples. In turn, these disciples are to go out into the world to make and develop disciples. Often times church can become too focused on our own needs. When this happens the church building itself becomes the basket which hides the light of Christ to the rest of the world (Matthew 5.14-16).

Thom Rainer shares with us “The Ten Warning Signs of an Inwardly Obsessed Church” to help keep our focus on shining out the light of Christ instead of just lighting our little corner of the church.

Dr. Rainer writes:

Any healthy church must have some level of inward focus. Those in the church should be discipled. Hurting members need genuine concern and ministry. Healthy fellowship among the members is a good sign for a congregation.

But churches can lose their outward focus and become preoccupied with the perceived needs and desires of the members. The dollars spent and the time expended can quickly become focused on the demands of those inside the congregation. When that takes place the church has become inwardly obsessed. It is no longer a Great Commission congregation.

In my research of churches and consultation with churches, I have kept a checklist of potential signs that a church might be moving toward inward obsession. No church is perfect; indeed most churches will demonstrate one or two of these signs for a season. But the real danger takes place when a church begins to manifest three or more of these warning signs for an extended period of months and even years.

  1. Worship wars. One or more factions in the church want the music just the way they like it. Any deviation is met with anger and demands for change. The order of service must remain constant. Certain instrumentation is required while others are prohibited.
  2. Prolonged minutia meetings. The church spends an inordinate amount of time in different meetings. Most of the meetings deal with the most inconsequential items, while the Great Commission and Great Commandment are rarely the topics of discussion.
  3. Facility focus. The church facilities develop iconic status. One of the highest priorities in the church is the protection and preservation of rooms, furniture, and other visible parts of the church’s buildings and grounds.
  4. Program driven. Every church has programs even if they don’t admit it. When we start doing a ministry a certain way, it takes on programmatic status. The problem is not with programs. The problem develops when the program becomes an end instead of a means to greater ministry.
  5. Inwardly focused budget. A disproportionate share of the budget is used to meet the needs and comforts of the members instead of reaching beyond the walls of the church.
  6. Inordinate demands for pastoral care. All church members deserve care and concern, especially in times of need and crisis. Problems develop, however, when church members have unreasonable expectations for even minor matters. Some members expect the pastoral staff to visit them regularly merely because they have membership status.
  7. Attitudes of entitlement. This issue could be a catch-all for many of the points named here. The overarching attitude is one of demanding and having a sense of deserving special treatment.
  8. Greater concern about change than the gospel. Almost any noticeable changes in the church evoke the ire of many; but those same passions are not evident about participating in the work of the gospel to change lives.
  9. Anger and hostility. Members are consistently angry. They regularly express hostility toward the church staff and other members.
  10. Evangelistic apathy. Very few members share their faith on a regular basis. More are concerned about their own needs rather than the greatest eternal needs of the world and community in which they live.

So, how did your church do? Are there areas within your congregation that have become too inwardly focused? Are there ministries that have died but have not been buried because they are a part of the traditions of men? Have programs or events in your church become the sole means of getting people in the door? These are just some of the questions we should be asking ourselves on a regular basis.

When we spend time evaluating the focus of ministries, finances, and programs we can ensure that the church does not turn into a spiritual spa to pamper the membership. Properly evaluating the church allows us to organize a system to minister to the needs of the church, equip the saints for spiritual warfare, and reach the world with the good news of Jesus Christ.

10 Ways to Lead Under Pressure

For years I have enjoyed reading books written by Thom Rainer, President of LifeWay Christian Resources. He has been an encouragement to me as a pastor, leader, Christian, husband, and father. In his article, “10 Ways to Lead Under Pressure,” he challenges us to stay focused on what is important. I hope you enjoy Dr. Rainer’s article from Churchleaders.com.

Dr. Rainer writes:

Leadership can be difficult.

Okay, I’ve just stated the obvious. Anyone who has led a group or organization knows that tough times and tough decisions are inevitable. The issue is not whether leaders will find themselves under pressure; the issue is how leaders will handle pressure. Allow me to offer ten suggestions.

1. Avoid spiritual slippage.

Many effective leaders are incredibly focused on their work, so much so that they neglect their spiritual disciplines. Leaders under pressure must depend more on prayer, they must spend more time in the Word, and they must realize their wisdom and their strength come from God.

2. Avoid family slippage.

Busy leaders sometimes neglect their families. Such leaders under pressure often disregard the most important people in their lives. Great leaders must first be the right kind of leader in their homes.

3. Avoid physical slippage.

I recently had my annual physical, and my physician once again reminded me that I needed to remain diligent in my exercising and eating habits. He noted there is no way I can sustain the energy necessary to cope with the pressures of my job unless I am taking care of my body.

4. Love those you lead.

Sometimes, the pressure in leadership is great because we don’t first love those we lead. Indeed, we aren’t really leaders at all unless we demonstrate Christ’s love to those who are under our leadership.

5. Be transparent.

It takes so much more unnecessary energy to be someone we’re not. Transparency means we are authentic and lead with integrity.

6. Admit and deal with mistakes quickly.

As I write this article, I am dealing with a tough issue where I made a leadership mistake. I have admitted my mistake and now feel the freedom to move forward. If we postpone tough decisions or if we do not own up to our mistakes, the pressure will only get worse.

7. Be accountable.

Every leader needs accountability to someone or to some group. Those persons should always be checking our actions and our motives. And when we face either internal or external pressures, these persons are among the first who can help us.

8. Use fun and levity as a balance.

Many leaders take themselves too seriously. We need to lighten up and laugh more. A truly joyous person can withstand almost any pressure.

9. Have a longer-term perspective.

The crisis of the moment often makes us feel as if our world is about to end. But leaders who understand that most issues will take care of themselves in time are better equipped to deal with the seemingly heavy burdens of the present.

10. Have an outside interest as an alternative focus.

I have three major outside interests: my grandchildren, reading, and Alabama football. When I am playing with one of my grandchildren, for example, I feel as if all the pressures I was feeling are really not that bad after all. Those grandchildren give me a healthy perspective.

Leadership is indeed difficult. And good leaders will always feel pressures and have problems they must address. But the most effective leaders will deal in healthy ways with those pressures and, as a result, be healthier leaders themselves.

Books by Thom Rainer