We thank Thom Rainer for giving us permission to repost his article. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter (@ThomRainer) and at Facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer. This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on June 21, 2017.
The pendulum swings in churches.
The congregation does not like a previous direction, so they overcompensate with the next move they make. Often, the overcompensation becomes a more challenging situation than the previous state.
Here are five overcorrection mistakes I frequently see in churches:
- A different kind of pastor. The former pastor was evangelistic and outwardly focused, so the next pastor needs to be more concerned with pastoral care of the members. The former pastor preached 40 minutes, so the congregation looks for a pastor who keeps the sermon to 25 minutes or under. The former pastor led change. The new pastor needs to respect traditions. You get the picture.
- A different emphasis on evangelism or discipleship. It is not unusual to see churches treat evangelism and discipleship as if they were two opposite spiritual disciplines. One positions holds that we must be evangelistic if we are to have anyone to disciple. The other position says we must disciple people so they will become naturally evangelistic. So churches can swing from one of these positions to the others. But the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 is clear that evangelism and discipleship are both/and, not either/or.
- A different emphasis on reaching newcomers versus taking care of the members. This story is true. A church began connecting well with newcomers in the community and grew from 110 in worship attendance to 150 in just two years. Leaders in the church determined that the pastor and staff were spending too much time on newcomers and mandated they focus almost all their time on ministering to the members. The church closed its doors three years later. Again, the decision is not either/or, but both/and.
- A different kind of leadership structure. The church had deacons who were not healthy servant/leaders. So the congregation decided they needed to have elders. The church then had a leadership structure of unhealthy elders. It is one thing to decide biblically on a new leaderships structure. But it’s the wrong thing to make the change to overcompensate for a current weak structure.
- A different kind of system to oversee financial controls. The previous pastor and associate pastor were not good stewards of the church’s funds. They incurred credit card expenses with little accountability. When they left and new leaders came in, the church decided to have a system of micromanaging every dime spent. The new leaders left within a year, frustrated at the lack of trust and lack of freedom.
Be careful when you lead a church to make substantive changes. While the change may be absolutely necessary, the change can go too far.
It’s called overcompensation, and it never turns out well.