10 Symptoms of an Inwardly-Focused Church
Can you imagine a business that never focused on reaching new customers? Imagine Apple saying, “We have no plans to sell phones, tablets and computers to new customers in the future. We’re going to focus solely on our existing customers from now on.”
For a season Apple would likely continue to thrive because it has plenty of existing customers. But, over time, Apple would slowly lose it’s customer base until eventually everyone has either started purchasing products from other companies or passed away.
The thought of a business like Apple only focusing on existing customers seems ludicrous and a recipe for disaster, but the crazy thing is that I see churches embracing this “strategy” on a regular basis.
Let me help you discern whether or not you are part of an inwardly-focused church. Here are ten symptoms I’ve noticed in my interactions with churches across the country.
- Your bulletin is loaded with announcements. Usually this is an indication that your church is focused on programs rather than people. Programs are competing for people’s attention rather than creating a clear path for new people to take next steps.
- There are lots of meetings. The more inwardly-focused a church gets, the more board and committee meetings there are to talk about buildings and budgets. When people are on mission, there are fewer meetings.
- You don’t hear and share stories of life change. Instead, you’re more likely to hear about all the activities that are happening in the church.
- There’s only one service on Sunday. Inwardly-focused churches are more concerned about knowing and seeing everyone. That becomes the higher value over reaching new people.
- If you have more than one service, you have multiple styles of worship. There’s a traditional service, a blended service and a contemporary service. That’s an indication that the worship is more about the people who already attend your church.
- The greeters are talking with their friends rather than meeting new people. If there isn’t an intentional strategy for guest services with people and signage, it’s a good indication that you aren’t expecting new people.
- Change of any sort is resisted. It doesn’t matter how big or small the change. Service times. Paint color. Room assignments. Service order. Song selection. Inwardly-focused churches are more interested in preserving the past.
- The church is led by people-pleasing pastors. The pastors are trying to keep everyone happy rather than prioritizing fulfillment of the church’s mission. The first question is probably not, “What does God want me to do?” Instead, decisions are made based on the perceived response of individuals in the church.
- The church is attended by pastor-needing people. The “members” are consumers. They are expecting to be served rather than engaging the ministry to serve others.
- People are not inviting their friends. And your gut may be to teach more on evangelism, but that typically doesn’t fix the problem. More likely your services and ministries are not designed to reach people outside the church. When we intentionally create environments where life change happens, people want to attend and invite their friends.
Where does your church stand? One symptom may not be a strong indication of a serious illness. If you identify several symptoms in your ministry, it may be time to call the doctor.
The challenge, of course, is that even though your church is inwardly-focused, it could still appear to be thriving. Just because you have lots of people showing up doesn’t necessarily mean you have an outwardly-focused church.
By Tony Morgan, founder and chief strategic officer at The Unstuck Group, a company that helps churches get unstuck through consulting and coaching experiences designed to focus vision, strategy and action. He writes about leadership at tonymorganlive.com. Follow Tony on social media: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn