What Is Wrong with the Church

Originally published at digitalpastor.org
by Pastor David L Hansen, LEAD Director of Communication and Innovation

We’ve all seen the numbers.

Across our country, church attendance is in decline. Liberal churches and progressive churches, traditional churches and contemporary churches, liturgical churches and praise and worship churches. It is affecting everyone.

Which begs the question: What is wrong with the church?

Or, as it is more commonly stated: What is wrong with MY church? 

There is a small industry built around this question. Gurus and consultants and authors and speakers all churning out books and speeches.

But what if there is nothing wrong with our church?

One of my mentors used to point out that the system is producing exactly the results that it was designed to produce.

There is not something wrong with the church – it is functioning in exactly the way we have set it up to function.

Why have we lost so many young people from the church for the last generation?

Because that is what the system is designed to do. 

Why do so many Christians never dig deeper in their faith?

Because that is what the system is designed to do.

Why is church attendance across denominations in a free fall?

Because that is what the system is designed to do.

The system is not broken. It does not need to be tweaked.

We need a new system.

A new way to live in Christian community.
A new way to form disciples and raise up leaders.
A new way to share the Good News that gives us joy.

What ails the church is not a thing that can be solved with a quick fix. 

We need to put everything except our passionate faith in Jesus on the table.

What would church look like if we set aside all the “we shoulds,” the “we have tos,” and the “we’ve always done it this way”?

We are called to be a new creation.

Let’s do it. Let’s embrace the creative opportunities presented by this moment in history, experiment with new models, and make space for the Holy Spirit to work amazing things.

Let’s do it together! Contact LEAD.

3 replies
  1. Don Yax
    Don Yax says:

    I had the opportunity to attend the 2019 Grand (Masonic) Lodge of Michigan Annual Communication. There were four “ Breakout Sessions” in the morning. At the “Outreach and Member Care” session I was impressed with how their presentation stressed the future and the need for flexibility, evolving outlook and community awareness. Many of the attendees were caught off guard when the facilitators could not confidently answer questions like: Where are the bricks and mortar. Who’s accountable if this new outlook fails to get traction and I don’t understand what you are telling us.

    It compelled me to mention our Church’s participation in the LEAD process. As I was mucking along trying to explain the Steps process and the angst and confusion we experience at the first few meetings of each Step, trying to explain that the “process” was tearing down and rebuilding the way we think and act in regard to the way we interact, through our faith, with not only the people of our community but everyone……..I was losing everyone at the meeting.

    Luckily I was able to access a photo from our LEAD Seminar, Cohort One of the Technical and Adaptive Challenge Chart. When the facilitators heard the term “Adaptive Challenge” they looked at each other and at me like they had struck gold! I don’t doubt they will use a similar term in a future program.

    It may seem odd but that “Challenge” chart was pivotal to me. My technical process (imbedded) was satisfied by the whole chart while my curiosity, interest and concern for new ways to communicate, research, assess and act was relieved by the Adaptive Challenge side of the chart. A breakthrough moment!

    Because of our participation in LEAD many of us have expressed an interest in a new outlook to our lives and our faith. It is a beautiful feeling and we all hope we can spread the good news to everyone we meet.
    Thanks for all you and your partners do for us and for our communities.

    Yes! “Let’s embrace the creative opportunities presented by this moment in history, experiment with new models, and make space for the Holy Spirit to work amazing things.”

    Everything we have is a gift from God. Not “our” gifts but gifts to be shared with others. Give freely.



    • Jim Merhaut
      Jim Merhaut says:

      Thank you for this comment! I am so glad that the adaptive leadership material and the other experiences you are having on the LEAD Journey are making a difference in your life and in your congregation! It has certainly changed me in so many wonderful ways!
      Jim Merhaut, LEAD Coach

  2. James R. Redcay
    James R. Redcay says:

    One voice worth listening to in this regard is Friar Richard Rohr. Kind of a “voice in the wilderness guy,” making him true to his Franciscan tradition, Richard teaches that for way too long Christian’s have been taught what to believe but not how to believe. Lutheran especially, he would say, teach and preach the gospel very well but, fail to show congregations how to experience in real time the Risen Christ or mystery. Luther, despite all he has given the church, debunked mysticism. So now our members, especially the youth, feel they have an either or choice. Believe the creeds or science, instead of a both and approach where you acknowledge evolution but appreciate the symbolic truth of Genesis. Also Rohr criticizes that belief only Christianity doesn’t raise the level of conciousness so many of us in our 60’s still are at the spiritual level we had in our 20’s. Clergy doesn’t see this, because there is a good behavior bubble around them. Here we could learn much from Bhuddism. Forgive me, but I see alot of older Lutheran who have failed to become wise.
    Furthermore, we must “upgrade” our concepts of original sin and atonement. I think more non-church goers would come around if these were approached from a Franciscan point of view. Richard is very clear on this.
    I hope this helps. We need to “reform! “


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