The issue for many congregations in decline or sensing a need for change often isn't a lack of knowledge regarding what to do. It is inaction brought by a lack of courage or ability to tolerate pain in either themselves or others–sometimes both. When a church reaches out to someone for help (a consultant, trusted friend, etc.), it's because they sense something is wrong. If asked to name that something, they can list several things. They are usually right on target. When they are off-track, even then they are often not saying something that needs to be said out of fear or not wanting to hurt feelings. This is what separates prevailing churches from others. Prevailing churches and church leaders tell the truth about reality considerately. Other churches simply consider telling the truth.
If you've ever wondered why Dr. Laura Schlessinger is so popular, it isn't just because she's interesting, funny or gives good advice–it's that she makes people be honest with themselves. If they are unwilling to do so, she will be honest with them–even brutally honest. This is an invaluable service, provided it isn't done with cruelty or abject rudeness. How many times have you heard someone call into the show, explain the problem in stark detail, and then ask Dr. Laura what she thinks the problem and what they should do? Dr. Laura simply needs to ask the all important question, "Then Why Haven't You?" The answer, nearly always, is reluctance based on fear or an unwillingness to tolerate the pain that goes with doing what we know needs to be done.
Try this: At your next leadership gathering, watch for the stating problems and even potential solutions. Then, watch the subject get dropped. Then, consider asking, "Why haven't we?" And listen to the crickets.
Leadership is often about doing what needs to be done for the sake of God and His mission, not what will cause the least amount of disruption or pain. These options are not mutually exclusive, obviously, but the difference between their general outlook is stark. If you find yourself reading this post while considering a potential change that needs to take place and thinking, "We could do that if we really thought that's what was best." Let me ask, "Is it really that you don't think it's best, or that you are afraid of the pain making that choice would cause for you or others?"
When I have trusted friends ask that all important question of me, I'm always grateful. Our church is better for it…and the Kingdom advances. It's about honesty with oneself and others. Honesty is something God blesses. Honesty sets us free from our fear and cowardess. Honesty will guide us toward a path of healing, health and growth.
There may be a problem facing you or your church that needs working on. You know what it is and probably even what the answer is. So then, "Why Haven't You?"