Here’s a simple but unusually penetrating question we must ask ourselves whenever we or the church we serve faces resistance, conflict, or lack of vision. It really is simple, but, oh so necessary. It comes from a mentor of mine with decades of working with churches.

We humans who are so full of words, so able to shift blame, and so apt to offer rosier than real assessments of our situation sometimes need a reality check. In fact, a failure to answer this question accurately is the cause of years of languishing in ministry. Here are some common situations in need of asking this question:

  • A church blames it’s minister for it’s inability to reach people for Jesus, while neglecting the fact they have never reached people effectively–regardless of who the minister has been.
  • A minister blames his or her elders for their misery and says, “I could leave if I wanted to,” but never does. Instead, they stay and complain amidst years of drudgery.
  • A church refuses to change what needs changing, while insisting they could if they wanted to.
  • A church caricatures the growing churches around them. “We could grow too if we wanted to sell out the Gospel,” they say. When asked how exactly the other churches have sold out the Gospel, no good answer is available.
  • An individual or group of individuals in church continue to be a source of gossip and conflict. The situation has gotten worse over the years and has become a major problem. The elders say, “It’s not that we’re afraid to deal with them. We could deal with them if we wanted to.”


The question that must be asked is, “So, Why Haven’t You?” The answer that follows is the best indicator of whether that situation is likely to improve.

If you can reach them, why haven’t you?

If you can leave and know you should, why haven’t you?

If you can grow, why haven’t you?

If you can change it and know you should, why haven’t you?

If you can confront them, why haven’t you?

Why we let ourselves get away with cheap talk without asking this question puzzles me. An alcoholic who claims she can quit anytime she wants to and the church claiming it can do whatever whenever they want to need to be asked the same question: So, why haven’t you? If the honest answer is: Because we don’t want to endure the pain of doing it–that’s a far better answer than more vain optimism.

Ask the question and answer it honestly. Start there.

Now we’re on the road to actually doing it.