The Message of Grace

Exploring the Wonder of God's Grace

Why Are Bible-Believing Churches So Full of Inactive Christians?
We’ve heard it for years. The “80-20” rule, which claims, using purely anecdotal evidence at best, that 80% of the work in a church is done by 20% of the people. I heard so many messages in the 1990s about the “comfort zone,” that place where we restfully reside in the comfortable, risk-less environment of our routine, while ignoring the needs and tasks around us that require change.
As to the veracity of the percentages in the 80-20 rule, who knows? The concept of the comfort zone and our need to escape from it is very true. But merely explaining these things doesn’t effect change in lives. What is the real culprit behind the inactivity in our American churches?
A verse I have jokingly referred to as my life verse for many years, primarily from the pulpit, is Galatians 6:7, “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.” Where you and I are at today is a function of decisions that we have made, of the seed we have planted!
Why are the vast majority of our people pew dwellers? What are we doing that is causing this to happen? The use of the word causing is intentional.
Church services over the years have basically been boiled down into a four word paradigm. What is it? Let’s look:
  1. Come
  2. Sit
  3. Listen
  4. Leave
Think about it before reacting. This describes the lecture method. This describes the resultant conformity and inactivity that this method produces. No questions are asked; no discussion over what has been taught. The major qualifiers for being deemed a faithful Christian is attendance at four of these “come, sit, listen, leave” sessions per week.
How do we know the people we’re speaking to understand and grasp what is being said? How do we know they agree? Is it because they don’t question? Are they given a forum to question?
Come. Sit. Listen. Leave. Think about it. What will this produce? It will produce people who come, sit, listen and then leave. Consider this theory honestly. Does it not describe the majority of churches?
Why are Bible-believing churches so full of people who attend multiple services per week, but who rarely serve in other ways? Because we have trained them to come, sit, listen, and leave.
If we stopped with this observation, we’d be no different than the 80-20 rule proponents, or the comfort zone messages. What can you do to change this?
  1. Intentionally foster an environment of involvement. Don’t rely only on lecture, and use it sparingly. Ask questions so that you will make people think. Ask questions that cannot be answered with one word or pat answers. Diagnose as you teach rather than sketching out what you want the people to know the way you want them to know it.
  2. Use visuals. Research tells us that around 65% of the people you’re speaking to learn primarily visually. That is nearly two-thirds! Yet many churches are in the dark ages using nothing other than spoken words. Visual presentations will help your people understand what you are saying. People can see, hear, and, if taking notes, have a tactile connection to the message.
  3. Rethink your weekly schedule of services. Ask yourself a simple question: after your Sunday or Wednesday evening service, or Sunday School/Adult Bible Fellowship, is anyone who was there any different than they were when they walked in? Be honest. Contrary to the way most churches prioritize, these services are not Biblical commands! Why are you having these meetings? Do make someone else think you’re “standing by the stuff?” We are not living in the “Leave It To Beaver” age, with moms at home (cooking dinner all dressed up!), dad working 8-5, no one working weekends, etc. If you’re basing your declaration of faithfulness on attendance at four services per week, you are narrowing your pool of workers, and leaders, profoundly.
  4. Replace some of your traditional services with smaller groups. Far too many churches have missed the relational aspect of Christ’s body. Sitting in a chair or pew does not foster a relationship with the people sitting around them! Small groups can be a place where relationships are nurtured and made. Where the teaching of the Word of God can be reinforced. Would you rather have a person in your church fully grasp ONE life-changing truth in a week, or be bombarded with four lectures, full of truth, but not really changing the life? Why not use a small group meeting as a review of the Sunday morning message? If you’re drawing from a large radius, as most churches are today, why not have satellite locations for small groups that are closer for the people?
  1. Make sure that there are pathways to service. There are far too many pleas for help from the pulpit that leave the listeners with an undefined pathway to how to get more involved. When there is a not well-defined and clearly attainable pathway to service, people will not respond.