Not only have church growth models changed in recent years to accommodate American culture, but traditional practices churches leveraged for centuries to foster evangelism, discipleship and service have also been scrapped. Church leaders contend that new practices are necessary to adapt to culture. When comparing the new practices to the ones they replaced, it becomes clear that churches have in fact adapted to accommodate 21st century America – a nation of consumers, accustomed to convenience, increasingly secularized, unprecedentedly materialistic, while daily becoming more tolerant of immorality and less accepting of certainty.
A necessary consequence of adaptation to suit those traits has been the redefinition of “Church” from people to a place. In other words, each of the 10 traditional, common practices we’ll evaluate in this post has been replaced by a new practice that shifts responsibility for being the embodiment of “Church” from members to pastors and alters the ostensible goal from building disciples to building congregations. Pastors have conformed church to fit our busy schedules in this hectic day and age out of fear of the consequences of asking us to conform our schedules to our intended role as the church personified.
See the “Payoff Matrix” below where we compare the “costs” and “benefits” of each traditional church practice (shown as 1A-10A in black font) with the corresponding new practice (shown as 1B-10B in blue font) where…
- Costs of Discipleship = Inconvenience, time and money that the practice requires church members invest in discipleship, evangelism and compassion
- Kingdom Payoff = Amount of discipleship, evangelism and compassion brought by the church to “Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth”
- Arrows point from the former practices to the conventional practices that supplanted them
- The numbering of the 10 practices is in no particular order of priority or importance
- The four quadrants are labeled at the top with a phrase in quotes and in colors indicating whether a practice within that quadrant should be done more or be done less based on the relative level of investment required by church members (Costs) and the anticipated effectiveness in advancing the Kingdom (Payoff), with…
- Green = High or Low Cost, but High Payoff
- Yellow = High Cost, but Low Payoff
- Red = Low Cost, but Low Payoff
- The dotted triangle highlights the grouping of modern church practices toward the Lower Cost and Lower Payoff section of the chart, where the demands for member commitment are lower, yet so is the expected benefit from living out the Great Commission mandate to make disciples who then make more disciples
Does this chart help illustrate how nearly all church practices have shifted in the same direction – toward catering and away from challenging?
It’s Your Turn
How have efforts to make church and Christianity more “palatable” compromised biblical practices and imperatives?