Merging Challenges with Faith and Resolve

I got this from Ed Stetzer’s blog  Pay close attention to Brad Waggoner’s responses to the challenges that pastors listed.  I really like what he had to say.  I think he did a good job of merging the challenges with faith and pastoral resolve.     

Small Church Research

LifeWay Research recently completed a study of small churches. We have not released the data yet, but Brad Waggoner recently shared some early analysis from the study. He shared at Impact 2008 the biggest challenges reported by small churches:

1. Time. According to Waggoner, 32 percent of the respondents said they were bivocational pastors and didn’t have enough hours in the day to do what they were called to do.”I read comment after comment which said pastors were under pressure to juggle responsibilities,” Waggoner said. “The fact is they have 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They worked at their job somewhere and also dealt with the church. They were tired, drained of energy. They try to fulfill their calling and get the job done. There’s no easy way to get it all done.

“All pastors fight that battle. Every leader is tired. But, at the end of the day, they trust the Lord to do the best they can with [the] energy they have and just trust Him.”

2. Resistance. Small-church pastors said their congregation doesn’t want to change, which leads to stagnation. Pastors have to deal with individuals who want to usurp authority from the pastor, forgetting that it’s God who controls His church.

“We have to patiently hold the standard high and teach the Word of God,” Waggoner said. “It takes a while for the church to grow biblically … and takes expositional teaching for the church to get healthy. We can’t lower the standards of church. Preaching precedes change. We have to raise the bar of expectations.”

3. Lack of commitment from members. Many pastors said they deal with apathy and indifference. Waggoner said it doesn’t matter what the size of the church is, but small churches feel it more.

“There are no quick fixes,” Waggoner said. “It can’t be about the man in the pulpit. We hear so much fluff and stuff. We try to sneak up on people with discipleship. You have to start out with discipleship. We’ve underestimated the power of a godly man or godly woman.”

4. Too few workers. If the church’s philosophy is that the pastor is a hired gun, the professional, it will wear the pastor out, Waggoner said. He also said most churches do not have a strategy to equip the laity for ministry.

“You have to teach what the Bible says about the pastor’s role,” Waggoner said. “I think every church should have a class on teaching spiritual gifts so people … can take the next step on finding a place in the church ministry. You have to look people in the eye. There needs to be a strategy for involvement which fits the size of your church.”

5. Age of the congregation. As the church gets older, young people do not feel attracted to the church. Waggoner said there’s no easy answer, but pastors have to serve whomever God brings into their midst.

“Talk to the young people,” Waggoner said. “There may be things that can be done to reverse it.”

6. Lack of money. Waggoner said he had no easy answers for pastors who say they don’t have resources. He did say pastors have to do a better job of teaching about the importance of tithing.

“Too often we preach [on money only] when we go into a building campaign or there’s a budget shortfall,” Waggoner said. “I think we should teach God’s standards on biblical discipleship along the way. It should be part of disciple-making. You honor the Lord with your wealth.”

7. Worldliness of the church. Waggoner said he saw in the survey something he called “cultural seepage.”

“We allow the world’s standards to come into the church,” he said. “Sometimes we have propagated that through our arrogance. We’re dictatorial, self absorbed. Often preaching becomes a performance. Preaching is not an end but a means. Have we allowed the world to permeate how we think?

“I’m grateful for the Conservative Resurgence,” he said of the SBC’s theological direction since 1979. “But we have been deceived to think that being conservative is being godly. We have to make sure we are walking in a way that honors God.”

8. Age of the pastor. Several said they were getting too old in the survey.

9. Too few people. In the survey, pastors said they couldn’t get things done because not enough help was available.

10. Demographics. The community around the church is changing but the church isn’t growing.

Published in: on June 4, 2008 at 1:18 am  Comments (9)  


  1. “We have to patiently hold the standard high and teach the Word of God,” Waggoner said. “It takes a while for the church to grow biblically … and takes expositional teaching for the church to get healthy. We can’t lower the standards of church. Preaching precedes change. We have to raise the bar of expectations.”

    Waggoner’s comments were impressive but I think that this comment is probably the most important.

  2. Me too! This comment was surprsing in a very good way for me. I think more guys need to hear it.

  3. I agree with you guys completely here. The standard has been relaxed too much. How else can the divorce rate among Christians be explained? The truth of it is that the standard is set. We cannot change that. What we can change is how much we want to live up to it. This is where we need greater accountability both in our churches and in our homes.

  4. I want to reiterate how encouraged I am by Waggoner’s response to the challenges that small church pastors face. I am glad that LifeWay is taking a good look at small churches and rural churches. At the end of the day I hope that people will see that small churches have an important role to play in God’s kingdom.

  5. Excellent post and comments. I agree.

  6. Mark,

    Thanks for jumping into the fray. I enjoyed cruising through your web site.

  7. I have to tell myself constantly, “Make the MAIN things the MAIN things.” It’s not earth shattering, but keeps me grounded. After the main things (preaching, teaching, discipling), I’ve picked other areas to concentrate on. Little things here and there I can do something about without rocking the boat too much. It’s very incremental, change that is.

    Where have I been? This post was written two weeks ago?

  8. Josh,

    I guess for me the greatest challenge I deal with is the mundane of the day to day while we strive for incremental change. I know where the boat needs to go but I don’t want to take the small steps to get there. I would rather, because I can be impatient, jump to the end result. The truth though, is that ministry happens in the mundane events of day to day living.

  9. I’m not sure if these challenges are in any particular order but I believe lack of money should be in the top 3. A lot of people in the congregation are giving less in tithes because families’ income have become strained. I agree that too often we preach on money but pastors must teach on money as well. Not the prosperity plan but what it means to align your finances with biblical principles. More pastors should bring in resources to teach practical methods of good stewardship with finances.

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