Let’s play a game.
Pretend you are a professional church consultant who has been asked to help a struggling church “become healthy.”
To do your investigation, you spend a few months attending the church. You talk to the people in the congregation, attend the church’s worship services, and go to their small group gatherings. You get to know many of the the congregation members personally, and gain a deeper understanding of their lives.
Below I’m going to list the ten problems you’ve uncovered through the course of your investigation. Once you’ve read them, tell me in the comments how you would go about fixing this church.
What problem would you tackle first?
What thoughts would you offer them that might make them less dysfunctional?
What would you tell them to do?
Ready to play?
Issue #1 – Cultural Differences
The church is in a booming community where many different cultures converge. To the church’s credit, it has successfully reached into the different cultures, and claims a diverse membership. Unfortunately, church members from these differing cultures don’t get along, and have successfully isolated themselves from one another. Church members from culture A attend the worship service designed for that culture, and church members from culture B attend the worship service designed for that culture, and so on. Adding to the isolation, the different cultural groups often fight with one another over cultural differences.
Those people who attend the 9:30 service, they’re a bunch of weirdys. – Doris Anderson, 72
Issue #2 – Clothing in the Worship Service
The congregation is fighting about how people should be dressed in the worship service. Some of the newly converted are showing up in clothing styles that make others uncomfortable. Specifically, there are women in the congregation who are dressing in a more male style.
It’s just not right. She shouldn’t wear that. If she loved Jesus, she’d dress more like a woman. – Clovis Gilmore, 81
Issue #3 – Lawsuits
Several church members have turned to the legal system to settle disagreements between each other. There are multiple, pending civil suits within the congregation.
When you borrow my lawn mower and don’t return it for two years, that’s called stealing. I don’t care how old Clovis is. Criminals deserve to go to jail. That’s the law. – Gerald Smitherson, 83
Issues #4 – Marriage Troubles
There seems to be a rash of marriage issues in the community. Many couples have already been divorced, and more are in the divorce process.
Issue #5 – Chaos at Church Potlucks
The congregation likes to hold “all church dinners” together. The idea is that everyone in the congregation will meet up and share a meal with one another. Unfortunately, some people have begun bringing large feasts for themselves, but don’t share their food with others. In turn, other people don’t bring anything, and leave the meal hungry. Some other members have started bringing beer, and getting drunk at the church event.
I was so nervous for Pastor Fitzpatrick. He tried to play duck-duck-goose with the little kids, but he was so drunk, he couldn’t even make it around the circle. – Gene Gibbons, 37 mother of two
Issue #6 – Spiritual Gifts
You found rather quickly that you were not the church’s first consultant. You are at least the third, maybe the fourth. Somewhere along the line, probably in an attempt to show the congregation that every member had something to contribute, a former consultant had everyone take a spiritual gifts assessment (a personality test that told people where they might want to serve in the church). Sadly, this test backfired. Instead the assessment encouraging people to serve, they used it to limit how they would interact with the others.
Yeah, so, I found out that my gift was, like, worshiping. So like, I use to help out by cleaning out the kitchen after the church dinners and stuff… But that’s not my gift, you know? So I, like, had to quit. And I, like, joined the worship team. I don’t play an instrument or anything. I just kind of show up to practice and watch. But at least I’m with my people, you know? – Zack Thompson, 15
Issue #7 – Worship Service Insanity
One of the first things you did after agreeing to take the job was talk to people in the community who had visited the church and never returned. When you asked them why, they said that the worship service was confusing and made them uncomfortable. Upon attending your first worship service, you saw exactly what the visitors were talking about. Congregation members who felt like they had something important to say would just stand up in the middle of the room and yell it out. At random times, regardless of what the worship leaders were doing on stage, people in the room stood up and started singing the words to their favorite songs. Those who had tested positive for the spiritual gift of speaking in tongues during the spiritual gifts assessment, liked to do so when the pastor got up to preach.
When I start speaking in the language God gave just to me, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And when Pastor Coltrain is speaking, it’s the best. Because he’ll get louder. Then I’ll get louder. Then he’ll get louder. We get so loud, I can feel the words of got rattle my soul. – Jimmy O’Connel, 42
Issue #8 – The Sex Scandal
Something members of the congregation told you about right away was the recent sex scandal. Through a series of notes, it was revealed that Billy McGovens has been routinely meeting his step mom, Sarah McGovens at a motel where they’ve been sleeping together. Much to everyone’s shock, Abner McGovens, Billy’s father and Sarah’s husband, doesn’t seem to care.
What? She’s hot. That’s why I married her. My boy’s got good taste. – Abner McGovens, 51
Issue #9 – Sleeping with Prostitutes
Some of the men of the congregation have gotten into the practice of swinging by the local temple after work, and sleeping with temple prostitutes.
Did I forget to mention that this church you are working for exists in first century Turkey? My bad.
I’m not cheating on my wife because it’s not about the sex. It’s about worshiping in their pagan temple. That’s how they do it. But it’s not worship for me, because I know the god they worship isn’t real. See? Best of both worlds. I get to have sex with a pretty lady AND not cheat on my wife. – Andy Barrister, 29
Issue #10 – Eating Tainted Meat
The final issue you uncovered revolved around meat. The local pagan temple has a lot of it. They routinely slaughter whole cows when they worship they’re gods. After the priests feed themselves, they sell the remaining meat out of a butcher shop they have set up across the street. Some members of the church buy the meat because it is super cheap. Other think that eating the meat is the same as worshiping the god the meat was sacrificed to. They’re constantly yelling about it.
The problem with barbarian meat eaters is that they are too stupid to understand that eating the tainted meat is bad. And I’m warning you now, you just can’t help stupid people. – Morris Philbert, 34
So, church consultant, where do you start? What do you fix first? What do you want to say to this messed up congregation? Let me know your thoughts. I can’t wait to hear them.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, this game is based on a real life situation. Later this week, I’ll start sharing with you how Paul handled this dysfunctional group.