Why I Can't Stand Busy Churches
Before I dive into this article, I need to say something important.
I love busy churches. I can’t stand them, but I do love them.
I love them because they are doing their best to do what God has called them to do and that’s a ton more than can be said for many local SDA churches.
But if I love busy churches why is it that I also can’t stand them?
To answer that question, I want to invite you to come with me to World War 2 (yes, another military metaphor. I’m a former Army Sergeant so, can you blame me?). The Third Reich launched its campaign in Europe and it was unstoppable. Poland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands and France fell like dominoes. The British Expeditionary force numbering over 350,000 troops was also forced to retreat from France. To those looking on, Hitlers regime looked unstoppable.
One of the main contributions to this swift expansion was a military tactic known as the blitzkrieg (lighting-war). A Nazi blitzkrieg was a strategy that concentrated overwhelming force on a portion of the enemy defenses in order to smash through the line with shock and awe (think of a football blitz), and pour in behind the line before the defense had a chance to recover. It was a hard and fast strategy that would leave the enemy thinking, “Where did that come from?” and defeated before they had the chance to answer.
And it worked.
Until it didn’t.
As the Third Reich expanded into the east they hit Russia hard. The blitzkrieg had not failed them yet, so they aimed at Moscow and gave it everything they had. But this time, the blitzkrieg proved to be fatal. While the campaign began with victories, it ground to a halt and was eventually repelled. Historians often look at the struggle in Russia as the moment when the war turned. The Wehrmacht was pushed back to Berlin. Shortly after, Germany surrendered.
Now what does this have to do with why I can’t stand busy churches?
Take it easy. I’m getting to that.
First, allow me to explain why the notorious blitzkrieg failed in Russia (and I’m glad it did). While there were many variables involved, I am going to highlight two (because I am not a historian and also have other things to do).
Poor Intelligence. Hitler doesn’t appear to have done his homework. When his army entered Russia they were not prepared for the brutal winter. The ground turned to mush so their heavy tanks and artillery got stuck. The cold was insane and the soldiers under dressed which left them vulnerable to the counter-attack.
Over-Stretched. Because the blitzkrieg was so fast the force launching the attack formed like a column with tanks at the head to start the attack followed by infantry and artillery. In Russia, the columns were stretched too thin which prevented supplies from getting to the front quickly and, once again, left the army vulnerable to attack.
OK. Enough of the history lesson. Let me now explain to you why I can’t stand busy churches.
Poor Intelligence. Like the Wehrmacht, busy churches tend to be too busy to actually know what is going on in the battlefield. They have ministry here, there and everywhere. Their pastors and elders are bombarded with the incredible amount of admin it takes to keep this monster going. Their members are racing for openings in the calendar. And people in general are so beat, they don’t have time to be students of the culture. As a result, their ministries get stuck in the mire of irrelevance and their members are ill equipped to handle changes in the culture.
Over-Stretched. Like the blitzkrieg column, busy churches are way overstretched. Their resources, time, finances, pastors and volunteers are barely able to keep the machine going. This leads to clergy burnout, lack of creativity and lack of cohesive ministry efforts. In worst case scenarios, it leads to infighting as ministries compete for more time, more money, more volunteers and more pastoral support.
So here is why I can’t stand busy churches. I have been to quite a few in my days and what I have found is they give the false impression of success. Everyone seems to think the church is on fire because its occupied. But the problem is that you can run around all year and get to the end and discover you have accomplished nothing. Being busy and being productive are not the same thing. Being busy and transforming lives are not the same thing. Being busy and making disciples are not the same thing. Being busy and honoring God are not the same thing.
Rather than busy churches, we should aim to be simple churches. Churches that are focused on loving God, loving one another and serving our communities. Churches that know what their mission is and work to accomplish it by uniting all of their ministries for this one common goal. Churches that impact their sphere of influence without sacrificing the slow and beautiful process of growing in love. This may mean saying no to some projects, letting others die a natural death and instructing your nominating committee to NOT try and fill every role in the church manual (please stop doing this because… why?). Instead, the church should aim to fill the most important roles to its mission and operation and not be afraid to leave positions unfilled that are not essential to that mission.
If you aim for this, your calendar wont be overloaded. You wont have program after program to administrate. In fact, you’ll end up with extra time to get to know the culture and even the person next to you.
I like the sound of that.
Recommended Reading: Simple Church by Thom S Rainer