Six weeks ago our church opened the doors to a new 800-seat Worship Centre. This construction project cost us several years of time, a ton of money, much prayer, and the involvement of hundreds of people in planning, giving and building. We believe that God has stewarded us this facility to use for His glory-we really do. Our theology emphasizes this explicitly, and we remind our people of this often: the mission of God is the glory of God, and making disciples glorifies God. Our facility is both a shared home for our church family-we call it our living room-and it’s a centre for outreach as unbelievers frequently come and experience the Gospel preached and lived out. We are praying that every seat in our new space will be a blessing as lives are transformed through Christ.
While there is much to celebrate, growing churches need to be especially conscious of several “Post-Construction Hazards”: common attitudes, assumptions, attacks, and atmospheric changes that can weaken and divide a church. I have personally witnessed some of these things during past periods of fruitfulness and have heard ministerial colleagues in other churches speak of them. By naming potential hazards we are better positioned to pray about and mitigate against them. Above all, we must look to the Lord to guide, protect, make us wise, and mature us through these seasonal challenges.
10 Hazards to Watch for:
- Fatigue: Years of planning and working on new facilities can deplete our energy leading to tiredness. Tired people are unfruitful, irritable, and prone to spiritual compromise. People need to be permitted to rest in order to recuperate.
- Leadership changes: Larger ministries mean there is more to manage and so roles change, influence changes, and delegation of responsibilities becomes even more important. If leaders are unwilling to adapt to a larger context, then confusion, frustration, or mismanagement can creep in.
- Demonic attack: This can undergird everything but is especially obvious when people morally compromise, face unusual temptation, or hostility from others. Since our Enemy despises the work of God, he is apt to attack fruitful ministry with a vengeance. We must pray and maintain holy lives to resist attack.
- Large church hatred: It’s trendy to trash-talk large churches who tend to be under the public microscope more than smaller ministries. This can lead to frustration, a loss of joy, or a temptation to settle for mediocrity to avoid scrutiny. But if we understand our ministry to be a stewardship, we must persevere.
- A drop in giving: Let’s face it-paying off debt isn’t sexy. But it’s necessary and wise.
- Pride: Compliments about new space can either encourage our hearts or lead to pride.
- Consumers: New facilities often attract curiosity-seekers. Some stay and serve because they genuinely want to be where God is bearing much fruit, but others come to consume and spectate. This can diminish participation and community, and must be addressed in preaching and by establishing proper boundaries which define the expectations for new members.
- Motive questioning: Christians are infamous for cheering on their friends when an award is received, a degree is earned, a business is started, or a new house is built. For various reasons though, growing churches can be subject to motive-questioning: “Do you think you’re better than smaller churches?”, “Why do you need more space?”, and “Why didn’t you just give the money away to the poor?” Leaders with a clear vision must resist the temptation to second guess their decisions and press forward to accomplish their unique calling.
- Communication changes: Larger churches need to rely on mass forms of communication to keep the church informed or be more selective on what is communicated so as not to overwhelm people with information. For people used to knowing details, this can seem impersonal or secretive. As such, communicating why you communicate what you do can be as important as the content itself.
- Discipleship models change: Discipleship tends to move from 1-on-1 in small churches to small group-based discipleship in order to disciple more people. For people accustomed to being directly discipled by the pastor or a staff person this can also seem impersonal, even though it’s often far more effective.
Ministry is filled with joys and challenges. Growth is worthy of celebration but also brings the potential for additional hazards. Nevertheless, regardless of the scale of our stewardship, we are called to not be weary of well-doing (Gal. 6:9), so that in all things God might receive much glory!