Four Simple Reasons Most Churches Aren’t Breakout Churches


Four Simple Reasons Most Churches Aren’t Breakout Churches
Thom Rainer

Almost a decade ago, I led a major study on church­es that had reversed neg­a­tive trends and become pos­i­tive break­out church­es. I estab­lished the cri­te­ri­on that the break­out had to take place with­out chang­ing pas­tors. I knew from pre­vi­ous research that most break­out church­es had new pas­tors. I want­ed to see if it was like­ly for a church to turn­around with­out get­ting a new pas­tor.

My begin­ning data­base was 52,333 church­es in the Unit­ed States. With­out bor­ing you with all the details of my data screen­ing and research (You can read about it in Appen­dix B of my book, Break­out Church­es.), I was only able to iden­ti­fy 13 true break­out church­es. For the inter­est­ed sta­tis­ti­cal nerds like me, that’s only two 100ths of one per­cent (.0002).

That extreme­ly low num­ber has both­ered me for years. As a result, I have attempt­ed to dis­cern what the pri­ma­ry hin­drances are. Why is it so unlike­ly for a declin­ing church to become a grow­ing church? Sur­pris­ing­ly, demo­graph­ics have lit­tle to do with the turn­around. So far, I’ve been able to iden­ti­fy four sim­ple rea­sons break­out is hin­dered in most church­es.

Lack of lead­er­ship devel­op­ment. Most pas­tors have lit­tle train­ing or back­ground in lead­er­ship. But they are expect­ed to lead a church. Some may have exten­sive the­o­log­i­cal and bib­li­cal train­ing, but they are weak in lead­er­ship. Aaron had to tell Moses that his lead­er­ship approach was all wrong. Moses was head­ed for a lead­er­ship dis­as­ter. Many of our church­es have lead­ers who have few lead­er­ship skills.

Unbib­li­cal under­stand­ing of church mem­ber­ship. I have writ­ten quite a bit on this topic late­ly, includ­ing my new book I Am a Church Mem­ber. Basi­cal­ly, an unbib­li­cal under­stand­ing of church mem­ber­ship is one that is self-centered. Mem­bers have an atti­tude that the church exists for “me” and “my” pref­er­ences. If I don’t get my way, I’m either going to cause con­flict or leave the church.

Unclear pur­pose. Though it may seem coun­ter­in­tu­itive, many church mem­bers do not know the clear pur­pose or pur­pos­es of their church. The pur­pose is the guid­ing state­ment that points mem­bers to all that they should do in the church. With­out a clear and bib­li­cal pur­pose, mem­bers either fail to make mean­ing­ful con­tri­bu­tions or they exit the church.

Lack of out­ward focus. In the Amer­i­can church, over 95% of all money and time resources go toward the mem­bers instead of those out­side the church. Until a church gains a clear out­ward mind­set, it will have lit­tle oppor­tu­ni­ty to be a true break­out church.

The four sim­ple rea­sons are not mutu­al­ly exclu­sive. Typ­i­cal­ly when a church begins to change in one or more of the four areas, the other areas tend to improve as well. The result can be a break­out church, a con­gre­ga­tion that has moved from stag­na­tion or decline to healthy growth.

Do you know of any break­out church­es? If so, what qual­i­ties did they exhib­it or what action did they take?


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