I fear that many congregations settle for mediocrity. As a church consultant, I've learned that these signs are often an indicator that the church overall does not strive for excellence:
1. No plans for evaluation. Seldom does a church move far beyond mediocrity when no assessment of things like outreach, worship or giving occurs.
2. Tolerance of mistakes. No church is perfect, but churches that repeatedly have mistakes in the worship bulletin, misspelled words in PowerPoint presentations and confusion in worship services are sending wrong signals.
3. Poor maintenance of church grounds. What people see when they enter the lot says something about the church's commitment to excellence.
4. Poor upkeep of the building. To ignore simple jobs like removing clutter, painting walls and replacing light bulbs is to settle for less than the best.
5. No records of attendance, growth and so forth. I understand churches don't want numbers-consciousness to trump their God-centeredness, but my concern is the church that pays no attention to numbers. Seldom have I seen those churches strive to improve in many areas.
6. No clear discipleship strategy. The church without a plan will wind up with stagnant, non-growing believers (often even among leaders)—and that's mediocrity.
7. Toleration of sin. To ignore sin in the camp is to settle for less than God's best.
8. No class for membership. Churches without a membership class are essentially inviting members to join with no expectations. Little zeal toward the church—mediocrity, that is—is often the result.
9. Lack of vision. Churches not driven by a compelling, oft-stated vision are frequently stuck in the mediocrity of yesterdays.
10. No new workers in place. When all the church workers are the same ones who have worked for years (even when they're excellent workers), something is amiss. Eventually, a lack of new workers will lead to tired workers who cannot give their best in every area of service.
11. Lack of "healthy chaos." The healthiest churches I know are continually evaluating and stretching themselves while deeply holding to the Word and the truth of the gospel. A bit of chaos is the norm. Stagnation, on the other hand, is mediocrity lived out.
12. Weak commitment to prayer. Folks pray, but they do it because that's what they're supposed to do—and it's usually only in response to something wrong.
13. Lack of reproducing small groups. That's often because the leaders and groups have grown comfortable with where they are. Nobody wants to move out, so everybody settles.
14. Continual opposition to change. They likely can't explain why they're opposed to the change; they just are—and nothing ever improves.
15. Judging other churches. Churches living in mediocrity don't improve; they just make themselves feel better by tearing down other congregations.
What other signs of mediocrity have you seen?
Chuck Lawless is dean of doctoral studies and vice president of spiritual formation and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is team leader for theological education strategists for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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