Adventist churches are failing. And they are failing big time. I suppose I could bore all of us with the data, but I don't need to. We all know it. We see our youth leaving, our leadership aging, our communities remain unaffected by our presence and our missional passion is nothing more than a nostalgic legacy we have failed to maintain.
But why are we failing? To this, many people would answer, "There is no single reason. There are multiple ones." In fact, just a few weeks ago I would have said the same thing. But my thinking has undergone a shift. I now believe there is one singular reason why our churches are failing. And the good news is there is one singular foundation to leading them toward success.
But first, allow me to define failure. Before I was a pastor I was a personal trainer. And before that I was a soldier in the US Army. In both scenarios I had to train and challenge others to succeed. In one setting, it was soldiers I was leading. In the other, it was clients looking to lose weight. Some would do well. They would work hard, eat right and develop patterns of life that fueled their goals. Others would fail. They would work hard as well, but they would also make excuses, take shortcuts and never created patterns of life that fueled success. Instead, they would cling to the old patterns that led them to me in the first place. And when they clung, they failed.
This experience has led me to define failure like this: Failure is not a singular event. It is the culmination of the pattern of your life. Jim Rohn put it best when he said, "Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don't fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day."
I want you to let that sink in. "Failure is a few errors in judgment, repeated every day." It's simple. But its so true. And this right here is the singular reason why local Adventist churches are failing everywhere. They continue to repeat a few errors in judgment day after day. These errors in judgment pile on week after week and year after year until all that is left is a dead church. But it didn't die over night. No. It died over time as it continued to act out "a few errors in judgment, repeated every day." This is why your church is failing. Not lack of spirituality. Not lack of commitment. Not secularism, post-modernism or the entertainment industry. Not the General Conference, the Union or the pastor. It fails because it is exercising "a few errors in judgment, repeated every day." No other reason.
What exactly are these "errors in judgment"? Here I agree, that the answers can be many. From not having a clear reason for existing, to toxic leadership, failing to equip the youth, failing to disciple new converts, failing to nurture intimate relationships etc. And the sad part is, many local Adventist churches have been doing this stuff for decades and they just keep on doing it. Failure is not a singular event. It is the culmination of the pattern of your life. It is "a few errors in judgement, repeated every day."
But the good news is this. Success is just as simple as failure. As I mentioned above, the soldiers and clients that excelled were the ones who developed patterns in their life to fuel success. Rather than a few errors in judgment, repeated every day they took a different route. They made a few simple, good choices every day and it culminated in their success. Like failure, success doesn't happen overnight. Success is the result of one choice upon another, like a brick wall being built. Each healthy choice builds toward your goal. Jim Rohn also nailed this one on the head when he said, "Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day."
Imagine if your local church made the decision to practice a few simple disciplines every day, week and month. Imagine if they practiced smiling, praying, encouraging, supporting, equipping and inspiring one another week after week. Where would they be at the end of the year? "Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines, practiced every day." Practice those simple, new patterns, and you are guaranteed to transform your church's culture from failure to success.
But where do you begin? I suppose one good first step is to click the button below and take the 7-day video course on church optimization (wink, wink). In this course, I boil down countless books and research on church mission to 3 simple to understand foundations that you can begin implementing in your church right away. But if you can't take the course just yet, consider this as a starting place: Challenge your church leaders and members to begin practicing a few simple disciplines. Start with hospitality: smiling, greeting, sharing and as you improve there add another brick to the wall. Before you know it, you will reverse your trend of failure and begin a whole new journey toward building the kingdom of God.