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Twelve Steps Toward Enhanced
Congregational Decline

Thomas F. Fischer, M.Div., M.S.A.

Number 205
 
Another Twelve Steps Process?
 
Certainly nearly everyone has heard of at least one of the myriad of "Twelve Steps" recovery programs for addictions, eating disorders, etc.
 
Contrast those recovery systems with this special "Twelve Step" Program for increased congregational stress. Followed religiously and consistently over a period of time, this "Twelve Step" program will almost certainly guarantee that you will be pastoring a declining ministry in only a few short years...or sooner (that is, if you or the church lasts that long!)
 
The Twelve Steps
1. Blame someone else for your problems...and expect others to take care of them for you. After all, they are supposed to bear my burden, aren't they? Besides, how is this church ever to get anywhere as long as this church has any problems? We'll just have to wait until the problems are all taken care of. Then we can start to move ahead.
 
2. Be a victim, act like a victim, lead like a victim, and respond like a victim. After all, doesn't God help victims? Just sit and wait for God. Someday He'll fix your problem for you and make it all better. Then you can have a happy ministry.
3. Resist change regularly, religiously, and righteously. Avoid seeking new challenges and pursuing new initiatives. Divert initiatives which might prove uncomfortable, refreshingly different, or those things which "just won't work here." Be sure to structure a "sound" Biblical argument for your "pious" position. After all, you are the pastor. Isn't that your job?
 
4. Keep on doing more of the same. As they always say, "The old way always works better if you work harder." And didn't God, the Bible or some religious person say, "God helps those who help themselves?" If you're really dedicated, you'll work really hard...for Jesus of course. Now get to work...harder!
 
5. Make your organization as peaceful as you possibly can. Make for a peaceful today even if you have to mortgage the organization's future. After all, if we can make today peaceful, we can certainly make our future peaceful too, can't we?
 
6. Control everything you possibly can. Intervene whenever possible. After all, everyone loves a "hero"...especially religious ones. Grab for control at every opportunity. It is for their own good, right? If necessary, go down fighting for this control if you need it. Isn't that what "faithfulness" is all about?
 
7. Hang on to the expendable, the inefficient, the unimportant, the habitual, the comfortable, and the familiar. After all, God loves the simple things, doesn't He?
 
8. Pull back, take your time, minimize the risk, delay every decision possible and, above all, play it safe. After all, there's really no need to have members involved in visionary discussions which will only require pain, sacrifice, and growth to implement...is there? Besides, God wants His money used for more important things.
 
9. Fight as many battles as you can, defend the undependable, and take your eye off that which is important and essential for "winning the war." After all, who has time to look at the big picture when they're so pre-occupied with hustles and bustle of the the day-to-day and moment-by-moment tasks of ministry?
 
10. Attend to your own, your members', your leaders', your staff's, and your church's survival needs. After you have completely taken care of all their needs, then devote all of whatever energy remains for the unchurched. After all, the unchurched probably don't really care anyway. If they did, they'd be in your church, right?
 
11. Motivate others by guilt, manipulation, fear and other mind-games as much as possible. Watch over their every move. Intervene to "fix" what they did wrong every single time they fail. After all, it is their church. You wouldn't want them to be making mistakes now, would you? And, if it isn't just so, can you imagine how many people would be upset? We can't have that! After all, this is a church. It's God's house!
 
12. Take God off the "shelf" only when you want to bring Him to worship or when you need Him to get you out of trouble. After all, what more could He be doing in the church that you aren't already doing? Besides, if He gets the idea to do something miraculous and exciting, can you imagine how it would hurt this church? Do you know how many people would get upset? It would simply be downright ungodly, now, wouldn't it?
 
What Price Will You Pay?
 
With what style of leadership will you lead your congregation? If you seek no pain, you're simply delaying the ministry so desperately needed in the present. The longer the delays, the greater the price you and the congregation will pay for not having taken the opportunity.
 
Now is the day of salvation. The harvest is ripe and the time is short. Take up the cross of proactive Christian leadership today. Lead on, in the bold, unshakable confidence of a joyful, Gospel-driven faith, to where Christ shall lead you and your congregation.
 
Your church and ministry depends on it!
 
Thomas F. Fischer

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This page was revised on: Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:03:18 PM