Carey Nieuwhof has identified 9 things churches did in the past that no longer work in the present.

Nieuwhof’s piece should be read here:

9 Things That Worked in the Church A Decade Ago That Don’t Today

Here are his 9 things that no longer work for churches, with briefs quotes from his post and my comments added:

  1. Relying on an automatic return to church

The average unchurched person doesn’t think about going to church anymore than the average Christian thinks about going to synagogue. It just doesn’t cross their mind.

It is essential to be realistic about the degree of disconnect that exists between the church and the “unchurched person.” Church is completely foreign territory for a vast number of people in the surrounding community.

It is not that the average person is resistant to church, or even particularly antagonistic. Church simply does not register on their radar. We are utterly irrelevant. We need to acknowledge that some people are simply never going to take an interest and not feel guilty about our lack of relevance in their lives.

  1. Appealing to people out of guilt or obligation

The number of people who feel guilty about not being in church on Sunday shrinks daily.

Even if “guilt or obligation” did still work, we should renounce such blunt instruments for badgering people into involvement.

It is for “freedom that Christ has set us free.” Churches need to be anti-coercion communities. We trust the work of God’s Spirit in peoples’ lives and have confidence that God will lead them to the degree of involvement, commitment, and giving that is right for them. We do not badge, pressure or manipulate.

  1. Simply being better than other churches

The church is an alternative. And an alternative, clearly and effectively presented, will do far better than simply saying we’re better than something you weren’t interested in in the first place.

To be “an alternative” means there will be something about us that looks different than the prevailing culture. Being “an alternative” will only ever be attractive to a minority. It should be a cause for concern if the church ever becomes the most popular force in culture. “Alternatives,” by definition are never going to be mainstream. The church is always in danger of losing its “alternative” status when it has too much power, too much popularity and too much influence in the world.

  1. Gimmicks

If you play the ‘next Sunday will be better than last Sunday game,’ you eventually end up losing and lying (because it can’t be).

In addition, eventually people ask “So what? So what if next Sunday is a little bit better than last Sunday? What’s this all about anyway?”

It is hard to imagine anything less attractive in a church than gimmicks. Gimmicks are inherently superficial and short-lived. Churches are intended to call people to a life of depth, faithfulness, and steadiness. Gimmicks are anathema in the church.

  1. Inauthentic leadership

People’s fake detectors are set at a higher level than ever….What has to die, of course, is the leader who acts like he or she has it all together: the plastic veneer we put on hoping nobody sees the real us.

No church leader can afford to operate ten feet above contradiction. Church leaders need to be open to challenge, question, and even correction. The only way to create an environment where it is possible for the leader to be challenged is for that leader to acknowledge he or she may be wrong, may not have all the answers, and is not always entirely clear about precisely the right way forward. To some people this may at times look like weak leadership. But it is honest and honesty will always reside at the core of genuine leadership in the church.

  1. A self-centred mission

You have to be careful not to make the mission about your church.

Too much of what is passed off as an effort “to build the kingdom,” is really a thinly veiled attempt to build my church so that I may feel good. Churches do not exist to build churches. Churches exist to help peoples’ hearts open to love of God and love of all God’s creation. This may or may not result in greater attendance in worship on Sunday.

  1. Random programming

Why does random programming not work?

Simple: because random programming pleases insiders but rarely reaches outsiders.

People do not need more programs. They are already stretched and stressed beyond their capacity. When church becomes just one more obligation on an already overly busy schedule, it has already failed.

  1. Assuming people know what their next step is

The way forward is always uncertain. We must learn to live at peace in the midst of not knowing.

  1. Relying on what you’ve learned in the past

The past is only a good teacher if we understand that it is intended to be a guide for the future, not a straightjacket for the present. If we are going to meet the future with creativity and life, we are going to need to let go of some things that we cherish from the past.

We may find church appealing because it feels familiar and comforting. The majority of people in the western world today do not have any church memory and will not be attracted to a church that is determined merely to keep things as they have always been for the comfort of those to whom they are familiar.

If church is going to work in the future, we will need to launch out boldly wherever God’s Spirit may lead, embodying the reality of God’s love for all people in ways that are authentic in the context in which we find ourselves today.