Why God Blesses Some Churches More Than Others . . .
When I was a new Christian I attended a small suburban church. Those dear folk invested in me, encouraged me and discipled me. I appreciate them to this day. However, the church itself struggled. It never grew significantly and its resources were few, despite being located in an affluent, well populated area.
To make matters worse, a sister church about seven miles down the road seemed to prosper! Their attendance ran about a thousand. Their buildings, budget and programs dwarfed our ministry and made it appear lackluster by comparison. Even as a new believer I recognized the disparity between the two churches. It felt unfair and discouraging. It appeared to me that God was blessing one church while leaving the other to spin its wheels.
Having spent the past ten years working in the field of church health and particularly with churches in need of corporate healing, I’ve gained greater insight into the kind of church God blesses and it goes beyond external appearances. I’ve discovered it has less to do with the obvious features we associate with different churches (size of church, finances or programs etc.) and more to do with a church’s corporate journey and history. Here are some of the characteristics I have found that determine Divine blessing on a ministry:
- The church God blesses contains leaders who yield to the Lord and each other. While it may seem like Church Leadership 101 to make such a claim, you’d be surprised how often this principle gets violated in the histories of less-than-blest ministries. The church God blesses is not the church of politics or backroom deals, where scheming lay leaders purposely meet without the pastor present. Neither is it the church, like one we worked with, where the pastor refused to meet with the elders for two years to avoid their correction.
Rather, a blessed church is where leaders are sometimes at odds with one another (their gifts often insure this) yet prove willing to submit to each other rather than disrupt the unity of the body. Such leaders also keep each other in check, lest the whole body become dominated by and oversized an eye or ear (1 Cor. 12). They remain committed to seeking the Holy Spirit’s point of view rather than forcing their opinions on others (1 Peter 5:1-4).
- The church God blesses keeps short accounts with God. If you’ve walked with the Lord for any length of time, you know what keeping short accounts with God means. Like people, churches are imperfect and the accumulation of sin in a church’s history hinders God’s ability to use a church, just as it does us when we sin individually, when sins remain unconfessed and uncleansed.
Jesus doesn’t expect churches to be perfect, but He does expect them to address internal corruptions and defilement that can undermine their ministry. Churches that keep short accounts with God embrace church discipline, evidencing a loving commitment to affected members. Such churches seek to discern what, if anything, hinders God’s blessing on their ministry, and what God may be trying to teach them when they are beset by crises. They want to know if God has an issue with them and will seek to correct it if He does. These “issues” become readily apparent when one reviews the church’s corporate history (1 Cor. 11:27-32).
- The church God blesses makes discerning God’s will for them the first priority. I don’t know of any church that would claim they do less. The problem stems from the way many churches go about discerning God’s will. Many church leaders inject an unhealthy dose of American pragmatism, manipulation and persuasion into their spiritual leadership without realizing their error. In such cases, leaders confuse cultural values and measures of success for biblical ones and get off course with God. Expediency supplants waiting on the Lord.
Michael Catt, Senior Pastor from Sherwood Baptist Church, which sponsored the movies Facing the Giants and Fireproof, once said, “We are just one unprayed-over decision from losing God’s blessing.” I’ve seen churches lose God’s blessing even as they built new buildings, relocated to greener pastures or transitioned staff. All these decisions seemed right at the time they were made, yet the spirit of the church diminished and the blessing they anticipated never materialized (Josh. 9; 2 Sam. 21).
In this day, when so much of church health teaching focuses on correct methodology, let’s not forget our need of God’s blessing and lead our churches into a place where they can enjoy His favor.
What things have you seen that caused a church to lose God’s blessing?
Mark Barnard serves with Blessing Point Ministries which works to heal churches with painful histories. Barnard authored, Diagnosing the Heart of Your Church – How Church Leaders Can Assess Systemic Corporate Dysfunction.