EP 136 – ANALYZE THE CONDITION OF YOUR CHURCH
The Bootcamp is coming at you from the Big “D” Dallas TX. Jimbo and Bob were on the road along with big boss man Mark Clifton, leading a conference for the Korean Council of Southern Baptist Churches. Our thanks to Dr. James Kang, our translators and the many great Pastors, Staff and leaders we met while there.
Today we get down to the important business of analyzing where your church might be in terms of its spiritual health. Bob opens the discussion-here are some of the highlights.
We often ask one another; “How is your church?” We may not want to answer or have categories to answer. Here are four important areas to examine the health in your church.
- Spiritual health: prayer, members are Christlike, demonstrate fruit of the spirit, obeying the commands of God, personal devotion to God by regularly participating in worship, prayer and bible study
- Financial health: members supporting the ministry by giving regularly and sacrificially of their resources to the work of God in the local church and beyond, the church is able to compensate its pastors and staff
- Missional health: members of the church regularly engage non-Christians and unchurched people in the community, and communicate the gospel clearly. The Church as a body knows, loves and serves its local community.
- Relational health: the members of the church are unified in the gospel, they are not filled with divisions over their differences, they love and care for each other, they meet each other’s needs as need arises. They give, serve and love one another-the testimony to those outside the church creates interest and brings praise to God.
Some important things to note:
- Numbers are something-they aren’t everything.
- Most Churches, read that-most churches right now have experienced decline – you are not alone.
- You can’t define health from numbers alone.
Here are some questions to analyze the health of your church:
- Is our love for Jesus the primary motivation for the actions or work of our church?
- Where is our love for Jesus leading us to risk and step out in faith to follow him making the gospel known in our community?
- What preferences and barriers are hindering our love for Jesus and our ability to follow him faithfully?
- What is something that Jesus asking me (and our church) to die to, in order to follow more faithfully?
Bonus Material-The Stolen Slides from Keelan Cook
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JimBo Stewart: [00:00:00] Alright, here we are back at the bootcamp, back in a hotel edition, Jimbo and Bob on the road. The replant bootcamp road show traveling across the country. Now in Dallas, Texas,
Bob Bickford: this is the Korean version.
JimBo Stewart: This is, and so we got to try some Korean food last night, we were in line and you said Jimbo. Do you like Korean food?
And I said, I’ll tell you in a few minutes. I don’t know.
Bob Bickford: Well, we didn’t know really what we were eating at all.
JimBo Stewart: No. And I have still have no idea what a lot of that stuff was, but I’d say that not in a disparaging way. No, it
Bob Bickford: was very tasty. It was good. I, I enjoyed the beef and the glass noodles and the Kenji And you particularly enjoyed what
JimBo Stewart: the squid? Yes, it was really good. it was like pickled with these vegetables and a spicy red
Bob Bickford: sauce. Yeah. So for the Appleby listeners among us, this was not fried Gallup. No, no marinara, there was no ranch.
It was not fried. So it was like, strips of
JimBo Stewart: squid. [00:01:00] And it looked like a squid. Yeah. I mean, it’s not like you would be like, oh, I didn’t realize I was eating squid. And you looked at it. You knew you were eating.
Bob Bickford: No at first I thought, oh, this is kind of like fettuccine noodles that were kind of just diced up in this special sauce.
But when the guy told us they were squid, I was like, okay, there we go.
JimBo Stewart: Mine had like the suction cups and oh, I didn’t see like a full squid
Bob Bickford: tentacle man. I got jipped. Yeah, it was good. Well, and we also use chopsticks I’m I’m used to using chopsticks. I thought you handled this quite right? Yeah. I’m not,
JimBo Stewart: I don’t, I, I don’t use chopsticks a lot.
I prefer. Innovation of forks, but I did the chopstick and I handled myself well, the rice was just sticky enough that I could get, I think my problem with chopsticks I get hibachi is I can’t do the rice. It’s just like, I can get the meat and get the shrimp, the vet. I just, I don’t know how to get hibachi rice on a
Bob Bickford: chopstick.
I can’t help you there. I’m no good at it. So, but yeah. Shout out to our, Dr. James Kong and the Korean [00:02:00] council about this churches. The headquarters is here in Texas and we’re meeting with about 40 Korean pastors, Liam’s wives, and, uh, man, they are a fun bunch. They’re encouraging and friendly. And, you spoke with a translator today and I did today as well.
And that was. Yeah,
JimBo Stewart: we met some guy, some fun people, some guys asked us about the bootcamp, so they’re going to be checking us out, listening. So I hope that they do.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. So we’ll have our first Korean Baptist listeners that I know of. And again, I’m excited about it. So one thing that we thought we’d talk about today is something that I talked about earlier today with, churches and the pastors.
There was, how do you. analyze the condition of your church. How do you see where it’s at? Cause that’s one of the Mo the biggest questions that a recliner has when they go in is, okay, where is this church? And, and how do I get my mind around it? How do I work with it? And so we talked about that today.
JimBo Stewart: I loved your introduction of how you said we have in our culture, the common phrase of how are you [00:03:00] doing. I’m fine. And you know, you could have just like gotten in a massive fight with your wife and punched. One of your kids
Bob Bickford: changed a flat tire and ran through a red light and cussed about
JimBo Stewart: it. And the pastor goes, well, how you doing?
You go, I’m fine.
Bob Bickford: Cause that’s what you say. And sometimes pastors, we say that too. It’s like, how’s your church doing? Right. And we feel the pressure to say my church has. When we might say something like my key leader is leaving because he got a job promotion I’m working my third year without any kind of salary increase and inflation is killing me.
My wife said she doesn’t want to attend church and my kids are just done with children’s church. Right. And so we understand that a lot of re planters out there are dealing with difficulty. And it’s frankly, it’s hard to tell. Yeah. Specifically, the people that you know, right. But there are also some things where you, you don’t know how your church is until you get into it and roll your sleeves up.
You don’t know that the deacons don’t understand, what [00:04:00] it means to serve as deacons. Right? You don’t have a biblical foundation and people don’t understand Thai being like they’re doing give to the church when they’re happy with the direction that it’s. Or are there going to withhold your time or your worship guy?
who’s a volunteer struggles to understand what you have. So there’s all kinds of things that will present themselves in the church. But I think we what I tried to do is talk about four broad categories and really got these from our friend Keelan cook. You know, Caitlin did a presentation at the AMS lab,
JimBo Stewart: his graphics
Bob Bickford: and I stole your graphics.
So I know you’re listening and Meredith is probably listening. So I’m sorry about that. But I stole them and didn’t give you credit to 40 Korean pastors.
JimBo Stewart: So for the, for the few of them that listen, they can spread word. Those were not your graphics. those,
Bob Bickford: those were key lines. I mean, I’m going to put a picture of Keelan by those graphics.
Next time say sorts, but Kayla talked about. Categories that we normally look at for church health. The first one is spiritual. How’s your student [00:05:00] experience? So prayer, Bible study, spiritual disciplines, discipleship, all those sorts of things. Another one is financial. Is the church financially healthy?
Are, do you have streams of income in order to pay not only your bills, but pay for your pastors who lead and then also fund ministry missional health? Caitlin is great talking about that. That’s engaging, lost people. with the gospel through a means of one-on-one conversations as a church, collectively through mercy ministries, all those sorts of things.
And then relational health are as there unity in the body to people care for our loved one. And as they practice the one anothers of scripture. So you look at those categories and churches are going to be strong in some and weak in others, right? So you need to have a framework to understand, is the church healthy?
Is it not healthy?
JimBo Stewart: I noticed one of the questions you didn’t ask there is the one that I hate. How many of you
Bob Bickford: run? Yeah. And I didn’t ask it because Jimbo numbers are something, but they’re not everything. [00:06:00] Right. And I think I’ve mentioned this a long time ago. One of the first pastor I ever served with told me that he said numbers are something, but they’re not everything.
And my first. Youth minister position was really a replant. The, the student ministry, before I got there really charismatic leader, he moved like five miles down the road and took all, almost all the youth group with them. And the kids that stayed there of the kids whose parents attended the church and said, we’re staying at.
So I had 25. Angry and frustrated kids who wanted me to do a lock-in every single weekend because the previous youth pastor was single, but that the big thing was, you know, how many you’re running? Like how many kids are you taking a camp? Same thing. Let’s just roll that up to. To worship, right. But numbers indicate something, but they don’t indicate everything.
And in fact, the stats that we’ve looked at for our area in St. Louis have shown us that the majority of churches during the last three years, 1920 and 21 have not grown right. Less, really been 5%. [00:07:00] I have grown during that time. The majority are in decline, only 3% of those churches. And in the, you know, close to a hundred churches in our area have even stayed steady, apply to the rest.
Jimbo have declined. So what are some of the Korean pastors? When we say at our bootcampers, if you’re experiencing decline, welcome to the club, every single church has experienced a client. So the challenge for us. It is when we think about where our church is at, you really have to think about where the church is at spiritually.
Where’s that in following Jesus, because from spiritual growth, really all the, all the markers of health and numeric growth really flow. Yeah.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. I think it’s so important to make sure that we’re not defining health off of numbers. and we talk about that a lot here on the podcast. it just doesn’t tell you enough of the story.
and it may not even tell you the right story. cause if you just gained, like we experienced at one point in our replant where we gained over a hundred people with.[00:08:00] 60 days, but they were all from a church split in other community. And while a lot of those people ended up being a big blessing and sticking around, as you could probably predict the story, most of them did not stick around and.
I don’t know that I wouldn’t say that all of them were a blessing. Uh, and so, uh, you know, but if you just looked at the numbers, if you used, if you, if you looked at what was the giving, what was the attendance? When I arrived versus what was the giving and the attendance at are at their highest points when I was leading, what you would have actually pinpointed was the most unhealthy.
Season in our church’s
Bob Bickford: history. And normally you would have received like the replant or the year award.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, if you just would have looked at attendance and giving you would’ve thought this church has gotten to its healthiest place, what an amazing job this Jimbo kid has done. He’s so awesome.
but if you’d have just asked a couple of questions [00:09:00] about the spiritual health and unity of the church at that time. Either realized we were, we were in great turmoil. It was a hard season.
Bob Bickford: That is, and man, I just want to reiterate as you you’ve laid it out really well. numbers are something, but they’re not everything and unhealthy things can grow large and we’ve seen, we’ve seen the.
The consequences of something that grew really fast and had no foundation or had a deficient discipleship core. And when something changes course or something, doesn’t go the way that the group who left one church to come to your church when, when they don’t get their way. Oh, man, they’re probably going to leave or you’re going to experience conflict and you’re going to leave.
and so man, just be careful the numbers, but numbers do indicates something. And I think that the key for us to understand and analyzing our churches, where’s our church at, in terms of first at spiritual health. And so I shared a passage from revelation chapter two with, the Korean pastors and leaders.
And, and this is just the words to the church in emphasis. [00:10:00] And it just emphasizes the fact that. Jesus knows the works of the church. He knows the labor of the church. He knows that they don’t put up with false teaching, that they don’t put up with evil doers, that they have persevered under persecution and they have endured, but he says, even after you’ve done all of those things, I have something against you.
So it gives them commendation. I’m going to commend you for these. And then he gives the condemnation and the condemnation. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Right? So there was a, there was a bit, it was a busy church. It was a doctrinally pure church. It had good preaching.
It had good church discipline. I they’re getting rid of people who are like doing evil in the church. Right. And they’re, they’re probably given to the resources, et cetera, every single one of us would go, I’ll go to that church. Right. But it was a church that didn’t, that didn’t love Christ like they did at first.
So what you see is there, this is a word to a church that has some. Yeah, they started as a, probably a smaller [00:11:00] church. They love Jesus. They grew all of the spiritual activity came, but something happened in the busy-ness and a season of their ministry where their hearts grew cold and they just abandoned their first love.
And so I, I think most churches that are experiencing decline, where the majority of people left, where the remnant of folks who started the church and were there in its heyday, something like this might be set up. Right now, I want to be careful in saying that because the people who have stuck around with a dine and climbing church are faithful people.
Some of those people. And I think only a small percentage of our power brokers are gatekeepers, right? they now have seen, okay, this church is in such a state that I can now ascend into power. I can kind of control things. I can work my game and getting into the right committees and, and kind of hold this church hostage hostage.
And I can kind of be a bully right. Or an influencer. But I think Jimbo, honestly, in my experience, there are only a few of those, right. Because. [00:12:00] Let other bullies on the block, they’re going to have it out. Some are gonna stay, some are gonna leave. But the majority of folks, I think that are left are good faithful people who are just waiting for a good shepherd and a leader to come in and love them and take them to, to the future.
JimBo Stewart: Why do you think it seems to be so common that legacy churches, churches that have existed long enough? Have that kind of mission drift where they’re faithful in so many small things like that passage in revelation. I mean, so we’re not talking like they started preaching out of the book of Mormon or, or they have, you know, we’re not saying, we’re not saying that they’ve gone completely off the rails, right.
Don’t love the Lord at all. And they don’t love the Bible, but there, but something, something has slowly, slowly shifted off track. how does that happen?
Bob Bickford: And I, I think that over time, our relationship with the Lord becomes [00:13:00]familiar and it’s not fresh. Right. So if you think about the relationship that we have with our spouse, right?
When we were first dating the man, it was like, we went to bed thinking about them. We woke up thinking about him. We wrote notes, we did songs. We did scavenger hunts. We did all these crazy things. We find special dates. We had little nicknames for one another. Then we got married and we had some of that, maybe the first several years of marriage, but then life happened.
Right. And we had kids and then jobs and conflict. And then you realize that. You know, you’re not the spouse you want to be, and they’re not the spouse you want them to be. And so you have all these sorts of things. And I think it diminishes the joy and intensity of that, first season of misery, I would say, Jesus doesn’t change.
He is perfect. But you know, as imperfect followers of Jesus, we, we let things get in the way and diminish that our first love. So it’s easier to love. My program, my schedule, this ministry, my position at the church than it is to love Jesus who constantly calls me to died myself, [00:14:00] follow him. Right? So in a declining church, when our love is transferred to things in ministries and programs and styles and all those sorts of things, it’s easy.
And when it changes we all, when we love those things more than we love. Then that creates issues for us. So I think all of us have to realize we’ve got to work at our relationship with Jesus. It’s not something we can take for granted. So if that’s true for me in either, and it’s true for every Christian collectively than an, if we are serving a church where we’re not paying attention to that through discipleship and worship and all those things, then we’re probably going to find yourselves in a position where may be what said to the church and emphasis could be said that.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. my wife has a great analogy of how she describes this, where she says church planting is like a newly engaged couple, right. You’re making save the date cards and you’re sending them out and you’re doing a gift registry and people are giving
Bob Bickford: you stuff, but don’t get matching shirts. I [00:15:00] hate that.
And if you could imagine shirt, I’m going to ridicule you and punch you in the face.
JimBo Stewart: I’m not getting engaged anytime soon. Right? so the, with the engaged couples, like a church plant, right? Every everybody’s pouring into you, everybody’s celebrating you. You set a date, a launch date, and you send out, save the dates and you send out the promo pictures and you invite people and you have this huge celebration and you almost have like a gift registry and people are giving you it’s, it’s very similar to getting ready for like a wedding.
And everybody’s very excited and you’re, you’re excited about the future and what it holds and, and all these sorts of things. Whereas a healthy legacy church. Is like a really great marriage. That’s lasted 50 years, 60 years, 70 years, and they still love each other and they’re still cute and they still flirt and mess with each other.
And, and it’s awesome. uh, revitalization is a hurting marriage and a dying [00:16:00] church and church splits happen and we have a divorce. And a replant is the divorces happen? There’s a custody battle. We’re fighting over who gets each piece of the pie and who gets that couch and who gets the cat and all those of, and, and really, I mean, that’s kind of fairly accurate the way those relationships often work.
And so there’s some sort of reconciliation needed back to the love. That leads to obedience and not just obedience in preaching the word on Sunday morning, having Sunday school, inviting your neighbor. But like beyond that, of really living out in a affection driven obedience way, what God has called us to.
Bob Bickford: Absolutely. And man, what a, what a great point to segue to the. Con mandation the commendation. Here’s what you’re doing. Well, there’s a condemnation. Here’s what you’re not doing [00:17:00] well. And then there’s that the recommendation, here’s what you must do. Right? And so it says in verse five, remember therefore from where you have fallen, repent and do the works that you did at first, if not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.
So it’s three things. Remember that? Remember what it was like when you first. Started following me. Remember what it was like when you were first transformed by Christ. Remember the joy, remember the passion, remember that intensity, that relationship. So oftentimes we neglect to nurture that in our marriages, our friendships, et cetera.
So same. Thing’s true about our spiritual walk, right? So remember, like, remember the passion and, and let that draw you back into a place of health and vitality. That’s one of the things that when we’re doing marriage counseling, And the couple’s like, and I’m like, man, how did you all even get married?
Like, what was that like? So one of the exercises we’ll do is like, okay guys. Well, all right. I’ll tell me how you. Yeah. Tell me how you guys decided to [00:18:00] get married. Tell me, you know, all that. And so as they remember that most of the time, what you’ll see, unless the marriage is in severe crisis, there’ll be smiles.
There’ll be laughter the spirit lips a little bit, same thing with our relationship with our net, you’ve handled you meet Jesus and like, well, what was your life? Right, like right after you met Jesus. So remember that, I think that’s the call. Repent is, is recognize that there’s a coldness in your heart where you are right now and express sours over that.
Right? don’t feel as close to the board as I do now, things have become more important. I love, and we can really, we can fall in love with a lot of things more than we love Jesus. Now, most of us will say, well, we love Jesus the most, right. I would say, okay, I would, I would say that’s probably true, except there’s some times in our lives when we live.
Yeah, maybe it’s an order of service or maybe it’s a style of worship or maybe it’s that staff member, or maybe it’s this position on the committee, or maybe it’s this, you know, project that we no longer do or, you know, whatever we, we just, and when it’s gone and we showed up to church, we sometimes will get [00:19:00] frustrated and angry because church doesn’t feel like it used.
And that’s a sign that we’re loving something other than Jesus.
JimBo Stewart: So what you’re saying is we can’t to quote the great philosopher, meatloaf, say, I would do anything for love, but I
Bob Bickford: won’t do that. Yes, yes. we could say that Japan, so not meatloaf approach, not meatloaf. And I. I don’t like meatloaf the food really.
so you kind of scared me there for a minute. Yeah. But you’re right. Like I do anything that, and that’s the call on Christ. The call of Christ on her life is to die to ourselves daily. So you were cross and following him.
JimBo Stewart: So for that exact reason, we have a survey that we use sometimes when we consult with churches, it’s called a consultation readiness survey.
And, I’ve intentionally put a question on there that I knew would be, I call it the meatloaf question. It’s would you be willing to sell your property and real. Yeah, right. And so after church members take this survey, you know, I get the responses and it gives me an average at one to [00:20:00] 10 on their scores.
And so far every time I would, I need to go back and look at the data of everybody that’s taken it. It’s, it’s like a 1.2. It’s like the average. Right. And it’s like, everybody’s going, absolutely not, not going to happen. Not willing to do that. That’s off the table. Not interested, not okay. yeah. Several association or denominational leaders who I’ve customized the survey for them have asked me to take that question off.
And I always say, I will do that if that’s really what you want. But I explained to them, I asked the meatloaf question on purpose because I, I kinda want to make that a point of conversation. When I meet with the church to say, Hey, we’ve got to be willing. To lay everything down. So what I’m asking you is if Jesus Christ himself made it clear to your leadership team through prayerful consideration, that what he was calling your church to do was sell the property and relocate.
Would you do it[00:21:00] or would you sing. I would do anything for love, but I won’t do that. They
Bob Bickford: would eat meat loaf rather than do that. So, yeah, I think that’s a fantastic question. And all the things that we’re talking about are, are questions that help you analyze where your church at, right. We’re not suggesting that every church should sell their, I
JimBo Stewart: think very few should very, very few should.
And I do comfort them after we go. I’m not trying to sell your church. I’m not interested in trying to sell your church. I asked the question just as a point of reference. Because here’s, here’s what I’ll say. If I just said, are you willing to do anything the Lord asks you to do, to bring this church back to health?
You would say yes. 10 out of 10. Absolutely. You would say that, but when I ask the, would you be willing to relocate or sell your property and relocate you? Give me a one out of 10 and I’m just, I’m pointing out. That’s probably not the only question that you would give a one out of 10 and I’m not telling you, you need to sell it.
That’s not even, I’m not even considering. But I’m asking you, we still, even with that, have to [00:22:00] bring that with a loose grip to the Lord and lay it at his feet and go, okay, Lord. And because here’s the deal, nobody could have ever predicted that God would have told Josh. To March around the wall seven times and then yell real loud.
No, I mean, nobody, I mean, cause so if I said, what if God says March around the church and yell real loud on the seventh time?
Bob Bickford: Well, some churches will take you up on that.
JimBo Stewart: So I mean, we don’t know, but we we’ve got to truly be willing to go in when the Lord says repent and we go, okay Lord, I lay my life down and now myself, take up my cross.
Wherever he leads us. We’ve got to be willing to go.
Bob Bickford: Absolutely. So he says, remember repent. And then he says, this returned returned to the works that you did at first. Now, uh, as I shared with Korean pastors that does not mean dust out the old programs that you did, in the prior decades, that’s not what this is talking about.
The works that you did at first, if you look at that word work, it’s defined this way, it’s defined [00:23:00] as a desire, an internal desire that carries for. Through to action. So get the order here, you repent. And you remember when it was like, And then when your heart is right, there’s a desire to do works from that love for Jesus.
That’s what this is talking about. So some churches will, will go and say, well, we just need this program, or we just need a youth ministry. We used to have one, or we need this or that or the other. Right. Well maybe, but more likely not you, you need to have everybody in the church, including the leadership needs to have a heart that is connected to Christ.
And then from that connection and that passion for Jesus and love for him, you’re able to do a new work into the. Right. So one of the things that is, if you study the gospels, you’ll see this Jesus largest criticism. Also one of the largest criticisms against Jesus was he was always doing something that was new and different than the established religious elite thought.
He should. He wasn’t just a rebel. He wasn’t just [00:24:00] disobeying God’s word. And none of that, he was doing something new and drawing people into a new relationship with him. And so that’s a model for us as a church that, that the ministry is based on the truth of scripture. Not some models of administering that we’ve done before.
Right. And so I think churches can get stuck in that. And this is why maybe they decline is the love they have for Jesus that created some of those ministries in their heyday has now waned. And all they have is the activity from the yesteryear. Right. And so without the passionate love for Jesus and renewing that and nurturing that, that’s where they miss it.
And that’s why things began to fall apart. So, and I. I hope that our listeners can kind of understand that. And what I’m going to do is go through the reflection questions that I shared with the Korean pastors, but we’ll put those on the show notes. So these are questions that are designed to ask your church, or maybe even your leaders in a medium.
Here’s the first one is our love for [00:25:00] Jesus. The primary motivation for the actions of our work as a church. Here’s another one, where is our love for Jesus leading us to risk and to step out in faith, to follow him, making the gospel known in our community.
. What is something that Jesus is asking me in our church to do in order to follow him more faithfully? I think if, if you just sit down and ask those questions with your leaders, pray through those dialogue about them, I think it might help you understand where your church is at and analyze your church’s true
JimBo Stewart: condition.
Yeah. I think take those questions. Work through those. We recommend the book flickering lamps walks through the seven churches in the, they get letters in the book of revelation. Henry Richard Blackaby, go through that as a church. And ultimately what’s, you’re asking is if Jesus wrote a letter to my church, like he wrote to churches and revelation, what would he commend?
What would he correct? What would he challenge? that is what it means to let Jesus consult your church and lead you back to health.