10 (More) Things the Church Puts Ahead of Reaching People

10 (More) Things the Church Puts Ahead of Reaching People March 30, 2015

A week ago I wrote a blog post titled 10 Things the Church Puts Ahead of Reaching People. I had absolutely no idea what kind of deep reservoir I had tapped into when I wrote those thoughts. The blog quickly went viral with over 175,000 views in the first week. More than that, many of you engaged, leaving comments with your experiences and other things that you would add to that list. In honor of your great interaction and some incredible comments, I want to share 10 (More) Things the Church Puts Ahead of Reaching People, based exclusively off your comments from the original post.


1. Money. Hannah wrote, “I think money needs to be on this list. I can’t tell you how many churches I have attended that had thousands of dollars saved up but were unwilling to spend any of it to reach out to the community. They would rather watch the church die than spend the money.”

Bill echoed Hannah’s thought with his own, “I believe Money should be number one on your list. Todays’ modern church spends more time trying to raise money than they do evangelizing. They take up ‘special offerings’, they have pledge programs, they have fund raisers and some even sell bonds to raise more money.” The Bible itself says “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10).” If not controlled and safeguarded against, the love of money can destroy even a church.

2. Selective Judgement. Cory wrote, “Being right. Before loving. For lack of a better title. The church elevates specific sins as worse than others. They alienate that sinner and embrace another that seems less horrible. Then stand on select verses to prove their RIGHT.” We know Bible speaks against judging others (Matthew 7:1, Romans 2:1), but too often the church chooses to selectively judge others, usually condemning sins that it conveniently doesn’t struggle with. Jesus modeled grace and truth (John 1:17). Churches should aspire to the same standard.

3. Fear of man. Karen wrote, “I think we fear what people will think of us more than we fear the accountability before God. Talking about spiritual things in an age of politcal correctness leaves us in a dilemma. We hope our actions or our example will be enough but the Bible clearly calls us to word and deed.” This can be the polar opposite of selective judgment. For fear of falling into the quick sand of judgment, some churches refuse to take any stands at all, building their houses upon the ever-shifting sands of culture rather than the rock of Jesus’ teaching. Once again, Jesus modeled how to embrace both grace and truth (John 1:17). As churches, we need to follow in his footsteps.

4. Dress/Appearances. George wrote, “Clothes – Some people put a ton of emphasis on how people dress at church.” Agreed. I’ve experienced this too many times in my own life. I think previous generations were taught to dress up to church as a sign of respect (a good thing), but over time the emphasis became less on the respect and more about the appearances.

William shared his own heartbreaking example, “My company moved me around a lot and we attended several different churches. We had been going to one in Southern California, I noticed that most but not all wore suits or a sport coat. I wasn’t used to the Summer heat and wore a nice polo shirt and slacks. After about a month my wife and I were met at the door by three deacons. I was told that in their church we “dressed up to come to church” I had been in the process of downsizing a department in my company and had a bad week. My wife didn’t say anything and looked at me. I looked the fellow in the eyes for about fifteen seconds and without saying anything reached down and dusted my shoes off and my wife and I left. The church is the people, not a suit or building.”

Anne shared the answer to this issue, “Transparency (If we would take off our masks of everything is perfect in our lives and get real about the troubled times we have gone through & let them know without Christ we would possibly not survived, I bet more and more people would come to know Him. I know I’ve been there.)”

5. Lack of Excellence. As Tim wrote, “Lousy preaching / bad worship experience due to inattentiveness and incompetence.” No church would ever admit this, but some churches put laziness ahead of  reaching people. It’s amazing how many churches can take a life-changing message and awe-inspiring worship and bore people to tears with it.

6. Preaching over Relationships. This is a counterpoint to Tim’s previous comment. Peter wrote, “I’d say preaching and teaching over loving and leading by example. I’ve met and come across seminary graduates who taut their degrees but are unwilling to hit the streets to witness. Preaching is great but I’m learning that many suffer because some preachers want to speak to the masses and miss the one on one opportunities to minister.” Church leaders must be pastors as well as preachers. As difficult as it can be to manage, we need balance excellence in preaching and worship with a depth of authentic relationships with the people we get to serve.

7. Leadership Issues. Lydia made a great point, “I think one thing that was left off the list is the preacher. If he decides to do things his way then he starts gathering a group that like him and they start making changes. I have grown up with more church fights and splits than I care to remember and the majority had to do with the preacher and him wanting to do everything and be in control of every thing including the money. In my opinion it is not the music that should be on the list but the preacher.” Power issues and a lack of servant leadership will kill a church almost quicker than anything else. As John Maxwell famously says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.”

8. Imitating Others. Chris wrote, “I would add to this list “Trying to ‘do church’ like another church”. Maybe we want to be like them and grow like them, i.e. Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Church. It reminds me of Israel crying for a king because having judges wasn’t like everyone elses kingdom. Problem being, It’s Jesus kingdom, his kingly command, the great comission. Got to get outside the walls. Love people outside the walls for a birth so they will come indoors to grow.” I grew up in Southern California in the shadow of Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, so I know firsthand the temptation to imitate another church. I would caveat that it isn’t just a problem for contemporary churches. Many traditional churches imitate a mythical ideal of a church that existed for Andy Griffith in Mayberry. Every church needs to find its own identity in the community, not simply trying to transplant someone else’s approach.

9. Church Politics. LaDon suggested a great catch-all when he wrote, “No. 1 – Definitely should have been church politics!” It’s sad to admit that politics can enter a community of faith, but we all know it can. Many of the stories you shared in your comments can be boiled down to church politics.

10. Self. Kyle was right on when he wrote, “I think the #1 thing most “Christians” place before reaching people is THEMSELVES. Most Christians don’t care about the waitresses soul…especially if she’s not giving us good service. We don’t care about the soul of our neighbor…especially if they have a barking dog or screaming kids that bother us. We don’t care have a burden for the soul of the co-worker who gets on OUR nerves. Can music, buildings, traditions…etc get in the way of reaching people? Of course. But until ‘Christians’ get over themselves and start having a burden for people, we will not reach people for Christ.” Well said!


QUESTION: What else would you add to this list?

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  • Terry

    Added to the list: The church show.

    In many cases we have overemphasized church services that present a flashy and impressive performance for the crowd. There is this apparent felt need to compete with Hollywood and the entertainment industry by using all the latest greatest gadgets and elements to give the service that “flash, bang, pow” effect. And yet, when we attempt to compete with the entertainment world we fail miserably. But in our attempts to do so we too often create a shallow experience that fails to offer authentic worship, a life-changing word, and genuine relationship among those in the “crowd.” Those attracted by the “flash, bang, pow” effect, will eventually tire of it and go in search of meaning and depth.

    • Carl

      Biblical incorrectness/inaccuracy:

      Too many times have I heard a pastor claim what he says comes directly from scriptures. But when the scriptures used to back it up are spoken, it is either completely out of context or just 180 degrees contrary to the so called biblical truth being “proven”. Sure we make mistakes, but when pastors get used to the congregation taking everything at face value and don’t expect to be called out on their inaccuracy, better watch out! You may get the “touch not God’s annointed” scripture!

  • Carl

    Biblical incorrectness/inaccuracy:

    Too many times have I heard a pastor claim what he says comes directly from scriptures. But when the scriptures used to back it up are spoken, it is either completely out of context or just 180 degrees contrary to the so called biblical truth being “proven”. Sure we make mistakes, but when pastors get used to the congregation taking everything at face value and don’t expect to be called out on their inaccuracy, better watch out! You may get the “touch not God’s annointed” scripture!

  • Kay Walker

    3things. Im a youth at my church and if it wasnt for my new pastor the youths cries would still fall on deaf ears. Now we have two Sunday dedicto us. Yay.!! So not letting the youth speak for themselves or let them change certain things.

    Number two is trying to run a church when your not the pastor. Its not your church to direct, its the pastors church. Period. Let him do what God ordained him to do. Thank you for writing this blog.

    Number three.? Being afraid to talk about sexuality or simply having a relationship either family,friend or personal love life

    • joshdaffern

      Hey Kay, thanks for sharing. I’m so glad to hear that you have a youth pastor that’s there for you. I was a youth pastor myself for ten years and always have a heart for teens. You’re the future of the church!

  • Basically, this list is symptomatic of poor discipleship and poor theological formation of the church understanding as well as applying Ecclesiology (doctrine of the church).

  • Shannon

    Friendships. I think a lot of people get comfortable with the friends and relationships they’ve made in church. These friendships are so comfortable, that it keeps us from reaching out to make new bonds with the people who do not have a relationship with Jesus. Church has to become comfortable with change. Because when the people come to accept God’s grace, their gifts and personalities are going to effect the dynamic the church had before. And it’s a beautiful transformation, unless we isolate ourselves from newcomers and keep with our comfortable circles.

    • Jonathan B

      One my previous churches over a decade ago, which ran afoul of several of these, the pastor was fond of announcing from the pulpit that science said you could have only X number of friends, I forget how many, and he already had his limit. While at the same time the church preached the “intentional friendships” gospel. Nothing makes you feel so loved and inspired to go love others as your pastor telling you he has no room for anyone else in his life.

      • joshdaffern

        Wow, never heard that one before. Brutal!

  • David

    I’s say that no matter what type of church you attend, all churches come up short on more than one of these issues. The main point is to remember that the church is not just “you”, the church is also “me”. I have found myself suffering from the “beam in the eye” syndrome more than once. While all churches could stand a little change, all issues should be addressed in a Christ-like manner. Sometime the best way to bring about change is just to be a living example to others.

  • Marilyn Brown

    Love this sight!

  • Kate

    I work in a church, and I can tell you that it is a hard job. While I love my job, it can sometimes be stressful. I really enjoyed reading both of these blogs, and it is all true in some form. However, one thing people should remember is…the church is ran by people. The Bible tells us “we all fall short of the glory of God”. None of us are perfect, and that includes the people that run the church.

    • joshdaffern

      Agreed! A very needed reminder. Thanks for sharing!

  • Terry McAlister

    We must have faith in the power of the Holy Spirit to use the truth of his word to change the hearts of those we are trying to reach. All too often Christians try to persuade others by using their own cleverness or wisdom. 1 Corinthians 27-29.

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  • Dale Sigler

    Shallow faith! “Accept Jesus as Savior and you’re done.” We are supposed to be going on to perfection, as John Wesley put it.

    • joshdaffern

      Agreed! I believe we’ve lowered the bar to push numbers up that we’ve created a false sense/assurance of what salvation really is. Good word!

  • Joyce

    Cliques. Some churches can be more like a social club. It is more about the group you belong to and who in the church are socially better than others. I’ve been in a situation that my opinion didn’t matter to a certain person/group because I was not “good enough”

    • Kay

      Nothing like being warmly invited to join a church, only to be dropped a few months later when the new wears off. I too have experienced not being heard because I’m not part of the clique. And I might add – don’t stand in the church sanctuary making your social plans while blatantly excluding those you so warmly invited to your loving church in the first place. It needs to be about real relationships – not just numbers.

  • Rodney

    My thought is the #1 thing is division. Just about anyone who “goes to church” says I go to such and such denomination. People seem to take on a since of importance in their “own” denomination. We need to realize there is only one church. We who claim Him as Lord of our lives, believe in, follow, and trust in Jesus Christ are the church. We all need to change our wording, I think. We gotta start saying we are going to the assembling of God’s people or something like that instead of we are going to church. We are the church when we are at the assembling of God’s people , at work, at home, when shopping, etc.

    • Carolyn James


  • To much reliance on technology. PowerPoint is killing the Spirit. Also technique, such as three point presentation. I know it was already mentioned, but I’ll say it another way. No fresh anointing, too much Greek and Hebrew interpretation and not enough Holy Spirit! Sunday Worship is being confused with Bible study.

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