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According to the leadership guru John Maxwell, everything rises and falls on leadership. I believe it’s the will of God for every church to grow, expand, and increase. After all, Jesus said he would build his church, and I don’t think its likely that he will fail in that mission. In addition, Paul gave an assurance that if people were “planting” and “watering,” God would give the increase. The question becomes, “why is new growth and increase so hard to come by?” Certainly there are more variables than can be discussed in one blog, but I think when it comes to dormant churches much of the answers fall at the feet of leadership. Sometimes difficult decisions have to be made in order to remove obstacles to the increase and growth God is wanting to send. It’s a tale as old as time, a song as old as rhyme, now you are singing Beauty and the Beast. Let’s get back on track. Growth usually rides on the back of something new, and a slow death has a strangle hold on the old, like when I put my 5 year old on my shoulders and through a sheer terror of height he grips my neck with other worldly strength. This scenario is played out in scripture as the Pharisees (the old) respond to Jesus (the new). The leadership of the Pharisees shows us how to successfully lead the demise of our organization while simultaneously missing God’s plan and kingdom here on earth.

John 11:47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.”

How to Keep an Empty Church Empty:

1. Protect the current status 

“the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation” – The Pharisees were afraid if they continued to let Jesus do miracles they would lose their current status with the Roman government. The irony is that they despised their current situation with the Roman government and wanted to be free from it. However, when faced with the reality that things were about to change, they chose to try to protect their current situation instead of trusting God and stepping boldly into the unknown.

2. Subscribe to the greater good theory

“it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” It seems like the right choice is rarely in the majority. Those stubborn little decisions that move us by faith into the full fledged kingdom of God always seem to hang around in unpopular territory. Again, the bible points out how Caiaphas was unknowingly and ironically prophetic with this statement, but also how he failed to lead people into an ever expanding kingdom initiated by Jesus Christ. It’s the difference of leading a growing organization or maintaining a failing one. Managers measure decisions by looking at what will be the most popular, leaders look at what is right and will ultimately be the healthiest for long term growth in spite of immediate popularity. 

You can’t reach for what God has for you while holding on to what is current. At some point God will ask you to take a step of faith. That step of faith probably won’t be easy or popular, but it will put you squarely centered in God’s expanding and eternal kingdom. Remember, we walk by faith and not by sight.

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