Successful failure is when you successfully execute a plan that doesn’t work. You’ve planed your work and worked your plan. You’ve completed the task on time and on budget. You successfully executed the plan. The only problem is the plan didn’t work. The outcome was just wrong.
Many churches all across America are successful failures. They’re putting a lot of time and effort into doing church the way they do church only to see little to no fruit. Most churches are building something that nobody wants to be a part of.
And the proof is in the fact that 80 percent of the nearly 400,000 churches in America are plateaued or declining.
1. People Don’t Want a Class, They Want Community.
Most churches still offer classes as the primary way for people to get connected to their church. Most guests still attend a church for the first time at a weekend worship service and then they’re invited to attend a class. No matter how’s it’s branded it’s usually some form of membership or orientation class where they are provided content. Then they’re invited to another class (usually in the form of some kind of Bible study) where they can get more content. People are looking for connection and community not classes or content. If people were really looking for another class to be a part of then Community Colleges across America would be overrun with a deluge of applicants.
2. People Don’t Want to Be Lectured to, They Want to Be Changed.
There are few settings outside of academia where people receive information in a lecture format anymore. People aren’t looking for another lecture. They’re looking for something real, tangible and powerful. Does your God really have the power to change my most meaningful relationships? Can I experience real peace in life? Can my life really be different than it is today? Is there something truly spiritual about Christianity or is it just another self-help book to make my life “better”?
3. People Don't Want to Feel Guilty, They Want to Feel Inspired.
People are tired of coming to church and feeling guilty, shamed, preached at, spoken down to and judged. Who would want to be a part of something like that? People want to be inspired. They want to know that there is hope. And while the church has the most hope to offer the World, the average person in the world typically doesn’t associate “hope” and “church.” The Gospel is the most inspiring message in the history of the planet and somehow we’ve made it very unattractive.
4. People Don't Want to Be a Part of Something Built for Insiders.
Let’s face it, most churches are designed by and for people who are already a part of the church. And by churches I mean the physical buildings and programs. Yes I know the church is not a building that you come to but a movement you’re a part of…but for the purpose of this conversation we’re talking about what outsiders view as the church—which are the buildings and programs. Most churches don’t match the architecture of other public spaces that people go to. And who wants to be a part of something where you feel like an outsider the moment you walk through the door because you don’t know the lingo, the songs (who sings songs other than happy birthday any ways) or the customs.
Don’t hear what I’m not saying. I love the church, I’m a part of the church and I’m even on staff at a church. But I don’t think most churches are experiencing much success (success = life change), they’re actually failing. And what’s worse is that most churches are successful failures.