A popular book a few years back was titled, The 10 Dumbest Mistakes Smart People Make and How to Avoid Them. Let me offer a church version of that book by suggesting The 7 Dumbest Mistakes Smart Churches Make.

Mistake # 1: WE START NEW THINGS WITHOUT ELIMINATING OLD THINGS. A few years back in our church, I discussed with a group of our leaders the future direction of the church. All agreed that with changing times, we must adopt changing methods. We discussed a number of new things we needed to do. All agreed that in order to do these new things some old things would have to be eliminated. However, when I suggested some things that might need to be eliminated— Sunday evening services, Wednesday night services, etc.— they opposed each suggestion. Churches have a difficult time shooting their sacred cows.

Mistake # 2: WE ENLIST PEOPLE WITHOUT ANY REGARD TO THEIR SPIRITUAL GIFTS. When a staff member is trying to fill out the slate of teachers or when the Committee on Committees is trying to complete their committee assignments, we usually see the primary task to be filling the positions rather than aligning the gifts of the people with the gifts demanded for the job. The result: ineffectiveness.

Mistake # 3: WE DEFEND OUR OWN TURF INSTEAD OF PROMOTING THE WORK OF THE KINGDOM. It’s easy to see how this happens. Someone gets involved in a particular ministry and they develop a real love for this ministry. They have a passion for it. It is only a small step from “a passion for this ministry” to “this ministry is the most important ministry in the church.” And if we have invested in that ministry, we are hesitant to let it go, even though it is no longer effective.

Mistake # 4: WE OPERATE ON THE BASIS OF MINORITY RULE. The Bible warns us against being a stumbling block to weaker believers. This valid biblical admonition has been twisted into an unhealthy methodology in the church. We allow a few dissenters to kill good ideas for change. This practice immobilizes many churches because there are almost always a few who resist any suggested change.

Mistake # 5: WE LIVE IN THE PAST. Gratitude for the past should permeate the life of a church. However, “being thankful for” is not the same as “being tied to.” Instead of duplicating the actions of the past we need instead to duplicate the spirit of the past. Our past leaders did what was necessary to meet the challenges of their day in methodologies which were effective in their day. We should be willing to do the same in our day.

Mistake # 6: WE MAKE RULES AND REGULATIONS PRIMARY INSTEAD OF PEOPLE. Following the rules for the care of the buildings becomes more important than the people who are served through the buildings. Keeping the proper age groups in a class become more important than ministering to people through the class. These are two examples of ways in which we confuse the primary focus of the church on kingdom work.

Mistake # 7: WE DEMAND LEADERSHIP BUT RESIST IT AT THE SAME TIME. I have sensed some resistance over the years to my aggressive leadership style. Pulpit committees have said, “We need you to give leadership to the church.” Then, some are disturbed when I do. And I have noticed the same reaction at times to lay leaders who give strong leadership. It’s like the husband who had not kissed his wife in ten years but then shot someone who did!

So how do we avoid these mistakes? Email your responses to me at