Have you ever had a personal issue that was really difficult to face? Perhaps you kept dancing around the core issue only dealing with the symptoms. Sometimes dealing with the symptoms is far easier than facing what’s at the heart of the matter. Looking at the bare-naked truth is sometimes scary – maybe even terrifying. It takes some real guts to peel back those layers and take a hard, cold look at reality. I know. I’ve been there – done that.

Have you thought about that same kind of gutsy reality check as a church leader? As “nice church people,” we often gloss over the less-than-pleasant facts so as to not hurt people’s feelings. At the same time, the ineffective ministries continue to crank away with seemingly no connection with them and the ineffectiveness in the church’s ability and responsibility to the Great Commission. Yet, leaders are frustrated at the church’s decline and the disconnection with young families. The church focuses on symptoms and blames culture for the issues. The core issue, the bare-naked truth, is too scary to examine.

In a recent article, Anger Isn’t Keeping Them Home; It’s Indifference (Why Church Attendance Keeps Dropping), Carey Nieuwhof suggests people have grown indifferent to the church. This indifference stems from a lack of passion. In a local meeting in the fall of 2021, David Kinnamon, President of Barna, explained people got out of the habit of attending church during COVID and they “just weren’t that into you” so other habits were easily formed in place of church. I have to say that I agree with Carey and David. I see too many churches that seem to be just going through the motions. It’s hard to be passionate about something whose leaders don’t seem to be passionate about what they are leading.

Folks sometimes give me a hard time about my hyper focus on accountable leadership. I often tell leaders that it doesn’t matter what kind of structure a church has, I believe that every church would be well served by practicing the accountable leadership model. And here is the reason why. When a church is practicing the accountable leadership model at all levels, every leader at every level understands why their ministry matters and its impact. Every leader understands how their part of the ministry ties into the larger mission and vision of the church. They see how what they and their ministry team does helps the church meet its goals and live into God’s preferred future (the vision) for how the church is making disciples in its current context. 

Everyone is working together for the same outcome, same focus, same purpose. Decisions are made with this one purpose in mind. Financial choices are based on mission, vision, alignment, and effectiveness. Personal preferences no longer rule the roost. Power grabs no longer have a hold. Celebrations of life are thrown for ministries that have reached their expiration dates followed by proper burials. Leaders clearly understand they are accountable to Christ for leading the church in its mission for developing disciple-making disciples who transform the world.

If we want to stamp out indifference and restore passion, we absolutely must start with a missional focus. The way to gain that missional focus is to adopt the accountable leadership model. It helps leaders develop the skills to set a different agenda to facilitate different conversations at the leadership table. Until we start having different conversations, we will not be able to make the much needed change of focus – the missional focus! 

If your leaders are ready to start having different conversations, check out these resources to begin shifting your leadership culture to a missional leadership culture:

Accountable Leadership – This 70-Minute On-Demand Webinar introduces the basics of the accountable leadership model, why it’s important, and how it works in the local church

Mission Possible 3+  –  Nearly 300-page workbook on the three phases of discerning, equipping, and implementing simplified, accountable leadership 

Mission Possible: Small Church – Book created for simplifying leadership, structure, & ministries in small churches for missional focus

Inside Out: Everting Ministry Models for the Postmodern Culture – This book outlines the six shifts churches need to consider to reach new people in our modern context. It’s not an either/or approach, but it helps leaders think about how to balance what our existing people desire while also considering what we need to think about to reach new people.

An Effective Approach to Cooperative Parishes – This congregational guide was created to help church leaders consider becoming a part of a cooperative parish as a missional approach rather than an appointive mandate or a financial decision.

Strategy Matters – This resource is a roadmap for strategic planning that helps your congregational leaders with missional alignment. Without strategic planning, it is difficult to have missional alignment. relationship at a time.