Whole Bible Christianity

It's a God Thing


Survey of Pastors Rating Themselves Highly - Pastors Think They Are Doing Good Job

This survey on heels of another showing church no longer changing lives.

Failures of the Church

Everyone can see that the church just isn't cutting the mustard anymore. The question is, will we admit it, confess our failures, and return to our first love? An article by Bruce Scott Bertram about the need for church reform.

Update 2016: church still losing people

This survey (and our articles based on it) may have been done a while ago, but the statistics haven't changed much. They've gotten worse. Oh sure, depending on who you ask and how you frame the questions you could get some variation. But overall, despite the mega-churches and the TV programs and the book sales, the church (in general) has backed so far off of biblical teaching they just aren't making the difference in people's lives. We think it's a direct relationship. Since the Word is the only thing that can change people, if churches don't teach it, they don't offer anything different than the world does.

Kingdom building

Several areas are not addressed by this study. But they wouldn't get honest answers if they did. After our experiences with 15 or so churches in 10 different denominations, plus interactions with dozens of pastors over several decades, we come to the conclusion that what pastors (in general) are really good at is building and defending their own little kingdoms. Like Jewish leaders old (at the time of Jesus) and new, they're more concerned with power and money than they are with preaching the Word. Like many leaders throughout history, pastors are good at building their own kingdoms.

The Church Isn't Cutting It Anymore

In an article from the Rocky Mountain News on December 8, 2001 (page 40A), Terry Mattingly quotes George Barna of the Barna Research Group (www.barna.org) as saying that after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, "millions of nominally churched or generally irreligious Americans were desperately seeking something that would restore stability and a sense of meaning to life. Fortunately, many of them turned to the church. Unfortunately, few of them experienced anything that was sufficiently life-changing to capture their attention." (How America's Faith Has Changed Since 9/11.)

The tragedy and horror of the attacks shook many to their core, and motivated at least a brief reevaluation of priorities and belief systems. Accordingly, there was a momentary rise in church attendance (to 47%, up from 41% according to the Gallup organization), as people grappled with questions of why and what next. However, the church as a whole was unable to deliver answers.

In the same article, Mr. Barna also summarized the results of the churches efforts by saying that "churches succeeded at putting on a friendly face but failed at motivating the vast majority of spiritual explorers to connect with Christ in a more intimate or intense manner."

This inability to deliver a message "sufficiently life changing" to "connect with Christ" is not limited to Protestant churches, and it is not a recent problem, nor is it an easy problem to solve. I suppose it is possible that even if the message had been "sufficient" many would not have responded with a life changing commitment, because it is not for nothing that Jesus said the way is hard and the road narrow.

The Barna organization did another survey on January 7, 2002, titled "Pastors Rate Themselves Highly, Especially as Teachers." According to the results, "of eleven common activities that pastors undertake, a majority of Protestant Senior Pastors rated themselves as doing an "excellent" or "good" job in ten of those eleven areas." The areas covered in the survey, and the percent of pastors rating themselves excellent or good were:

Preaching & Teaching 90% Discipling or mentoring 64%
Encouraging people 85% Evangelism 60%
Pastoring or shepherding 82% Counseling 54%
Providing leadership 73% Administration or Management 53%
Motivating people for a vision 68% Developing Strategy 53%


An interesting how-do-you-do

Hmmm. Now here's an interesting how-do-you-do. On the one hand the church isn't doing the job, on the other the pastors rate themselves highly. What in the world are they measuring by? Do you notice there is not one measure of how well they know the Word, or how well they communicate the Word to the flock?

Mr. Barna notes that pastors of large congregations had a tendency to rate themselves highly in four of the areas (such as administration and vision), but that there is often a "weak correlation" between church size and life transformation. He goes on to say that "there appears to be a need for standard and objective measures of self-evaluation that church leaders can utilize. Pastors are indisputably a talented and well-educated group. However, it's unrealistic for most pastors to claim that they perform at an above-average level in such a large number of disparate ministry duties as those examined in the study."

Perhaps there should be measurements for such things as, say, percentage of unnecessary divorces (divorce is never "right." It may be the only thing a person can do, but even then it isn't "right."). Or we could test for how many times a pastor change results in crushed people, splits, and power plays. Another area for a checkup could be how well the average congregant knows the Word, and practices what the pastor preaches. Do "stray winds of doctrine" toss the congregation about like corks on a tempestuous sea?

Let's face it. The Church is just not cutting the mustard anymore. The job of presenting the life-changing truth of God has gone begging. And I think I know why.

In my opinion the Church has so thoroughly mixed the ways of God with the ways of the nations for so long and so well, that the only thing left is a tepid porridge of half-truths and men's opinions. The main reason the church was so ineffective during this time of tragedy (9/11) is that as a group we have become dependent on what men say about the Word of God rather than depending on the Word itself.

We have gathered for ourselves teachers of "ear tickling opinions" because we won't sit still for the truth. This dependence on opinions has given rise to a series of "country clubs" based on men's teachings, where, like actual country clubs, "membership" is frequently determined by the ability to parrot the by-laws, by who you know, or by how much money is given. Instead of a supportive community functioning as a body, we have cliques. Instead of having members devoted to one another and motivated by a deep love, we have grand gestures from the music team and empty words from the pulpit. Instead of a daily faith and practice based on the plain meaning of the Word of God, we have a weekly meeting that is supposed to serve as a sort of pep rally for the rest of the week.

Pastors are "talented and well-educated," but do they know the Word? Are they spending more time "motivating people around a vision" than equipping people to practice the ways of God? Of course, it's not just the pastors. Many times the congregants themselves do not want anything more from the pastor than cheerleading. And there is certainly a dearth of people hungry for the truth. According to the first survey quoted only 22% of people who claim "rebirth" believe in absolute truth. Perhaps this is the reason for the nosedive in effectiveness. The sheep are too much like sheep?

But this does not let these leaders off the hook. True, many jobs would be lost if the pastors told the truth. And many a reputation would be wrecked if pastors "came out of the closet" for the simple truth of the Word instead of for a deviant sexual practice. Is this a joke or what? Think about it - what a switch! Congregants give a standing ovation to an alleged "pastor" who acknowledges a perverted sexual sin (and leave him/her in office), but many other so-called "leaders of the flock" are afraid to teach the truth because they might lose their livelihood or the respect of the community!

The answer

There is an easy answer to the dilemma, one that stares us in the face from nearly every page of Scripture. To make it as simple as possible, in my opinion what we need is to read the Word and do the Word. Peel away the doctrines of men that have clouded the Way and robbed it of its nourishment. Leave the crooked paths, and tread the straight and narrow path of God. The truth may not tickle the ear, but it will sure charge up your life, and make the message "sufficiently life changing to capture the attention of the seeker." Lay it on the line and you will see the vast majority of spiritual explorers "motivated to connect with Christ in a more intimate or intense manner." The truth of the Word may not build big congregations, but they will most definitely be built on the Rock.

This isn't going to be pretty

We are headed into what appears to be a time of trouble since has not been seen since the beginning, and will not be seen again. And there may be no "magic moment" to whisk us away like a bubble bath commercial (like my friend Brad likes to say), from at least some of the trouble. And if we can't weather something easy like a pastor change now, then how in the world will we be able to resist unto death if need be? What a bunch of wussies we are! We have a glass jaw, because one sucker-punch and we're out. If we are so upside down as to applaud a homosexual pastor while sending the truth-preaching pastor out of town on a rail, how will we ever see straight enough to be among the elect counted worthy to escape?

Lack of ability is no excuse either. "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." We either have the Christ or we do not. If we do not, then there is no hope. If we do, then we have every reason to believe that whatever happens we can do it. Don't let someone tell you that parts of the Word are not for you. Reject the notion that some parts are outdated and eliminated. Look at the fruit of those who say such things! They rate themselves highly while the city burns. Who needs advice from those?

Hear and obey! Cries the Spirit. Give voice to the Word of the Lord! Make straight the ways of the Lord! When the Son of man returns, will He find faith, that is, trusting obedience, on the Earth?

In loving hope of embracing all of what is God's,

Bruce Scott Bertram