The Baker’s Dirty Dozen Stagnant Church Types


At a time when potential epidemics may be on the horizon the wise person is on the lookout for the signs of disease. The hope is that early detection will enable more effective and less severe treatment.

Such a time surrounds the American church. It is widely reported that 85% of all churches are in a state of stagnation, if not serious decline. 

Jeff Gauss, of Rurality Bytes, summarizes the Baker’s-Dirty-Dozen stagnant church types.  At least one of these 13 types, taken from Ed Stetzer’s Comeback Churches, probably characterizes almost any struggling & stagnant church:

  1. Institutionalized Church – More committed to the forms and programs of ministry than to the work of God; activity has choked out productivity and “good enough” has become the enemy of great.
  2. Voluntary Association Church – This church models itself after democratic government rather than New Testament principles. It is a church for the people, rather than for God. “Whenever one group seeks to make a positive change in the church in one direction, the opposing factions begin to whine, complain, and gossip… This type of church will not change until they change their value system.”
  3. “Us Four and No More” Church – This church doesn’t want to get any larger for fear that it will lose its family feel.
  4. “We Can’t Compete” Church – This church has simply given up, deciding that it can’t compete with other churches so they’re not even going to try.
  5. “Decently and in Order” Church – High regard for process, but lack passion. “They run everything by the book; unfortunately, it’s not the Bible.” All matters great and small must meet the approval of various committees.
  6. “Square Peg in a Round Hole” Church – People are enlisted for service, not based on passion and gifts, but because of need. The mindset is “We’ve got to fill this position. Whose turn is it?”
  7. “Time-Warp” Church – This church has managed to preserve the positions, practices, and appearances of days long gone. They expect others to accept and adapt to what they’ve grown comfortable doing over the years, and give no thought to change. “If it’s good enough for me, it should be good enough for them,” is the prevailing attitude.
  8. “My Way or the Highway” Church – This is usually a vocal minority who, no matter the issue, won’t be satisfied unless it’s done their way.
  9. “Chaplaincy” Church – The church views its pastor as a hired hand and expects him to meet all of their needs. They want a chaplain, not a leader.
  10. “Play-it-Safe” Church – Has little faith that God will provide. Instead of enabling ministry and evangelism, it hinders them by safeguarding what it has. “As much money as possible is placed in a certificate of deposit” for safekeeping.
  11. Unintentional Church – Good intentions, but little action. Rarely follow through on what they hope to do.
  12. “Tidy” Church – Members take pride in the church building and make sure that everything is well-kept and meticulously organized. New growth – especially children – is seen as a threat because they are messy. 
  13. The “Company” Church – The church is more focused on the denomination than the community. They fill up the calendar with denominations meetings and things at the expense of ministering to their community. 

I suspect traces of most of these traits can be seen in almost any church, ailing or healthy.  But a good prelimnay self diagnosis may hold the ecclesiastical undertaker at bay.

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