I put the statement on social media. The responses were voluminous. After a couple of days, I had to stop counting and tally the results. There were hundreds of them.
In an effort to simplify my reporting of the results, I put the responses into several categories. I have to say, I was more encouraged than not. Sure, we got the usual complaints about other people and the worship services. But I was surprised to see how many respondents said the greatest change needed to be themselves. Pastors said it. Elders said it. Deacons said it. Other laypersons said it. That response, among others, greatly encouraged me.
My question was about one thing, so I had to disregard those who gave two things, or three things, or fourteen things (seriously). Keep in mind, each tallied respondent could only say one thing. So, when you read that three percent wanted a greater emphasis on prayer, it doesn’t mean 97 percent did not want a greater emphasis on prayer. It just means three percent put it at the top of their list.
Here are the top ten results. The numbers do not add to 100 percent, because there were many responses that did not fit any of the top ten categories.
If I could change one thing in my church, it would be . . .
- Other people (16%). No big surprise here. Other people need to get their acts together. The pastor needs to visit more. Other people need to attend more frequently. The essence of these responses is that everyone else is the problem.
- Me (13%). I was incredibly gratified to see this second highest response. So many of the respondents acknowledged the plank in their own eyes rather than the splinter in others. Indeed, this response was both a surprise and a great sign of hope for churches.
- A greater emphasis on evangelism (10%). Again, I was heartened by these responses. The second and third most frequent responses were “change me” and “share the gospel.” That’s very hopeful.
- The worship services (9%). No surprises here. It’s just hard for me to imagine that someone would say the greatest need in the church was to turn down the volume. Of course, there were the expected responses: more hymns; more contemporary music; more blended music, and on and on and on.
- The church facilities (6%). There were a number of concerns about church buildings. It seems like this problem is becoming more pronounced. Deferred maintenance is growing in churches. Then again, some of the responses were, well, strange: “If I could change one thing in the church, it would be light bulbs that are too high.” Now that’s important.
- The pace of change (5%). Almost all the responses in this category expressed a desire for increasing the pace of change. As one church member said: “We are moving slowly, and we are slowly dying.”
- A greater emphasis on prayer (3%). As I monitor church trends, I am seeing this type of response with a greater frequency. That’s healthy, very healthy.
- A greater emphasis on discipleship (3%). Again, as I read these responses, I was hopeful. Church leaders and members desire to return to greater emphases on evangelism, prayer, and discipleship.
- Our church polity (3%). Though a frequent response, there was no consistency on desiring any one type of polity. The theme was, for the most part, whatever our polity is now needs to be changed.
- Greater diversity (2%). “When I look around our church, I see nothing but white faces. When I look into the community I see diverse ethnic groups and races.” That pretty much says it all.
Out of the hundreds of responses, there were many memorable, some for good, and some not so good. One of those: “If I could change one thing in my church, it would be the toilet paper brand.”
There you go. That’s Kingdom thinking.
This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on July 25, 2018. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and ten grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.