Church, Culture, and the Consultant


© 2014 Image used with purchased copyright permission from BIGSTOCK PHOTO

Culture as defined by Os Guinness in his book, Renaissance, “Is a way of life lived in common.”

After decades of working in the local church, pastoring small churches, and engaging in conversations with my fellow pastors; it is my observation that many 21st Century pastors are either uncomfortable with or fail to see the importance that a certified church consultant could play in assisting their church better advance the Kingdom of God locally and globally. There is a huge difference between “being the church” and “doing church.” The danger is that the longer a church has been in existence, the greater the chances of that church just going through the motions, doing church, but not being the church. Many of our cities and communities have been and are undergoing rapidly changing ethnic, generational, economic, social and political demographics. The question becomes whether we as the local church understand the different ethnic and generational cultures existing in our neighborhoods; cultural and demographic changes occurring in our respective communities, and how best to reach them with the claims of Christ. Perhaps it is time for a paradigm shift in our pastoral leadership thought processes and practices; a cultural change in our 21st Century church mindset relative to bringing in a church consultant.

The truth remains however that for many pastors and churches, the idea of hiring a church consultant and that person having carte blanche access to church staff, its leadership and membership, budgets and reports, can be both intimidating and disconcerting. For some, not all pastors, it may seem to be an admission that their leadership capabilities or even personal integrity are being called into question. Some may even feel that it is okay for a marketplace organization to utilize the services of a consultant; but the church after all is not a business even though it is both a living organism and organization.  Churches have budgets, ministries, staff including volunteers and paid employees, etc., but many church leaders see little value in or need for a consultant’s services. For these and other reasons many pastors and churches that could benefit from the services of a certified church consultant choose to continue on with ministry in a business as usual way. For many churches and pastors the cultural stigma of (market place versus church from an organizational perspective) is a deciding factor that keeps them from engaging the services of a church consultant in my opinion.

Perhaps some observations from others beside me might help persuade a pastor and church to consider the possibility of engaging a church consultant. Dennis Bickers in his book, Intentional Ministry in a not-so-mega church: Becoming a Missional Community, states that “A changing world needs a changing church.” Bickers says that “We live in a rapidly changing world that requires the church to examine its entire focus on ministry” (2009, p.11). Very few people reading this article will contest this statement, “If there is one constant in our 21st Century it is change.” If our world is in a constant state of flux, what changes does today’s church need to make that while not compromising the integrity of Scripture, allow us to better fulfill the Great Commission.  Aubrey Malphurs has served as a pastor; is presently professor of pastoral ministries at Dallas Theological Seminary, and president of the Malphurs Group. Malphurs (2005, Advance Strategic Planning) reveals the following:

In an earlier book, I noted that in 1988 between 80-85 percent of churches in North America had either plateaued or were in decline (dying). If 65% of the people in the churches are either plateaued or declining in their spiritual growth, is no wonder that so many churches are struggling. Based on my research and consulting with churches, I am convinced that the typical church does not understand the full implication of megachange. Even when a church has some understanding of the implications, it doesn’t know how to respond in effective ministry to those becoming immersed in the postmodern paradigm (p. 8).

If the above paragraph has not gotten your attention, please read the following statement by Malphurs with a “teachable spirit:”

I believe that the majority of seminaries that prepare people for ministry sit in the same boat with the churches. They are still preparing future pastors for ministry to a modern, not a postmodern world. Most training equips pastors for one hour on Sunday morning but ignores the other forty-plus hours of the week that demand such things as leadership gifts and abilities, people skills, and strategic thinking and doing (p. 8).

My prayer is that more pastors and churches would have a “teachable spirit” where the use of a certified church consultant is concerned. I would encourage any pastor and church who might consider the possibility of engaging a certified church consultant to contact the “Society for Church Consulting” in Louisville, KY.

References: In Article Usage Order

Os Guinness, Renaissance: The Power Of The Gospel However Dark The Times (2014, Downers Grove, IL: IVP), p. 58.

Dennis Bickers, Intentional Ministry in a not-so-mega church: Becoming A Missional Community (2009, Kansas City, MO: Beacon Hill Press), p.11.

Aubrey Malphurs, Advanced Strategic Planning: A New Model for Church and Ministry Leaders (2005, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books), p.8.


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