The Proactive Church

We’ve all heard the old saying, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” This phrase simply means if something is working adequately, leave it alone. Unfortunately, this phrase is inherently limiting to whoever applies it. As church leaders, one of the primary roles we fill is universal handyman and go to problem solver. Fair or not, we are expected to continually address, prevent, and solve issues when they arise. 

There will always be challenges in ministry that must be overcome in order to advance your ministry. How you approach problems and the type of change you implement is representative of the culture you wish to infuse into your ministry. When it comes to problem solving in ministry, there are only two types of churches, proactive churches and reactive churches.

Proactive VS Reactive Change

In reactive churches, change is initiated because it’s been made necessary by outside forces. Reactive churches seemingly never change until their hand is forced to do so. They often ignore signs of danger until it’s too late and serious problems have already developed. The reactionary church is always left asking themselves the question, “How can we fix this?”

In proactive churches, change is initiated by the leaders because they desire to improve. A proactive church is continually analyzing the church for opportunities to improve and become more excellent in what they do. The proactive church is always asking themselves the question, “How can we make this even better?”

Proactive VS Reactive Planning

Proactive churches develop strategic plans by anticipating or analyzing trends and reviewing the church’s past in relation to its current problems. Most struggles a church goes through can be traced back to a few core issues. If not addressed properly, the underlying problem may end up reoccurring and manifest in multiple different symptoms. Proactive churches strategically plan to reduce the effort and time spent on “crisis management” and free up resources to focus on the church’s mission.

When faced with an unwanted symptom the proactive church did not plan for, they recognize the importance of slowing down and evaluating what went wrong. The best way to slow down and get your team out of “crisis mode” is to ask questions. We’re given multiple examples in Scripture of Jesus slowing down the pace by asking very deep and introspective questions. Introspective questions force the church leaders to identify and address the underlying problems, even if it’s difficult to immediately see the connection between the symptoms of the problem and the problem itself.

One example of Jesus posing an introspective question is found in John 5:1-15. In this passage, Jesus asks a sick man “Do you want to get well?” One could see this as an odd question for Jesus (The God of the universe) to ask a man who’s been struggling for 38 years and is actively sitting at the pool of Bethesda waiting to be cured by a Spirit that would occasionally stir up the waters. It’s obvious both Jesus and the man knew the man’s physical circumstances, but it seems Jesus wanted the man to consider the implications of being spiritually and physically healed. Jesus knew the man might have been so focused on his external situation that he did not recognize his internal need for a Savior. When we ask questions like Jesus did, it forces us to slow down and evaluate the underlying source of our problems.

The proactive church is a strategic church, and a strategic church is a growing church. Growing churches continually ask the right questions and are willing to make decisions now in order to get ahead. On the flip side, reactive churches do not ask the right questions and consequently never get the right answers. Perhaps worse, sometimes reactive churches are willing to ask the right questions, but their unwillingness to change as a result leads to stagnation.

Much like the man at the pool, many churches today are too focused on reacting to their external symptoms and they never identify and address their root problems. The only way to actually assess the root of a problem is to slow down and ask the questions that really matter. If Jesus cured the sick man, what would this man’s identity be? Would being free from physical sickness really make this man well or did he need more than just physical healing? Perhaps the question Jesus asked this man isn’t very different from the type of questions your church should be asking. 

Clarifying Questions

  • Do other churches in your area recognize you as a leader in creativity and excellence, or do you feel yourself trying to play catch up to other churches?
  • Do your leadership plans often seem to be stalled?
  • Does your leadership team have a written strategic plan for the future they filter decisions through?
  • Do you believe your key issues to be mostly external? Example: Building size, volunteers, location, leaders, finances, or other churches in your area? 


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