Todd Rhoades: Why Your Church is Mediocre

mediocrityWise counsel from Todd Rhoades

1.  No evaluation.  Do you evaluate anything? …

2.  Tolerance of mistakes. If you allow things as simple as mistakes in the bulletin, or unplanned worship services… your church is screaming mediocrity. …

3.  Poor maintenance. Untrimmed bushes, potholes in the parking lot all communicate that you really don’t care all that much.

4.  Internal building maintenance.  Chipping paint, light bulbs that are out, worn carpeting communicate that you’ve stopped caring in most instances.

5. You can’t count.  … And if you’re not bothering to keep attendance records, there is a reason.  …

6. No clear discipleship plan. …

7. Tolerance of sin. …

8. No membership class. …

9. No vision. …

10. No outreach. …

11. No new workers. …

12.  Lack of ‘healthy chaos’. 

Anything to add?

Disagree with anything?


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About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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20 Responses to Todd Rhoades: Why Your Church is Mediocre

  1. Joe B says:

    No transparency

    Self Righteousness

    Bad theology

  2. #1 Evaluation – the problem most of us (me) have with evaluation is the difference between evaluating the product and the person. I fail to address the product (the sermon was 45 minutes long and caused havoc in the ensuing activities) instead of the person (you talk too much and say too little).

  3. JES says:

    The elders have relegated all decision making and wisdom (shepherding) to the “senior minister”.

  4. laymond says:

    So, it is all about aesthetics, how the property looks, instead of what ‘THE CHURCH ” does. I hope we are not judged on how much we spend on looks of the meeting place, but I am afraid we will be, when he compares the amount spent on aesthetics, vs. how much we give to the needy.
    “Disagree with anything” yes I do. If I were the judge (I am not) I would judge the poorest churches as the most faithful. they are meeting for a reason, not a show. I don’t judge any of God’s children, followers of Jesus as Mediocre. and I really doubt that Jesus will judge you on how much money you have saved.
    I think Mr. Rhoads needs to learn the definition of the word “Church”.

  5. Mark says:

    Evaluation ceases when no one wants to know the answer. There is always a group who ran things into the ground but does not want to look bad.

  6. John says:

    People don’t read outside their traditional spiritual box; even many of the formally educated members. They are not stretched, not challenged.

    “A mind that is stretched can never go back to its old dimensions.”

    Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

  7. Joe B says:

    Most of the list of questions from the original post are answers to questions asked from an institutional perspective. The reality is there are congregations that have pristine buildings and grounds, plenty of programs in which to be involved, the elders are still the main decision making entity. They have a clear vision; and they are spiritually and numerically dying. It seems to me that John writes to the churches in Revelation about issues that are theological and incarnational in nature, not institutional and organizational. I am reminded that Jesus told the Pharisees that it was more important to clean out the inside of the cup. The inside of the cup is analogous to the spiritual condition of the people in the congregation.
    Here are some better questions to ask about Spiritual Health of local congregations:
    Is it an authentic transparent group of people who have truly “converted” to Christ (not just been saved) that allow the Holy Spirit to constantly transform them?
    Are they a group who is making disciples by being disciples?
    Is their idea of who God is what he is like big enough for their entire diverse community and the world?
    These are some better but certainly not exhaustive questions that we should ask about the health of a local body of believers which have more to do with the Spiritual Health of a local congregation than the old institutional ones.

  8. John F says:

    Laymond: ” If I were the judge (I am not) I would judge the poorest churches as the most faithful. they are meeting for a reason, not a show.”

    Perhaps the poorest churches do not understand “stewardship” and are just “selfish”. Seldom is the lack of concern for the facility related to a desire to have greater funding for evangelism, domestic or foreign.

    Other times the problem is apathy; but who cares?

    All too often, congregations are organized like a business organization. Just look at the structure, look at the questions asked when change (including ministers) is considered. The focus becomes structure, not spirit.

  9. Dwight says:

    Dumb questions or premises lead to dumb conclusions…
    1. No evaluation. Do you evaluate anything?
    The problem is we evaluate ourselves as righteous and others as unrighteous.
    3. Poor maintenance. Untrimmed bushes, potholes in the parking lot all communicate that you really don’t care all that much. 4. Internal building maintenance. Chipping paint, light bulbs that are out, worn carpeting communicate that you’ve stopped caring in most instances.
    I am with Laymond. These are things that are not even seen in the NT assemblies as they didn’t own properties. The money of the saints went to other saints, not carpet fixes or bush repair or yard maintenance. It is strange, but the more successful a church gets, the more they must look successful. They forget what got them to their success in the first place…friendliness, caring, etc and don’t think this will work for others. Pride in the physical then becomes the push. And many of those same groups complain that other groups are being too showy.

  10. Dwight says:

    Stewardship was never allayed to an assembly as they had nothing to be stewards over. They did not own physical structures in the early church.
    Stewardship is allayed to the saint though, but the stewardship is of gifts and what they do with them towards God in growing the Kingdom. Taking care of a building should be the last thing on our mind, instead of taking care of others. Consider that for every dollar that goes to a building, physical structure, carpet, etc. is then deflected from going to another person. As a church group grows it becomes more governmental and sees the money coming in as not others, but its own.

  11. John F says:

    Of course Dwight and Laymond are right to point out the lack of NT emphasis on church property. But 3 & 4 still demonstrate a lack of some caring — and while it perhaps should not, it does show / say something n to outsiders. I don’t favor cathedral architecture, but our “facilities” should still be neat, clean, trim, etc. . . .

    We as a fellowship (and not cofc only) sometimes confused simplicity and drab building with godliness. Seldom does it cost much more to build in an attractive manner. Should we judge by the appearance of a building? Of course not, Do we? Often yes. Do unbelievers judge by appearance? More often than not. Is that fair? Probably not, but still true.

    I recall an Apostolic Faith bishop tell me their icons and clothing were a “tool” to help them reach out to those who were used to the Roman Catholic, Anglican backgrounds of iconography.

  12. John F says:

    Tolerating mistakes: typographical errors in bulletins SHOUT: 1) we are careless or 2) we are ignorant or 3) we don’t care. Are any of the three acceptable on a continuing basis?

    I’ve seen PRIDE shown in “dressing down” intentionally for worship — serving communion in Mickey Mouse t-shirts, all the while quoting James about the “poor man” being disrespected. Relevance to the “common man” is not shown by wearing dirty rags. Somewhere along the way we are to offer God the “best of our flocks.”

  13. Dustin says:

    I’m not exactly sure of what he means by #7. I think it is a problem but I would re-state it. The community of saints is a community of sinners. Confession should be a part of the church. However, most people in non-confessing churches don’t trust/love their brothers and sisters enough to 1)hear confession without judgement and 2)confess with trust that it will not be gossiped about.

    Churches that can confess together are for the most part, more trusting and more loving.

  14. Dwight says:

    OK, here it goes. Is caring for a facility caring or is caring for another person caring and which one has the priority and which one are we told to care for in the scriptures?
    The problems with having a building is that we have to take care for it and shove more money into it. No building, no taking care of. Of course we take care of our homes, but this our home and not the churches home. The churches home is in heaven and it looks great. What we do is replace the OT Temple with a well… another Temple.
    In regards to how we look, well yes if we showed up stinky and dirty, we might turn people off as well as offend thier sight and noses, but going the other way into dressing to the nines doesn’t do much better. In fact the scriptures never talk against dressing down, but rather against dressing up, as almost everyone was poor and they all dressed normal.

  15. Royce says:

    The diversity of comments here and the range of ideas might be a clue to problems in our churches. Humility and submission to one another are as ancient as robes and sandals.

  16. Mark says:

    You are correct re confessing churches. When someone did confess in a non-confessing church by responding to the invitation, you could hear the gossiping and snickering start followed by the support and rushing to the front by the same people who had been snickering two seconds prior. Private confession in a chapel to no one but God makes so much more sense.

  17. Friend of Bill W. says:

    Mark, this is a sore subject right now with me. We have not been having an invitation song for the past six months. As a church, we rededicate our hearts to God with prayer and a song of rededication every week.

    Until this week.

    An older member complained that we must ([i]must[/i]) have an invitation song. We must stand, she said; we must sing, and we must give an opportunity for open confession of sins by coming down front.

    So, we did.

    I have no problem with this tradition, but I have a problem with it becoming something we must do in order to please God.

  18. John F says:

    And yet, what is more redemptive than opening an avenue of communication regarding salvation and confession –somehow, some time, some where? Involvement in praise and worship oprns hearts through the HS to the upward call of holiness. And then we provide no means of responding to the upward call of god in Christ Jesus?

    The lack of a call to discipleship is just one more trend in “church as entertainment” venues.

  19. Charlie says:

    Few things are as entertaining as watching the person with the metaphorical Scarlet letter coming up front for public humiliation.

    Again, my problem is not with the tradition if you are going to church where loving and self examining sisters and brothers unite in humility and support for a fellow sinner.

    The problem comes when you insist that you must do it as doctrine. There’s nothing loving, merciful, or humble about that attitude.

  20. Dustin says:


    I agree confession is not walking down the aisle during an invitation song. Confession is a sacrament, a very important doctrine of the church. The Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox traditions have the capacity to handle confessions, where Evangelical traditions are weak in this regard. Confession, no matter the method, will definitely mean suffering, but without suffering we are not really human. As the psychiatrist Carl Jung stated the secret to mental health is learning to suffer well. I think this is a part of discipleship and must be learned. You are right that it shouldn’t be forced. It should be lived out by the mature Christians. That is how we can relate to one another.

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