I saved this article a while back, probably because I wanted to send it to one of my kids, whichever one was needing a subtle poke at the time. It’s called the 14 Habits of Highly Miserable People. I don’t think I ever forwarded the link, but I keep coming back to it, reading it through the lens of the work we do. Be sure to read the original article (in case you want to send it to one of your kids), but below I have adapted Cloe Madanes list to describe the …
14 Habits of Highly Miserable Churches
(and how your preaching can get them there).
1. Be afraid, be very afraid, of economic loss. Remind your people week after week that things are bad and getting worse. And when the offering isn’t good, remind them that they don’t give because they are ungrateful. Spend as much time as possible taking the offering each week, talking about everything the church needs but can’t afford. And remember, if you make them feel guilty, maybe they’ll give more.
2. Practice sustained boredom. Do the same thing in worship week after week. Follow the same order. Preach the same predictable format.
3. Give your congregation a negative identity. Make sure the community knows what you’re against. Make sure guests know that they are only guests, not one of the group. Exclude them from parts of your worship service.
4. Pick fights. Encourage your people not to let any perceived slight slip past them. Make sure they share it with everyone in their class or circle. As pastor, choose sides when you can.
5. Attribute bad intentions. Make sure your congregation knows that those with differing views are fundamentally bad people. Especially when it comes to politics. Make sure that they know that any elected official from the “other party” is evil. Avoid Romans 13 at all costs. And, by all means, don’t pray for a leader you don’t agree with.
6. Whatever you do, do it only for personal gain. Nurture the “what’s-in-it-for-me” mentality. Make sure every dollar spent on mission reaps a harvest in public relations. If you can’t get some kind of credit, don’t do it.
7. Avoid gratitude. Instead of being grateful for those who show up, who help, and who give, be sure to complain about those who don’t.
8. Always be alert and in a state of anxiety. After all, things are getting worse every day and there’s nothing God can do about it. Being irritable all the time lets people know you’re working hard.
9. Blame your parents. Or the former pastor. Or previous staff. Or the denominational leadership. Or the government. But never challenge yourself or your congregation to take responsibility for the ways things are and for making things better.
10. Don’t enjoy life’s pleasures. Avoid times of fellowship. And when you do have a fellowship event, tack on a long devotional at the end to remind them that life isn’t all fun and games.
11. Ruminate. Spend as much time as possible talking about the church’s problems, just make sure the talk doesn’t lead to productive action.
12. Glorify the past. You know: “People used to care. The church used to be full. This country used to be a Christian nation.” That kind of thing.
13. Put people in leadership who have no business being in leadership. It doesn’t matter if they’re ready. Maybe giving them a title will change them.
14. Be critical. Make sure you let everyone know about everything that you don’t like. After all, you don’t want anyone to confuse you with one of those positive churches.
Thanks again to Cloe Madanes for the original list.