10 Obstacles to Church Growth

Is your plant running into any of these roadblocks?

10 Obstacles to Church Growth

Recently, I was asked about the greatest obstacles to church growth I see in evangelical churches. Based on my consultations and studies, here are some of the primary ones I’ve seen:

  1. A worn-out pastor. When the shepherd is exhausted—and often hurting because of conflict—it’s tough to have an outward, evangelistic focus.
  2. Inward focus. No church naturally defaults into an outward focus; instead, they turn inward to meet internal needs unless they intentionally fight against that trend.
  3. Bad preaching. Sometimes it’s not as biblically sound as it should be. At other times, it’s less than exciting. Either way, it doesn’t lead to growth.
  4. Evangelistic apathy. This, too, often starts at the top. A church that’s lost its fire for evangelism usually settles into maintenance mode.
  5. No growth strategy. The church assumes that just because they gather and enjoy it, others will come automatically. Meanwhile, the enemy who is a strategist (Eph. 6:10-12) works his plans to keep people away from the gospel.
  6. Turf wars. It’s tough to reach outside the church when everybody’s fighting to keep his power inside church. Plus, nonbelievers aren’t interested in stepping into a battleground.
  7. Prayerlessness. I know this one sounds like a “super-spiritual” reason, but I’m not shocked by the correlation between churches that don’t pray much and churches that don’t grow much.
  8. Space issues. This reason’s at least a positive one: The congregation has outgrown its parking and/or facility space. The crowd won’t come where the crowd won’t fit.
  9. Poor discipleship. When baby believers remain babies after years of being believers, they tend to become whiners—and churches let that happen when they have no strategy to help babies grow.
  10. Retreat mentality. I’ve said for years that the church has become a place to retreat from the battles rather than a place to get re-armed for the war. The church in retreat won’t grow.

Which of these obstacles most marks churches you know? What would you add to the list?

This article originally appeared here.

Chuck Lawless is professor and senior associate dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He has served as a pastor for almost twenty years, and is the author of Spiritual Warfare: Biblical Truth for Victory, Discipled Warriors: Healthy Churches Winning Spiritual Warfare, Making Disciples through Mentoring, Serving in Your Church's Prayer Ministry, and Eating the Elephant. Dr. Lawless speaks extensively around the countryYou can read articles from Dr. Chuck Lawless on his personal blog (ChuckLawless.com) ( or connect with him on Twitter and on Facebook. .