Maybe you have heard of the 90/10 rule in marital relationships. Let’s say that John Doe has 90% of everything he ever wanted in a spouse in the person of Jane Doe. She is great. Well, she is 90% great.
But she is lacking. She lacks only 10% of what he desires, but overtime, that is the 10% that he gets obsessed with having. And, all of a sudden, he discovers someone with that 10%. John leaves Jane for Julie because she has the 10% for which he has been longing for so long.
John marries Julie, then after a while, he realizes something: he misses the 90% that Jane provided. It’s the 90/10 rule.
That same rule applies to churches.
The 90/10 church rule is seen in every congregation in America. Someone will leave a church in which they love 90% of all they do for a church that provides the lacking 10%.
Someone is a member of a church that does 90% of what it desires. They are there because they agree with the big picture of the church. But overtime, they miss that 10% that is an important element to them (the possible list is too long and diverse to even mention – but you know the items on that list).
Somewhere along the way, they find that 10% in another congregation. They leave the 90% for the 10% only to find that one day, they are a member of somewhere that does 10% really, really well, and yet they inwardly long for the former 90%.
A Church’s Identity
North Side is like every other church. We lose members to other congregations. We gain members from other congregations. Hopefully, most churches are also like ours, where the growth is not solely transfer growth. Hopefully, each congregation is seeing lives transformed by the gospel and baptized into their fellowships.
But, let’s be honest, we live in America where consumerism is king and if you don’t like what you are getting, go somewhere else to find it.
We recently had a huge month for new members. July is not normally a large Connect gathering (attendance for all churches is spotty in summer months due to vacation), but, for whatever reason, we have seen many families join us in the last month. Praise God. We have numbers on a list. That’s great.
The challenge is this: what is our 90% and how do we disciple our people to focus upon that 90%? How do we get these new members to embrace what the church truly is and what it is not?
The challenge for your church is the same. What are you going to be known for?
Will you be remembered for the programs that you provide? The musical selections that you spotlight? The personalities that you push?
A good test for me is how I represent my church. It’s a good test for you as well.
- If your “marketing” strategies for your church are wrapped up in the fact that you consider your congregation better than other churches because of a particular reason, you are focusing on the 10%.
- If leaders or members in your church ridicule other styles of churches or leaders for how they do “church,” you are focusing on the 10%.
- In order to build your church up, you put another’s down, you are focusing on the 10%.
- If your church strategy is built around competing with another church, you are focusing on the 10%.
- If you constantly try to adapt your church to capitalize on another church’s mistakes, you are focusing on the 10%.
- When a faithful member from another church begins visiting yours due to hurt, strife, or disagreements at the former church, if you get giddy rather than burdened, you are focusing on the 10%.
As a pastor and a follower of Jesus, I just long for a time when I can rid myself and our congregation of focusing upon the 10%. I don’t want to associate myself with Christianity and make it about me.
Isn’t it ironic that the religion in the world that began with a man laying down his life for the benefit for others produces so many followers that will take their ball and go play somewhere else when church doesn’t go their way?
Churches, let’s lay our lives down and make it about Jesus!
Are there times when people will leave another congregation for good reasons? Sure. But just make sure it’s for more than 10% of what makes you unhappy. Make sure that it is the big picture.
So, what’s most important to you about church? What’s your church’s calling card? Not what you are against. What are you for? My prayer for your church as well is that the gospel of Jesus and his glory among all nations will be your 100% of who you are and what you do.
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Just (About) Married.