Why the last “silver bullet” didn’t fix your church

Dave Rhodes | October 11, 2018

Want to know the short answer for why the last “silver bullet” that would fix all the ills of your church didn’t work? It’s a short and simple: There’s no such thing as a silver bullet for this.

The reason we’ve become accustomed to thinking about things like a “silver bullet” is because we’ve grown so used to living in a consumer-oriented church. Even if we didn’t necessarily pick it, or if we would choose differently, it’s almost exclusively what we have.

“Silver bullets” are designed to change surface level things. But as you probably know, when we are figthing consumerism in the church, what we actually need is a reset. The great irony of silver bullets is they actually increase consumerism. They make that change that we really need in transforming consumerism even harder.

“Silver bullets” create an endless loop of “if-then” statements.

Here are some you’ve probably seen (or even tried!) before:

  • If I just preach the right sermon, everything will change.
  • If we just build the right building, everything will change.
  • If we just get the right website or digital strategy, everything will change.
  • If we just identify our core customer, everything will change.
  • If we just give them right theology, everything will change.
  • If we just run better and more sticky programs, everything will change.
  • If we can just reach Millennials, everything will change.

It’s a little like playing a video game where the character is fatally flawed at the beginning of the game. You can keep playing. You can keep trying. But no matter how hard you go after it…you’re not advancing to the next level! Using an old school Nintendo analogy, what you need to do in that situation is pull out that cartridge, hit that reset button, and get to playing again.

The silver bullet says you can have everything you want without hard work, pain or sacrifice. But this is the hard truth of consumer Christians (and really…just consumerism in general): There is no change without hard work. There’s no change without sacrifice. There’s no change without pain.

A “silver bullet” promises to reach the whole church, all at the same time. But inevitably, it fails to reach almost anyone the way you hoped it would. And therefore reaches no one. If you try to get everyone, you’ll get no one. But if you start with someone, you have the potential to reach everyone.

What I want to propose is we take the approach of Dayton Moore, the General Manager of the Kansas City Royals. When he took over the team, he told everyone that would listen that it was going to take 7 years. 7 years! “But in that 7th year…we’re going to win the World Series.” He also told them the first 2 years, they would lose more games than they’ve ever lost.

And wouldn’t you know? They lost more games in those first 2 years than you could possibly imagine. People were calling for his job. Everyone wants you to win the World Series the first time out. The only way you can do that is to cheat.

But he stuck to the plan. You can probably guess what happened. In Year 7, the Kansas City Royals were World Series Champions.

What consumer church gives us is a kind of volunteer drainpipe. But what we actually need are disciples we train to become leaders and then send out for “acts of service” that they’ve been created to do since before the creation of the world.

What we’re talking about changing the social contract of church and you can’t change the social contract all at the same time. It doesn’t work for weight loss. Doesn’t work with skill training at work. It doesn’t work for virtually anything in our life.

Erwin McManus put it this way: “We want the fast road to nowhere, when God is inviting us into the slow road to somewhere.”

What if we had a 7 year plan? What if we found those thirsty for spiritual investment? Hungry to find out the exact dream God has had about their life since before the beginning of time? What if we helped them design their life around the Gospel in this way…and sent them out to do the same?

Would that change your church in a a week? 6 months? Two years? No.

But with patience, prayer and the providence of God, it just might in seven.

Dave Rhodes

Dave is the Pastor of Discipleship and Movement Initiatives at Grace Fellowship Church in Atlanta, Georgia. He is the co-founder of Younique and Wayfarer, and a collaborative partner for 100 Movements, 10,000 Fathers. Before coming to Grace Fellowship, Dave served as the U.S. Team Leader for 3DM and as Lead Strategist for Wayfarer. Dave has authored several books and resources including Redefining Normal: An Open Invitation for Ordinary People Wanting to Become Extraordinary Disciples. Dave graduated from Palm Beach Atlantic University and went on to graduate from Beeson Divinity School with Master of Divinity. Dave is married to Kim and the father of 3 fabulous children—Emma, Izzie and Frankie.