If the enemy corrupts churches and deceives pastors, the work of God will suffer. Avoid these ministry mistakes to win many souls to Christ and disciple them for God’s glory.

The ministry is difficult. It requires wisdom, courage, and discernment far above the average human capacity. 

It is impossible to spend a lifetime in effective, spiritual ministry without the supernatural empowerment of God.

The Scriptures explain that the ministry is a “good work.” Pastoring a church is a virtuous calling, and it is a vigorous one as well.  

1 Timothy 3:1

“This is a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.”

Satan is the master of confusion. He corrupts the truth and presents counterfeit philosophies to destroy the things of God.  He employs traps and offers counterfeits to interfere with the work of God. We are not ignorant of his devices.

Avoid the following pitfalls of ministry and save yourself untold suffering.

MINISTRY MISTAKE #1 – Designing Church Services For Lost People.

It is a colossal mistake to outline your services to please the unsaved. An astounding amount of pastors are making this mistake.

In 1989, an LA Times article called”  ‘Customer’ Poll Shapes a Church” explained how Bill Hybels created a church designed to “attract alienated, “unchurched” people.”  

While Willow Creek became one of the nation’s largest congregations, it failed in many ways. Years later, after a review of their ministries, Hybels lamented, “We made a mistake. What we should have done when people crossed the line of faith and become Christians, we should have started telling people and teaching people that they have to take responsibility to become ‘self-feeders.’ We should have gotten people, taught people, how to read their bible between service, how to do the spiritual practices much more aggressively on their own.”

Who would have thought that designing church for the unsaved and removing the expectations of being a disciple of Christ would end badly? (sarcasm intended)

Hybels’ example prompted the beginning of decades of churches being corrupted by the “seeker-sensitive” movement.

Churches are not created for the lost and do not function for their pleasure.

Why then do many churches plan their services for the lost? Why do they choose music for the lost? Why preach sermons palatable to sinners?

When it comes to church services, some leaders consider the desires of the lost community more than the commandments of God Almighty.

Christ created the local Church for God’s people!

The Greek word for church, Ekklesia, means a called-out assembly. A church is a group of baptized believers called out of a community. Church is for the family of God. It IS the family of God. A local church is the members, not the building.

Our services should feel foreign to one dead in trespasses and sins. Our music is supposed to be different than the world!

God’s plan was for His people to provoke one another to love and good works then take the Gospel with them into the community. It is a tremendous bonus when people trust Christ in a church service. However, God’s original intent was that we win people to Christ outside of church and bring the new believers into the assembly.

MINISTRY MISTAKE #2 – Seeking To Make Sinners Comfortable.

Churches don’t exist to make people comfortable. Churches are made of God’s people for God’s glory.  

Sinners need to be convicted. If there’s no conviction, there can be no conversion. Comfort is the opposite of conviction. We should not aim to make sinners comfortable in church.

To be clear, every church should be friendly. Every local assembly should make the temperature, the seating, and the environment as comfortable as possible. Every member should have confidence that the guests they bring to church will be treated kindly. The Pastor should be a consummate Christian gentleman.  

Greet people warmly. Make them smile. Be gentle and hospitable personally. However, preaching should never make sinners comfortable in their sin.

Comfort is the opposite of conviction. Beg God for a spirit of conviction and repentance during church services. Only then can sinners be saved and saints set on fire for God.

MINISTRY MISTAKE #3 – Pursuing The Wrong People.

It is a wonderful thing to influence a lot of people for Christ. However, the desire for a large ministry can corrupt you.

Proverbs 14:28

“In the multitude of people is the king’s honour: but in the want of people is the destruction of the prince.”

Never compromise Biblical principles or personal character to enlarge your ministry. It is far better to be faithful to the LORD than to sell out for gain.

There is a subtle temptation to become something that you are not to attract new people. Listen to this vital truth.  

You keep Church members the same way that you get them.  

This is a simple but profound fact. It is an equation like 2 +2=4. Put in any activity or idea, and the truth remains.

If you get members through entertainment, you will need to keep entertaining them to keep them. If they join you because your church is fun, exciting, or “the best,” they will leave when that is no longer their experience.

If you attract people with amazing activities or extra attention, you better plan to keep it up.

Of course, special days, big activities, seasonal campaigns, etc., have their place. Use them to meet new people and increase your influence for Christ in the community. But don’t fall into the pit of making promises you can’t keep.

Jesus never begged people to follow Him. He did not promise them lavish gifts or comfortable lives. He spoke the truth and commanded, “Follow Me.” Some did, and some did not. But Jesus remained the same.

I’ve been a pastor of the same church for 17 years. I’ve learned to be honest with prospective members upfront. Often I say, “If I have to convince you to join, I will have to convince you to stay. If God convinces you to join, He will convince you to stay.  Obey the Lord. You will never go wrong by following Jesus.”

I seek sinners. I will go after the struggling, the backslidden, and the hurting to restore them. But I will not chase professing believers who don’t want to follow God or be a true disciple. I’ve spent far too much time chasing after people who don’t want God instead of ministering to those who do.

I am for every idea and innovation that encourages people to come to church that doesn’t violate Scripture or common sense. Have as many programs and activities as the Lord directs your ministry to employ, but when it comes to membership, encourage people to join your church for the right reason. Instruct them to serve the Lord through the Church with pure motives and love for Christ.

Make God glorious! Uplift the risen Christ! Preach the whole counsel of God! Seek the transformational power of the Holy Spirit. Teach people to love God, and they will follow His commandments.

When it’s all said and done, you will keep members the same way you get them. Choose wisely. If you don’t heed this warning, you will be jumping through hoops your entire ministry.

This article originally appeared in the Save New England Quarterly Magazine.

Visit SaveNewEngland.org.