Two Major Problems the Church Faces Today

Kyle Reed // @kylereed

I am no church expert. Yes, I have grown up in the church my whole life. Yes, my dad was a minister for most of my life. And yes, I have worked at a couple of churches. But, I do not claim to have the church figured out. What I do claim to know is the church represents the body of Christ. Therefore, I see myself as an ambassador (and so are you) of Christ and the church.
Today I want to focus on two main problems that I think the church is facing. I can tend to be negative about the church more often then not. Its almost like that one thing on your body that you wish you could change. It seems that we are pretty hard on ourselves and therefore seem to always have problems. But these two problems go way deeper then the surface level and in my mind are very important to discuss and examine. But I do want to let you know that I come at this subject with grace and peace and hope for a discussion not a bashing of the church.

Here are the two main problems that I see facing the church today:

Identity seems to be something that is very important. Mainly (speaking in individualistic terms here) it helps you know who you are. You can filter things through your identity as well as be confident in what you are doing by knowing who you are. Unfortunately the church is looking more like a 14 year old teenage boy then a self-confident 33 year old man. I heard a story about a man that was at a conference at Willow Creek Community Church. This man was doing a very strange thing. It wasn’t that he was at the conference, it was what he was doing while at the conference. What was he doing you might ask? He was measuring the distance from the front entrance to the worship auditorium entrance. When asked what he was doing by an usher the man responded by saying “My church is building a new building and we need to know how far to make the distance from the front door to the auditorium.” As ridiculous as this story sounds, it is very true. More and more, authenticity in churches takes on the form of imitation.
Identity is a major issue because the goal is not to reach the willow creek community, but the community that the church lives in. It goes back to that idea that it might be good for you, but might not be good for me. I see churches all over the United States following the trends because it has worked for others. Unfortunately, others success does not always transfer to your success.

Lets take this into the blog world. We all know the big name bloggers, and more specifically we all know their style. Each has his or her own way of saying things, and that is what makes them who they are. Now knowing this kind of information also allows us to spot others who are trying to be just like them. There are tons of blogs out there that take on the same style of “big name bloggers” all in the name of success. But in all reality, like my friend brewster said, you don’t want to be the cover band. Mainly, these copy cat bloggers do not have an identity, instead they take on the identity of another “successful” blogger and try and call it their own.

Churches are facing the same problem. There is only one North Point Community Church and that church is unique to its area and unique to its staff. Andy Stanley tells a great story about identity. He said that a couple of years ago the buzz inside the Church community world was Saturday night services. It seemed that everyone was doing it and Andy felt the pressure from his staff to start the Saturday night services so they could have more people come to their church. One of the examples they used was Willow Creek and Bill Hybels success with Saturday night services. Andy thought about it for a while and then ran it through the identity and values of North Point. He saw that it went completely against the value that they place on the time of their staff with their families. Andy decided to hold to his identity and say no to having a Saturday night service. A month later, Andy and his wife were at a dinner benefit and just so happened to be sitting at the same table as Bill Hybels. Andy said he was pretty nervous about this and was wondering how he was going to explain this all to Bill Hybels. 15 minutes into the conversation Bill brought up the subject and Andy politely explained why North Point did not have a Saturday night service. Andy was sure that after this explanation Bill Hybels was going to look at him and shake his head in disappointment and tell him how he was wrong. Instead Bill responded by saying that he was proud of Andy for holding to the values and identity of the church and thought it was a great decision. This story greatly illustrates the value of knowing your identity.

Problem one with the church today: Identity. Mainly, churches know more about what other churches are doing thousands of miles away then what is happening 15 minutes away in their community.
I could go on and talk about this forever for hours, but we can discuss more in the comment stream.

Connection of Generations:
It is amazing to see all the different generations (age related) that make up the church. It seems that there are about 4-5 different generations that are represented on a Sunday morning. I have been a big advocate for the need of mentors, specifically the need for Gen X and Y to have mentors and to mentor. One of the major issues that I continue to see inside of this need is the disconnect between generations. One age groups feels left out while the other age group wonders why things cannot be about them. It seems a huge mess and really a misunderstanding. The hot button for churches over the years has been their worship services. The idea of appealing to all but not offending all is something that has been in discussion for the last 10 years. The center of this discussion is music. Mainly, older people do not like loud music and younger people love loud music (a whole lot of assumptions there, but isn’t that the exact problem, people assume things). The issue is not that black and white, but for some reason it seems to be that you have to land on one side or the other. The problem with choosing sides is someone is always left out. The rise of generational churches (my word) is troubling. A generational church is one that is made up solely of a certain age group. Most of us have heard people say that the church is the most racially segregated place, but I would go one further and say that the church is one of the most generational segregated places. I hate writing that, mainly because I wish it was not true. But the disconnect between generations is something that is prevalent but swept under the communion stained auditorium carpet.

The biggest problem inside of the lack of connected generations is communication. It’s that whole uncomfortable place of trying to talk to someone you do not know. You want to introduce yourself, but for some reason your own comfort is more important than feeling awkward (maybe I am the only one that struggles with that). The funny thing is, once you say hi and start to talk you realize that they are no different then you. Immediately the nerves and the unspoken rules of not talking to people you do not know is gone, and you develop a relationship that continues to grow over time. Breaking down the initial barrier of communication is huge. It seems that we are all at a JR high dance just waiting for someone to make the first move and bring the party to the dance floor. The problem seems to be that my generation (20 somethings) are waiting for someone to take the lead and the older generations (my parents and grandparents) are nervous about talking to us because we are different (just picture a 7th grade guy trying to ask a girl to dance). You can see the absurdity of it all, but it is a reality that happens every Sunday. We congregate with people that are alike us, and we tend to talk with the people that we know.

Problem two with the church today: lack of connection between generations and the threat of creating a church that is filled with people that are just like you. This could lead to the missing out of learning and gaining wisdom through generations that provide a unique perspective to life.

These are my two big problems that I see facing the church.
I would love to discuss this more with you, Whether you disagree, want to add to the points, or throw in your own ideas.

Add your 2 cents


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Kyle Reed

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Kyle Reed is a connector looking to connect with others. A 20 Something that is blogging his way through life and looking to connect through community. Also a team member of the 8BIT Network and brand evangelist. Find me on twitter: @kylelreed, lets chat.
  • Jay

    Good post. I’ll comment more later as this requires more than just a couple of sentences.

    • Kyle Reed

      funny that you say that, I have your latest post up to read and comment on later.

  • aaron shaver

    WOW. Great post. Very well articulated and you hit both points on the head.

    I hear the very same thing regarding the generational disconnect from my worship pastor, Wayne Berry, at least once a week. Very true. I have to agree. I think this is also do to the recent (in the past 3 decades) specialiaztion of ministries with in the church where by children have there own ministry and a Children’s Pastor, teens have their own ministry and a Youth Pastor, seniors have their own…etc. These concentrated ministries are not the problem but do draw us a the church body into a comfortable seclusion from participating in the lives and work of other ministries not in our age bracket.

    I’d like to hear more on what you think about the identity problem. Maybe more examples? …

    • Kyle Reed

      Here are some things that hit me off the top of my head:
      one of the big issues is the service itself. I see a lot more copy of what others are doing instead of what your community is about. For example, if you are in a farming community you would not use illustrations involving subways and CEO Business world language (ala Jesus and the parable of the sower). Same can be said for the graphics, videos, experiences, songs, etc…for church services.

      As well, I see identity issues in the all the programs that churches offer. Instead of taking two or three and making them awesome, they have so many programs that you have to list them on two separate pages in the bulletin.

      Another one is small groups. Some churches thrive in small groups, other churches struggle to work in small groups.

      Examples like these seem to be very common.
      You got any off the top of your head?

  • Ben

    Alright, so you stated the problem but provided no solutions. Does that make you more of the problem?

    Just wondering.

    • Kyle Reed

      No, hard to provide solutions for identity.

      And working on connecting generations

      • Ben

        Well I would disagree a bit that it is difficult to provide solutions for identity. Until churches sit down and say who are we, what do we represent and then focus on putting their full focus on those core issues, it will be difficult for them to really have an identity.

        Any business model has a mission and vision statement that roots them in their identity. Many churches are just treading water because they are so concerned about how this church is doing it better. Instead of looking how they can fill the need and really do it well, they try to be something they were never called to be.

        Generational connection is a ton of fun, that was the last conference I put on and it was highly successful. I think it takes a lot of dialogue and humility to address the issues that separate the two groups.

        I think recognizing the need to connect is important but also allowing the liberty to focus on one age group vs another is also needed. It is a balance that is achieved through prayer and discernment and great leadership.

        There are some of my thoughts. =)

        • Kyle Reed

          Thats the thing though, they have to define their identity. Not much I can do for churches in that area.

          • Ben

            Once again, I disagree with you. I think you could be a great voice at helping churches develop their identity. Many churches don’t even realize they have lost focus until someone asks the simple questions.

            You are asking the questions in this post that every pastor needs to hear. So why couldn’t you sit down with a pastor or a youth group leader or whomever and ask them how they are defining their church, group, etc.?

            I don’t think you give yourself credit that you can do these things. I think you can. Just pokin at you a bit bud.

            • Kyle Reed

              Okay I can see what you are saying there.
              Yes you are right, but the important thing is that churches have to realize that this is an issue.
              Its like a friend that is dating a girl that you think they shouldn’t be dating. You can try all you want to tell them that, but until they ask for your help they usually do not listen.

              I would love to talk with churches about this stuff. Something that I am passionate about. I think that is why I like the discussion that could come from this post, the opportunity to discuss and talk about ideas and solutions.

              • JuliaKate

                great post… lengthy, but thorough. Pretty sure the identity of the Church is spelled out in the Gospel. but nowadays, if an individual church wants to see where they fit in the spectrum of “type of church”, the book of Revelation is always helpful.

    • Justin Wise

      Ben… As someone who works in a church and sees both of these issues on a daily basis, I think Kyle is absolutely providing solutions.

      One of the first things you need to do is diagnose there’s a problem. Kyle’s done that respectfully and thoroughly. Once you do this, you can begin to move to a solution.

      I think he’s well on his way–simply by opening his mouth and saying something.

      • Kyle Reed

        Thanks Justin, appreciate it.
        I hope to bring the conversation about so we can start a plan or solution down the road.

      • Ben

        Justin, we have both worked in a church, both have seen the issues and I am mainly pushing Kyle to come up with solutions. EVERYONE blogs about the problems of the church, literally, everyone. If I can push Kyle to take it one step further, then I will. =) I would probably say that was one of the reasons why I am no longer working for a church though, because churches hate change and they hate when you poke at these issues and provide solutions but that doesn’t mean we don’t lay out some ideas or solutions that we can at least share with other leaders.
        Honestly, I think the church is well aware that they have issues but they would rather be ignorant and ignore them. Hence why so many young adults are trying to find a church that fits them and will hear them out.
        I am just pushing to start laying out solutions now instead of having these cyclical blogs (I do like it Kyle, don’t get me wrong, just hear my heart on this)

  • Andy Rhea

    I agree with so much of this blog. The church I go to now is filled with people who are a generation or two older than I. As a fully-fledged member of the 20-something club, I am continually amazed every Sunday of the similarities of our generations. Because of having so few people my age, I had to take initiative and start hanging out with old peeps. It’s great. My recommendation to anyone on the sidelines of the dance floor is to step out and be the 1st if you have to. Totally worth it.

    • Kyle Reed

      You are exactly right. Unfortunately, the problem is in what you said, there is not a whole lot of 20 somethings that go to church. I guess that could give more merit to my theory of disconnect between generations.
      But we also have to be the ones to take the initiative and step out and get involved.

  • Craig Gommer

    You are absolutely right, especially about the multi generational piece. The folks I serve love kids/youth but will only let them raise money for what the church wants not what the kids would like to do. They see the kids as tools to use to get things done they want. And we wonder why young families are not coming when we use and in some cases abuse their kids.

    • Kyle Reed

      That is unfortunate. You are right, the using factor can quickly get old. I have a friend that is in high school and is musically talented. He struggles with this because he feels used when the church constantly wants him to sing. Not that he doesn’t want to use his talents, but it is almost like they are parading him around to show that have young students with talent.

      Fine line there.
      But like anything. Before you can ask of someone you need to provide some value to them.

  • Gary Reed

    Son, you are hitting on some relevant issues with the church. The question is, what are we going to do about it?

  • Kirk Bolen

    Great post, I was thinking while I was reading it about how much you have grown since we first met. Great thoughts, lets come up with some solutions

    • Kyle Reed

      Thanks kirkus, appreciate it. I guess we will figure out some stuff at the house of waffles.

  • kamrie

    I enjoyed the post but have to repeat what dad said, what can we do about it? Also I think criticizing is always a double edged sword. It is good you realize these problems but it is more important to do something about it. We need to learn to encourage when churches try to have this new identity or connect generations (even if they do a crappy job) because if we fail to acknowledge their growth then we will continue to bash them and not stop the cycle of being critical.

  • Alicia

    I think a lot of our church problems would be solved if we just loved as Christ did, with a redemptive love that points to His saving grace. I think everything else would fall into place.

    • Kyle Reed

      Yes, unfortunately corruption and really sin is what takes over that love that Christ showed. I would love to not have to have this conversation, but it seems that sin controls things over christ love sometimes.

  • Danny Bixby

    Instead of writing a long drawn out comment about this post, I’m letting you know that I enjoyed reading it and it was good.

    Insert obligatory smiley face here: ( )

    • Kyle Reed

      Ohhh, glad you added that smiley face in, or is that a frown?

  • @nicolewick

    My husband and I were JUST talking about the generational issue last Sunday after church. I couldn’t agree more. I think the church as generationally segregated as it is racially segregated. Sad.

  • Zac

    OK I promised I would read this and I finally did. You definitely nailed 2 major issues that affect a lot of churches. My wife and I have felt the call to leave our current church for many many reasons. One problem they are having is that they seemed to have lost just about everyone our age (+ or – 5 years (25-35)) except for the pastor sons and 1 other couple. There is definitely a generation gap. Not sure how they will solve it, but I am sure this affects many churches.

    Great post!

  • Jason Blair

    My comment on this gap difference i believe can be found in the raising up or discipleship in the scriptures from my generation hitting the ages from 30-40. Something was lacking and now you have those who dont care about tradition or legalism and you still have churches full of those who cannot let go of mamaw and papws way. Back in the 60-70’s job opportunities and most areas flourished so when moms and dads sold out to have nicer things, it affected their kids and so on to where now we have these issues to deal with. I believe if we can get the churches focused on the scriptures and not the prefernces we can see more addd to the Kingdom and see the work of Christ carried out in a more positive way and not bring a reproach upon the church.It amazes me that we have the scriptures where we can break down the hebrew-greek words but yet have so much variance from the puplits and classes. If we dont focus on the word, nothing else will line up as well.

    • Kyle Reed

      What I find interesting about this all is that these problems started a long time ago. If you really got into it you can trace it all the way back to the 1920’s and the great depression etc…that is what fascinates me. This is not something that just arose in the last 5 years, but has been slowly working its way forward.
      Great perspective Jason

  • Angela

    I just stumbled her. You have defined these two church issues so eloquently. I particularly agree with the “generational segregation”of the church, and I’ve talked about this for years. When I wanted to go on a mission trip at age 45, I was told I was too old and would intimidate the young people. But, the young girls loved and wanted to hang out with me. My family has always been full of energy and in our home, we were used to friends of all ages. It was as if the church was saying to me, “at age 45, your testimony of Jesus Christ is irrelevant.” But, I knew it wasn’t; it was a broken attitude in our church. My mother is 75 and leading younger people to the Lord all the time. They flock to her home because of the message, because of her testimony. She doesn’t see color, age or status as barriers. She doesn’t care about their past; she cares about their eternal life.

    This segregation is even worse than outside of the church, and the wrong answer for everyone. God didn’t create his world with everyone at one age, nor did he have a plan that ages would segregate. We all have much to give to each other and a healthy family has “Jesus Christ” as the common ground, not age, beauty, wealth, or celebrity. I’ve see all those things inside of churches even more than outside of the church. It saddens me.

    If one came from another planet, and visited a few churches, they might assume that only young people (who listen to loud music) follow this man/god named Jesus Christ and that anyone over 35 must have given up on their faith. The church almost teaches that anyone over 40 is no longer relevant. It’s as if the church got sucked into the vacuum of the culture and can’t get out.

    The solution is simple: The church needs to recognize that the common ground for all ages is redemption and our Redeemer.

    • Kyle Reed

      Amen, you nail it with your last statement.
      The only problem is, that has been shown to not be simple at all, unfortunately.

      Its sad that because of your age you could not go on the mission trip. I wonder who is holding back the younger generation from the older generation? You know, those people who have decided they should not mix. Because I know a lot of people like you, with the same spirit of mentorship, who want to be involved but are told they cannot. I wonder who is deciding that this is the right thing?

    • Erik Cederberg

      Great thoughts here Kyle. The whole identity and imitation thought is RIGHT ON. I am a part of a church plant team here in Portland and there is always the temptation of imitating successfully ministries.

      There are two “it” churches in Portland. Solid Rock and Imago Dei, and if you talk to ministry folks long enough the conversation will veer there, “what are they doing right?” Good question I suppose, especially in Portland, known as the church-planters graveyard.

      The reality is God is doing a unique work with their communities and that is awesome. Sure, it helps that they have a former christian rock star (at Solid Rock) and a rock star writer (Donald Miller at Imago), but that won’t promote health and long term growth.

      I’m a musician. I write songs. I love to listen to other peoples music, hear how they craft a melody and a song, and to be inspired. Not to copy, but to create my own expression. Hopefully we can do that as the church as well.

      • Tiger

        I gotta respond to the Eric Cederberg guy below about the “it” Churches in Portland and how he thinks they’re doing it right. No they’re not. Specifically, Solid Rock. I believe that the leadership means well, but Eric completely missed the points brought up in this blog. Maybe its because he’s a musician himself (as well as other factors i.e. he may resemble the gentrified look of one of those Churches) he’s standing too close to the problem to see it.

        Just because the mega Churches that he mentions in Portland are having packed rooms with a lot of young people doesn’t mean that there’s not something majorly wrong with them. One of the major problems of the downtown Portland Church and the whole ‘hipster Church movement (i.e. emergent and seeker Church) in the need to be sincere and real IS the IDENTITY issue. And as a ‘hipster Church (which the word alone should say enough already) they oversteer badly from the issues of how Church should be done by being too sever in correcting the mistakes made by our ‘parents generation’ Church all in an effort to appeal to the world. Besides the anthem rock worship and the subtle emphasis on style and the lack of preaching (preaching is not cool today) but relying on self reflective teaching, the hipster movement in the Church is a dreadful, temporary thing that the Church as a whole, all of us, will have to re-steer away from in another 5 to 10 years to correct the mistakes.

        Mix it up but be purposeful as you reach out to other generations and ethnicities. Don’t be so desperate to be so cutting edge so that you can appeal to this generation that you seek and teach controversial doctrine that is, upon careful scrutiny, false. That’s whats happening in Portland.

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  • Conor Scholes

    I like the thoughts, Kyle, and the questions they bring up…as well as the need for solutions. One thing I see is that we are striving to connect the “20-something” generation by providing services to cater to them, and they are connecting less. Perhaps that is where the multi-generational piece fits in? How many 20 and 30somethings don’t have true family, or fractured family at best…and where is the place that they could find that in a multi-generational environment? The church. As a worship minister I have to constantly think about this as I lead, teach, mentor, and develop not only musicians to be sensitive to who our community is, but how to include them all. I see this more as an opportunity for us to move forward in repairing the social breakdowns by fostering true community in our congregations…just a thought.

  • Samrazzledazzle

    You should look up WRC world revival church if you are looking for a church who has solved these problems

  • Kevinator

    I personally think the biggest problem with the church today is that we gather as a body of belivers, worship together, have Bible study, prayer, etc., but we don’t really know one another. WE ARE LONELY IN A CROWD OF PEOPLE. If we were honest that would be our answer. My wife has personally stepped out of church to see if any body noticed. A few did, but nobody ever asked, “where were you?” Even the pastor never noticed or he never called and said we miss you.
    I challenge you to step out of church and actually see how many people call or do anything. It is out of sight, out of mind. People don’t really care about me: only themselves.

    • Heather Mary Kell

      yes this is so true. Jesus said they will know us by our love for one another. Which is often sadly lacking. unfortunately unless you are in a small church, no one will chase you up if you stop going. I think the key is small cell/home groups – you are loved, accountable, grow and become part of the family of God. The larger church “event” is not where we are really cared for = it is more corporate worship of our God and hearing from HIm (and of course fellowship – but not often that deep) that’s just my experience.

  • Premissa Acoff

    I believe the biggest problem in the Church centers around people’s believe that their ministers and leaders should determine for them who they are and when they should walk in “what the provisions and ministry of God” is for their lives. Everyone should get to know God for themselves and understand that Jesus Christ gave each one of us the ability to do just that. Teaching is okay, but governship without wisdom and purpose to serve those we lead in truth and spirit is just wrong and often motivated out of fear and bondage. God is calling each one of us to come to Him and fee his love and grace for ourselves, and when we do that, divisions, strife, envy, jealousy, etc, will be nailed to the cross, which has already happened. Receive salvation and everything Christ purchased for us: Life and Life more Abundantly. Be accepted in the beloved.

  • Anish John

    Another serious issue facing the Church is the Gay-Lesbian
    issues. Bible clearly says that marriage
    is between man and woman and homosexuals will not enter the kingdom of God. Living in the 21st century people understand
    that sexual orientation is not a choice.
    The sexual orientation to the same sex is not a new phenomenon. It was there at the ancient cities of Sodom
    and Gomorrah. Though Lot offered his
    virgin daughters to the men they preferred other men. Until recently the rigid social set up didn’t
    allow anybody to come forward and express the sexual orientation and advocate
    for it. But the freedom and the
    individualism has enhanced so much that people are not afraid to express what
    they want. But in the Church this is
    becoming an issue, people who wants to obey Bible literally see this as act of
    Devil, and want those to be ousted from the Church. The Episcopal Church was
    almost at the brink of a split because of this issue. They have ordained a gay
    bishop, and it hurt the feelings of vast sections of the Church. Church cannot
    close eyes to the issue anymore. This is
    the part of the social changes happening in the world.