The Church Doctor« Report

Rage of the Machine: Moving the Church from Maintenance to Mission    

 VOL. 8 NO. 3 May/June 2012
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Kent Hunter leads Church Doctor Ministries.  He is the architect of the Church Government Consultation, an intervention that helps local churches redesign their decision-making process based on New Testament principles.  Kent is the author of many books, including The Future Is Now: How God Is Moving in the 21st Century.  

Featured Service 

The movement continues to grow!  Each month, more churches join the  Healthy Churches Thrive! Spiritual Pilgrimage.  This 24-month guided journey is not "a program" or "a packaged teaching."  It is a bottom-up movement that begins with those who are spiritual entrepreneurs, early adopters, and movement pioneers.  They are those who have "holy discontent" or "spiritual restlessness."  The Pilgrimage includes a thorough diagnostic analysis, as your assigned Church Doctor approaches your congregation with respect for its uniqueness.  Each month the lead pastor is coached by phone.  A Vision Community begins by watching and discussing the first of 10 DVDs, exclusively developed for the Pilgrimage.  A Prayer Team is coached, by phone, by an intercessor.  Your congregation participates in the 70 Days of Vision Campaign, which develops biblical worldviews, and an Outreach Clinic, which trains members to become 21st century missionaries to their social networks.  This is followed by a follow-up Special Focus Consultation by your Church Doctor and a Multiplication Event.  The Pilgrimage produces tangible results in spiritual growth, developing a missional culture that continues beyond the 24 months, without guidance.  The church becomes mobilized for effective Great Commission disciple-making.


Church Government Consultation 


This process begins with all leaders and staff participating in an anonymous questionnaire dealing with all aspects of decision-making.  The data is summarized graphically, prior to the onsite visit of a Church Doctor.  The Church Doctor guides the leaders and staff in a discussion about the historical influences of secular decision-making, various options of church government, and a review of the graphics developed from the questionnaire.  The questionnaire serves as the teaching base for biblical principles of decision-making.  On the second day of the visit, the Church Doctor coaches a small team to develop a new form of church government, using biblical principles, but tailored to the uniqueness of your church.  This, then, is shared with the whole leadership and staff.  This decreases maintenance and increases mission.  The end result?  Church leaders are freed from bureaucratic mechanisms and your church makes a seamless transition without pushback, to a more effective, biblical approach to decision-making.   



SEND North America   



Want outstanding staff and amazing leadership for your church?  Grow them!  SEND North America is a 10-month, hands-on training experience for young adults.  We are now taking applications for September 2012-June 2013 training season.  If you have read the best-selling book You Lost Me by David Kinnaman (based on Barna Research), you will see that SEND is right on target for young adults today.  Tell a 20-something to check out SEND.  You will invest in the future of your church.   

Check out our latest video clip at

June 2012 UK Immersion Experience: Catch Missional Flu!

June 6-14, 2012


Limit 20  


Each year, we take a group of no more than 20 leaders to see what God is doing in England.  This movement is more caught than taught.  What God is doing there is coming here.  In this "classroom" of the near future for North America, you will be "infected" with the DNA of the most powerful revival movement we have discovered.  It has just started in Canada and is beginning to surface in the U.S.  If you are a front-line leader who has prayed for a move of God in your church, this experience is for you.  "You will never be the same" - from the written evaluation of 111 participants over the last 10 years.

  • Apply now for 2013. 
  • Limit 20.
  • You will be coached by two Church Doctors and one practitioner.  

Complete our online application: 

or e-mail Jason for more information 

Check Out Dr. Hunter's E-books on  
  • The Future Is Now: How God is Moving in the 21st Century (Coming Soon To Amazon)
  • Michael's Story: A Journey of Life (Coming Soon To Amazon) 
Immersion, Toledo, Ohio, October 4-8, 2012

Limit 20


Experience the coming spiritual awakening at one of the flashpoints of where God is moving.

  • Preparatory reading before the event.
  • Briefing by two Church Doctors prior to the immersion experience.
  • Debriefing each day to help you process what God is going.
  • Guidance to develop an Action Plan specific to your church.
  • Participate in "Love Toledo."
  • Witness accountability groups.
  • Experience "white-hot" worship.
  • Learn how to turn your church inside out.
Now Accepting Inquiries for October 2012

E-mail Jason for more information
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"Hi, Mary.  I see your house is up for sale."


"Hi, David.  Yeah, we'll miss you and Kelsie as neighbors.  It's just time for us to downsize."


"Is it hard for you to move?" asked David. 


"In a way," Mary responded.  "Yes and no.  We'll miss the neighborhood.  It's a lot of work to move.  But we've moved several times with Bob's job, so we're kind of used to it.  Besides, if you move every 10 years or so, it's a great way to clean out the clutter that accumulates in the garage, the attic, and the closets." 


David thought about his church.  He thought about the old, worn-out hymnals in the basement closet; the Christmas tree decorations nobody uses anymore.  And the flannel graph - "like we're ever going to use that again," he thought.  "Why does so much clutter accumulate around the church?"  


A Different Kind of Clutter

This clutter in the church is a symbol for something much greater:  the clutter of activities that accumulate on the church calendar.  It is a deterrent to effective mission.  Remember when Jesus sent out the disciples, and told them to travel light? (Luke 10:4.)  The church has drifted a great distance from that approach!  How did we get there? 


In the theoretical lifecycle of a church, the pattern is a Bell Curve.  


It can be divided into thirds.  The first third is a strong focus on mission:  to reach out, make disciples, grow the church.  As the church grows, it adds programs and facilities.  The drift comes in the second third.  It is subtle...and devastating.  The shift moves to maintenance.  It can be measured by the way leaders spend their time and energy, by financial support, with an increasing percentage devoted toward maintenance.  The church moves from making disciples to operating the machine.  This top section of the Bell Curve is the "critical third."  A church that persists in a plateaued maintenance mode will begin the downward spiral.  This decline is not just in worship attendance.  It includes finances, spiritual dry rot, and momentum. 


Recently, I consulted a large church in Michigan.  The pastors and staff were frazzled, like gerbils running on a wheel.  One pastor shared, "We feel like all we do is race from one thing to another.  We're spinning our wheels, focused on running the machine." 


"Burnout, without progress," is common.  Church leaders seem to be buried in (1) administrative details, (2) meetings, (3) patching up problems, and (4) serving as caretakers.  There is nothing left for mission, outreach, pioneering, building, growing, expanding - all those activities that represent health, vitality, and the mission to make disciples.  How does this happen? 


Feeding the Monster 


Forgive my analogy - I love and respect the church - but when the Bride of Christ becomes a monster that needs to be fed, the joy of ministry has collapsed under the weight of maintenance.  The mission of Christ is not engineered to be that way! 


As a church grows, more people come.  They come with ideas.  The programs and activities grow exponentially with the size of the church.  Pastors and church leaders - the good ones - tend to love people.  The dark side of loving people is being a people pleaser.  It is hard to say, "No."  It is difficult to process proposals through the grid of purpose.  Difficult, but not impossible.  It takes discipline, but this is the responsibility of leadership:  to keep the team headed in the same direction. 


With almost every new project, every new activity, there is a new committee or board.  In time, this adds layers of bureaucracy that subconsciously operate with high control and low accountability.  Unfortunately, the decision-making mechanism of most churches is influenced more by secular approaches than biblical principles.  The end result is more bureaucracy, using methods contrary to the spiritual identity of a church. 


High control feeds on meetings.  The meetings are the symptom.  High control is the issue behind the issue.  The result is a machine.  Boards and committees talk a lot about ministry.  There is more talk than action.  This changes the definition of ministry.  Ask people, "What is your ministry?" and many will respond they are an elder, deacon, sit on a church board, council, consistory, session, or (in the super-corporate model), the board of directors.  This represents little of the mission side of Christianity.  It births a worldview that the church is an institution, bureaucracy, and political system focused on control of a myriad of activities. 


The hyper-extension of this model is represented by several prominent denominations.  The corporate model at this level is the epitome of drift.  What happened to the Body of Christ?  Just this last month, another major denomination met for a general conference.  The total cost of these extravaganzas is in millions of dollars.  Any wonder secular people are increasingly turned off by what they perceive to be "the church." 


It may sound like an incredibly na´ve and radically simplistic concept to de-organize the organized church.  Yet, there many churches that have incorporated the elements that are clearly taught in Scripture.  They have reduced the bureaucracy and returned the machine to the living organism called the Body of Christ.   


Recapturing the Movement 


At the core, Christianity is a movement.  Consider the concept:  it is moving, alive, and dynamic.  You can have a building and not be an institution.  You can have order and not control.  You can manage God's resources and not become a bureaucracy.  You can be liberated from most meetings and remain legal.  You can function more effectively and rise above the tyranny of the machine.  You can restart a church caught in the "critical third" maintenance mode of the lifecycle.


But don't look to a program:  top-down, quick-fix restructuring of the latest, greatest, best-selling fad.  Think movement - it is the genius of the faith launched by Jesus.  A movement is bottom-up, relational influence that enriches and energizes this organism called church. 


Jesus embedded in His disciples the DNA of the Kingdom.  Go back and look at His teaching about the "Kingdom of God" and the "Kingdom of Heaven" (concepts that are understood as interchangeable).  Focus on the concepts:  "the Kingdom is like...," Jesus said.  What are the concepts and how do they fit with the culture of your church? 


Here are some of the core markers of that DNA:  (1) The high control becomes low control.  (2) The low level of personal, relational accountability becomes the dominant lifestyle of most everyone in the church.  (3) The focus on running the machine is minimized, and the mission to "seek and save the lost" is maximized.  (4) The primary role of leaders and staff is not to "do ministry," but to equip others for ministry (Ephesians 4).  (5) The power and potential of a church is not the political decisions of the few, but the missional lifestyle of the many.  (6) The involvement of the individual is based not an election to a board, but the discovery of spiritual gifts.  (7) The fulfillment of every Christian is not attending a meeting, but being discipled by another and empowered to operate in your calling.  (8) The infrastructure of the local church will reduce meetings to a minimum.  (9) Those who lead will focus on discerning God's will.  (10) Their manual will not be Robert's Rules of Order, but Scripture.  (11) The qualification for leadership will not be majority votes, but recognized biblical wisdom.  (12) The dominant posture of the Body of Christ will be mission, not maintenance.


There are likely two kinds of responses to this concept:  (1) those who consider this simplistically impossible in the real world, and (2) those who have followed their biblical intuition and rejoice in their liberation from the machine.  

Ten Ways to Return Church to a Biblical Form of Sanity 

  1. Take inventory annually.  Have a rummage sale of programs/activities.  Offload 10%-20% per year. 
  2. Clearly articulate your purpose:  look closely at the New Testament.  Ask, "According to God, what is the primary purpose of the church?"  Make sure all staff and leadership are on the same page. 
  3. Having defined your purpose, look at everything through the lens of focus.  (1) What contributes to the objectives of purpose?  (2) What supports objectives that contribute to the focus of purpose?  (3) What does not contribute to the objectives of focus?  (4) Which issues of category three need repair, redesign, or strengthening?  (5) Which issues of category three should be discarded? 
  4. Reflect on how intentional you are.  Take inventory, using a trusted and brutally honest accountability partner.  Equip your accountability partner to ask you, regularly, "What have you said 'no' to recently?"
  5. If you add a program or activity to your church routine, ask the hard question:  "Is this the time to drop another program or activity?" 
  6. Ask your accountability partner to challenge your level of proactivity, as opposed to reactivity.  You can't avoid being reactive all the time in ministry.  Shoot for 80% proactive, 20% reactive. 
  7. Continually run the operation of church through the grid of light-weight/low-maintenance.  Develop a culture of asking, "Is this the simplest way to do this?  Or is it too complicated?  Too cluttered?  Too slow and inefficient?" 
  8. As a leader, what is the one thing you must do every week, no matter what else is going on in the church?  If you answered by describing some ministry you do (prepare a sermon, attend a meeting, teach a class), repent!  If you answered by describing a way you will multiply yourself (equipping and empowering others - as in making disciples), rejoice!
  9. Review your church government - your decision-making process - through the lens of low-control/high-accountability.  How long, how much effort, does it take to come to conclusions and move to action?
  10. Consider intervention - an outside consultant - to help redesign your church government to a biblical form of low-control/high-accountability. 

Bilanich, Bud.  4 Secrets of High Performing Organizations: Beyond the Flavor of the Month to Lasting ResultsFront Row Press, 2002. 


Brafman, Ori and Rod A. Beckstrom.  The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations.  New York, NY: Portfolio Trade, 2008.


Church Government Consultation (service).  Corunna, IN: Church Doctor Ministries.


Elliott, Ord.  The Future is Fluid Form: Practical Steps for Designing Flat, Flexible Organizations.  Bloomington, IN:, 2009. 


Friedman, Thomas L.  The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century.  New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005.


Fung, Victor K., William K. Fung, and Yoram (Jerry) R. Wind.  Competing in a Flat World: Building Enterprises for a Borderless World.  Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007.


Hunter, Kent R.  Church Government Principles.  Corunna, IN: Church Doctor Ministries, 2007.  (White Paper.)


Hunter, Kent R. The Future Is Now: How God Is Moving in the 21st Century.  Corunna, IN: Church Doctor Ministries, 2011.  (E-book.)


Hunter, Kent R.  Restructuring the Church: Congregational Government.  Corunna, IN: Church Doctor Ministries, 2007.  (White Paper.)


Hunter, Kent R.  Stress and Burnout: Survive and Thrive Through Church Leadership.  Corunna, IN: Church Doctor Ministries, 2011.  (E-book.)


Hunter, Kent R.  Structural Issues.  Corunna, IN: Church Doctor Ministries, 2007.  (White Paper.)


Hunter, Kent R.  21st Century Pain-Free Church Government.  Corunna, IN: Church Doctor Ministries, 2010.  (Audio resource.)


Rainer, Thom S. and Eric Geiger. Simple Church: Returning to God's Process for Making DisciplesNashville, TN:  B&H Publishing Group, 2010.


Staffing Consultation (service).  Corunna, IN: Church Doctor Ministries.