The Barrier of Stagnation and Lethargy

Dr. Paul Chappell

When diagnosing the health of your church, you may notice your church is busy but not spiritually growing. You and the church are doing everything you have done before, but new Christians are not being saved, baptized, and discipled. Let us examine two obstacles which you may need to overcome.

The first obstacle is stagnation. This means “to cease to flow or move” and relates to the flow of ministry, especially as it pertains to winning and discipling new Christians into the body of Christ—helping them to assimilate into a class, connect with people, and begin growing in their faith.

Stagnation may be a problem of capacity. Your church may have reached its present seating capacity, and you may need to begin a new service. You may need to change your service schedule to allow for more Sunday school classes.

I am not for creating change just for the sake of change, but sometimes fresh vision brings change that “increases the circulation of the body.” It gets something that was stagnant moving once again. Just as exercise causes your body to increase circulation, grow in health, and be safe from sickness, so the exercise of faith and forward motion causes a church family to break through the barrier of stagnation.

Another obstacle, lethargy, may be tied with stagnation. This is not a lack of interest, but rather a lack of energy or enthusiasm. Spiritual lethargy is a lack of the Holy Spirit’s power and anointing. It is the lack of the power of God within the work. Of all the barriers, I believe this one is the easiest to see. Lethargy is experienced when you are doing everything you can do, but it is being done in your own power, not God’s. What should you do?

Seek an Anointing for Ministry and Preaching.

Get alone with God, make your heart and life right with Him, confess any known sin, and ask Him to anoint your ministry once again. I’m not referring to some emotional experience. I’m referring to the filling of God’s Holy Spirit. Ask God to once again fill you and your church with His power. Ephesians 5:18 reminds us, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.”

Quite honestly, this barrier usually rests with the leader. Ask yourself some tough questions before the Lord: Is my calling sure? Is my vision clear? Am I developing my gifts? Is my character submitted to Christ? Is pride subdued? Am I overcoming fear? Is my pace sustainable? Is my love for God and people increasing?

Seek God’s Will for a Project of Faith.

God’s empowerment is always for a purpose. Every great Bible leader was moving toward a goal which required great faith. God always calls His people forward—to press toward the mark and strive together for the faith. When you reach a point of spiritual lethargy, it may be time to pray, “Lord, what faith journey do You desire to lead us into next? In which direction do I step out of my comfort zone?”

I have asked the Lord such questions many times, and He has never failed to answer. His answer is sometimes frightening, but it always leads over the barrier of lethargy!

One word of caution: there is a difference between a work of faith and a work of driven-ness. Driven people are caught in an uncontrolled pursuit of expansion. They feel like things must get bigger. They are abnormally busy and often bemoan their responsibility. They are frequently trying to prove something subconsciously to a father figure who was angry, absent or abusive. Don’t get caught in the trap of driven-ness, but grow in faith that overcomes lethargy.

Excerpted from The Spiritual Leader by Paul Chappell.