PRINCIPLES OF HEALTHY CHURCH GROWTH
UNDERSTANDING CHURCH GROWTH
The growth of a local church is the natural
byproduct of its spiritual health (intimate relationship to God). The church belongs to Christ, not to us. He has a unique growth
plan & purpose for each local church that makes up His body. Christ,
not man, makes the local church grow.
Some churches are redwood trees, others are bushes; some are flowers, others are grass. But ALL of the plants in God’s forest have strong roots. Christ is interested in Kingdom growth (converted souls), not man-made growth based on the 3 Ms: materialism, marketing, & management.
Christ is interested in the right motives for church
growth: love for sinners; a sacrificing lifestyle that is salt & light to
the world; dependence on God (humility). Man’s motives for church growth are: the 3Bs: (budgets,
baptisms, & buildings); empire-building pride (like the
Christ vomits man-made growth out of His mouth. (Rev. 3:18) Man-made church growth causes church cancers: congregational politics; materialism; competition between churches; cultural (undiscipled) Christianity; congregational homogeneity; performance-oriented staff (the CEO pastor)
Growing churches are thus not necessarily healthy churches.
Christ calls us to labor in a number of overlooked fertile harvest fields: growth in corporate prayer & patience; growth in heartfelt, genuine worship (instead of routine rituals for God); growth in the percentage of members who do the work of the church; growth in congregational diversity (ethnic diversity, as well as a mixture of new Christians & mature Christians); growth in member discipleship & empowerment; growth in ministry partnerships with other Christian organizations outside your local church.
TODAY'S LUKEWARM, NAKED CHURCH
The comfortable, non-sacrificing church
We expect the staff to do the work of the church. "That's what we pay then for, isn't it?"
We expect missionaries to save all the souls. "That's what God called them to do, isn't it?"
Church leaders must stay out of the comfort zone
& model sacrificing discipleship to the congregation. The church must be in the world to save those in the world. (John 17:
Growing, spiritually healthy churches must make room for the non-Christian, the "near-Christian," the immature Christian, & the backslidden Christian. Legalism & membership conformity cause the church to lose its warmth (salt & light).
The church must tithe its budget & time to go beyond church walls in the local community.
we don't pray: (1) We're comfortable & don't want anything (2) We don't care enough about others (3) We think small (4) We don't want to get involved (5) We're afraid God will respond & we'll have to interrupt our comfortable routine.
IN THE WORLD...
Church growth does not take place unless a new Christian enters God's Kingdom. Transferring memberships between churches is "recycled" (man-made) growth. Because our society is breaking down morally, most church growth opportunities today come from crisis ministry: divorce, unwanted pregnancies, alcohol & drug addiction, family abuse, etc. This is the harvest field that Christ labored in & said was white unto harvest. (John 4:35 & Matthew 9:37-38) Unfortunately, this is crisis ministry, not comfortable ministry.
Church growth requires the church to be all things to all people. (I Cor. 10:33)
Because God has a unique purpose & plan for each local church, He is doing special work in each church. Leaders should find where God's special construction site is for their local church & go to work there. If we want our church to grow, we should work where God is already working in our midst!
The more a church grows numerically, the more it must engage in discipleship. New Christians need The best form of discipleship is "on-the-job" ministry service to the unsaved & to those in crisis. Disciples of Christ must get beyond the comfortable walls of the local church & go out into the world where people are hurting & searching for forgiveness & a fresh start in life.
The local church cannot grow if it seals itself off from the world for fear of being "tainted" by sin. We have the whole armor of God to help us be in the world but not be of the world. (Ephesians 6:13)
Churches should look for ministry partners to provide growth opportunities: Prison Fellowship, community Christian service agencies (Salvation Army, etc.), other congregations, etc. God extends special blessings to unity among the brethren.
...BUT NOT OF THE WORLD
Christ’s local church is not a business (“First Baptist Incorporated”). A CEO & board of executives shouldn’t run it. The job of the church staff & lay leaders is not to perform. This is Christ’s role. Church leaders are to be spiritual role models, reflecting the light of the Holy Spirit to the congregation & a dying world.
The local church must not use the devices of the world (entertainment, material wealth & comfort, power, slick marketing, autocratic management, etc.) to run itself & promote its interests.
The church must emphasize outreach (to the unsaved) over inreach (to the comfortable congregation). Church leaders must encourage & empower members to get away from the church for outreaching ministry activities.
Church leaders are to empower members, not control them (which is the proper role of the Holy Spirit). When staff seek to control people, someone goes out the back door of the church every time a new member arrives through the front door. The Bible is meant to be applied, not merely studied.
Small churches shouldn't envy middle size churches. Middle-size churches shouldn’t covet to be large churches. Large churches shouldn’t lust to be super churches. All church growth is Christ’s business. The wrong church growth tools are: pressure, competition, guilt, & entertainment. The right church growth tools are: prayer, sanctification, discipleship, outreach, sacrifice, discomfort, sorrow, compassion, diversity, Bible-applying.
ENCOURAGEMENT IN THE
God doesn't value you or your church for what you do. We don't have to earn God's love or blessings. God has a unique role for you & your church. Look at your ministry through His eyes, not man's eyes. Church growth is God's work.
Church growth happens one saved soul at a time.
The grass &
bushes in the forest are just as useful & necessary as the tall trees.
Be the Christian God
wants you to be & He will sanctify you to help the members of your church
become the Christians He wants them to be. When the members of a church
are the Christians God wants them to be, the church will grow & grow!