The Hard Questions about Church Growth

I’ve been in my current charge for about 2 years now and have really grown to love the people here.  We gather for worship every Sunday morning for a blended service time of worship.  We get some guests from time to time either passing through — especially during the summer — or who are checking out churches in the valley.  We have gotten some new folks in, but mostly churched people.  While I am thankful for their finding a home with us, I have yet to see conversion growth.  Our Life Groups are beginning to pick up speed with more people becoming involved all the time.  We are working hard at making it our key avenue to build disciples in our congregation.  God doesn’t really care if you’re warming a pew every week.  He’d rather see us being the church in our community and loving the people into the kingdom.

In the spring of 2010 our church adopted a new mission and vision that was pretty cutting edge that, in order to achieve it, we’d really have to think seriously about how we do church.  So the leadership and I have been working hard on that and we’re beginning to see some results through new ministries and involvement of members.

But now what about the longevity of our little church?  During our vision forums discussing the church vision and mission our team raised the question, “Will our church be here in 15 years?”  Most people said, “Not likely… that is unless we really are willing to rethink how we are and do church.”  That got the ball rolling toward deeper discussion on what we believe God wants the church to be and what we should do.  That was a tough but important question to answer.  But here are a few others I believe every church needs to address especially the ones that are beginning to shrink away.

1. If you want to see the church grow what is your motivation?

Many people I have found want to see the church grow so that they can still have the quaint church of their youth or the past as they remember it.  This is a harmful motivating factor.  Here’s why.  When motivation is about maintaining for selfish purposes it can often work against God’s mission.  It does not motivate people to reach the lost and hurting with the Gospel, but rather creates expectations of  others to do the work of ministry to, “keep my church the same.”  These folks are often critical when there is no growth or whether there is growth.  Nothing is good enough… unless it’s like it always was.  For these folks there is little reason to rejoice when the church does grow because the people have changed — “they’re different” — in fact too many things have changed.  They want their church, but not “those” people.

Motivation for church growth must be out of the desire to reach the lost and disciple the found not merely survive.  Is the church really willing to make the necessary changes that will grow the church?  That’s where the other questions come into play.  Answer the other two questions will help determine if a church can make the jump to continue to grow.

2. Are you willing to radically look at your own discipling, or lack thereof to be part of church growth?

If your motivation is to reach people for Christ and his kingdom with the Gospel message then this question is essential.  Many people come to me and say that they don’t share their faith because they don’t know how or don’t have any theological training.  Those are usually excuses for feeling inadequate or, if they’ve been in the church their whole lives, have never learned how.  Many churches have done a poor job equipping people for the mission of God.

We are each responsible for our spiritual growth yet we are still responsible for each member of God’s family in life and conduct.  This is where small groups can really help in challenging people in their walk with God, holding them accountable and giving church members an avenue in which to develop in spiritual disciplines and life practice.  What’s the natural outgrowth of a person growing as a disciple, a devoted follower of Christ?  People coming to know Christ and growing in their walk and mission.  People are added to the kingdom because true disciples can’t help but live and tell people about Jesus.  The church grows exponentially.

3. Are you willing to make the changes necessary in your own lifestyle — time, priorities… etc — for kingdom priorities?

Something else I am surprised by is how people verbally support church growth but are unwilling to participate in it through either of the last two questions.  Let’s be honest, our western way of life is extremely self-centered and Satan subtly uses this to make us ineffective for the kingdom.  Even church people keep so busy with “important” stuff (it’s really mostly what the world deems as important) that church events and ministry get “left-over” time — not to mention finances (that’s a discipleship issue).  There are elements of sacrificial living and giving in the kingdom that committed disciples realize are priority.

If you answer, NO, to any of the last two questions then the church could be in trouble.

But possibly the biggest question is, “How much do we really love Jesus?”  By answering that question and adjusting our lives accordingly naturally grows the kingdom and Christ body, the church.

’til next time,

akd.

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