A Church That Wants to Grow Must Do These 2 Things Really Well
I was struck by the juxtaposition of two article recently. One discussed the “effective things churches do well,” while the other detailed the “internal barriers to growth in a church.” What makes these two articles so interesting is their relationship to one another.
The things one church does well, resulting in growth, is often the same thing another church does poorly, resulting in declining attendance. For this reason church leaders ought to make it a point to pay attention to their cultural context in order to determine what things need done, what needs changed, and the difference between the two.
Let’s look at several examples:
Things Growing Churches Do Well:
Clear master plan for facilities.
Knowledge of the community.
Strategies to train and implement teachers and greeters.
Things Struggling Churches Do Poorly:
Facility barriers, such as signs and parking.
Cultural barriers, like worship times and poorly structured services.
Staffing barriers, outdated job descriptions, staff in the wrong place.
These are just a few of the examples you can find when you read through each individual article. But look at how closely they are related. Often the growth of one church is being accelerated by the things it is doing really well. The decline of another church is being caused by that churches inability to do those same things well.
As I’ve grown in my faith I have come to realize that church is a lot less about doing things that are attractional, and much more about doing things that are biblical. Don’t get me wrong, if you want to grow a church really fast, be the hip new church in town that does lots of really cool shows and events. Have a flashy band that does rockin songs, have lights and cameras, and use emotionally driven catchphrases and lingo whenever possible. If you do, you will grow. But you will also become the revolving door in town where people come in and out as they search for what’s missing.
The thing is, the church has spent too much time (and money) trying to be cool. But the reality is that there’s nothing cool about the Gospel message. When you call people to admit that they are depraved sinners in need of a Savior that message is counter-cultural. Our society is obsessed with making sure everyone feels good, making sure everyone knows just how awesome they are. So obsessed are we in fact that our obsession has created a narcissistic culture where selfies are considered valuable.
I can recall attending several churches where, after the service I walked away thinking, “that preacher is funny,” or “what a great show.” But very few times in my life have I walked away thinking “what a sinner I am,” or “the grace of Jesus is amazing.” And yet as I mature in my faith I have come to crave the kind of preaching that shines a spotlight on my sin and points me to the cross of Christ. I’m far less concerned with style than I am with theology and being spiritually fed through expository preaching.
Any church that wants to grow mature disciples of Jesus that produce other mature disciples of Jesus must do at least two things really well.
The first thing the church must do well is look inward. What I mean is that there must be an intentional focus on discipleship. This means emphasizing the need for people to be discipling others, and emphasizing the need for people to be discipled. Young believers need to be proactively encouraged to engage in discipleship with a mature believer. Don’t wait for someone to seek discipleship, go after him/her presenting the urgency of discipleship. From the top down every leader in the church should be actively discipling another person. The paid staff of the church should make it a priority to meet regularly with other leaders – over breakfast, after work, whenever they can – to disciple each one and hold them accountable regarding their discipleship of others.
The second thing a church must do well is look outward. This doesn’t mean try to be trendy, hip, or cool. This doesn’t mean look for the most attractional way to get people in the doors of the church. This means observe the community around you. Become experts at understanding the cultural context God has placed you. By learning about the people and the type of community you live in, you will better understand how to serve and reach your community. For example, if you live in a commuter community, don’t try and schedule a lot of activities and events. By doing so you will exhaust your key leaders and volunteers as they try to juggle their already busy schedule and “church stuff.”
If you live in a rural, farm community, be sensitive to distances people have to travel and the early morning demands they face. If you live in an urban context, seek to develop inter-racial ministry that unites rather than divides, and be aware of the diversity in families you will encounter and learn to serve each one differently.
Any church seeking to reach its community and grow must do these two things very well: look inwardly – emphasize discipleship, and look outwardly – learn your context and develop ministry based on where God has placed you. If a church can do those two things well it will position itself to be an effective tool for God in the community He has given them to reach.