Church Growth Musings

Church growth seems to be constantly a topic to which pastors return and upon which church members concentrate. Just a few thoughts that have been running through this pastor's head:

People Who Can vs. People Who Are Called

In every church, it seems like there is always a lack of needed volunteers to do the ministry of the church and so you have a small handful of volunteers who serve in many different capacities in many different areas of ministry. There is a temptation to just "fill the need" with anyone who is willing to do it. I just don't know if that is the most productive course of action or if that should be our expectation as pastors or churches. More times than not, there are always "people who can." But I think as pastors and churches we really should have as our expectation not just "people who can" but rather "people who are called."

When ministry is done only by "people who can" who are not also called to that ministry, I don't believe it is fair to the one serving or the one being served. How many parents would rather have someone teaching their child in school who is fully educated to do the job, but who really doesn't want to be there doing it as opposed to someone who feels called to that profession, thus has equipped themselves to be successful in that profession, and is enthusiastic and passionate about doing it? Obviously the latter. Why then do we tend to settle for less than that in our churches with issues that are of much greater importance than math, english, and science?

"People who can" equals programs. "People who are called" equals ministry. Ministry is our focus and so "people who are called" should be our expectation.

Filling the Church vs. Building the Church

There are a lot of ways pastors can fill a church building. Personalities will fill a church. Glitz, gimmicks, and glamour will fill a church. But, there seems to be only one way in Scripture to build a church, the body of Christ. That is Jesus Christ building it through the faithful preaching of His Word, particularly the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As pastors we need to focus on Christ building His Church through His Word in His time and not us filling the church in our time and way. That does not mean that we neglect things like evangelism and outreach, though there may be some forms of evangelism and outreach that are probably not the best use of our time, resources, nor our conviction about the power of the Word of God. As pastors, we will have to do what is sometimes very hard: trust the power of God's Word and sovereignty of God.

James Grant speaks of the cultural sins which pastors and churches must lean against in worship and I would say as well in the growth of the church:

    • Individualism-we are known as rugged individualists, and we must make decisions in our worship that lean against that individualism. What should we do? Emphasize corporate worship and congregational singing. Frequent communion will also help to guard against individualism in our churches.
    • Pragmatism-the main philosophical tradition of our country is pragmatism; whatever works is best. How to we lean against this? Perhaps we should remind each other that worship is not always what is popular, but sometimes what is different and hard. Entertainment-television, movies, and multi-media are being adopted by churches without critical evaluation. Is it urgent, in a situation like we face in our culture with technology, that we highlight the preaching of the word? I think so. God revealed himself through the written word, and we are called to study and teach that word.
    • Urgency-we can get almost anything we want right now. If we need something to eat, we can pull into a fast food restaurant and eat, or we can throw something in a microwave. In many cases, we have lost a sense of patience. Perhaps we should slow our worship down and be more reflective and meditative at times, and by doing that we will be leaning against the tyranny of the moment.

What People Look For Is What They Come For

This is a thought that is more really in regards to church members and their spiritual growth and contentment with where they are in their spiritual life and in association with that their contentment with the church they are attending. What a person looks for in a church is what they will come for. If they do not find what they are looking for, they will stop coming. If they are looking to be entertained or to feel better about themselves or if they are looking for a dynamic personality in a preacher, then that's what they will come to see and "feel." If they don't find what they are looking for, they will stop coming.

If they are looking for a body of believers to join with and worship with and serve the community and the world together in through the Gospel, while growing in the likeness of Jesus Christ through the faithful preaching/teaching of the Word of God, then they will stay at the church where they find that. They will come when they find what they are looking for. Pastors and churches: as we serve and minister to see the lost come to faith in Christ through the Gospel, let's make sure that the kind of church we are building is a place where they will find the latter and not the former. When people stop coming, a lot of times its an indicaton of what they were looking for in the first place and therefore why they stopped coming. You cannot control what people are looking for or why they are coming, only what they will find and see and hear when they get there.

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