Originally published April 22, 2009
Have you ever wished your church would grow? Maybe your pastor talks about church growth from time to time? What should a church do if it wants to grow?
Before a church starts thinking about publicity, programs, attention-getters, etc., it should take some things into consideration:
Is this a Bible-believing, Bible-preaching/teaching church? Do we stick to Scripture and preach the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth even if it makes people uncomfortable or (in a biblically appropriate way) offends them?
Since the Bible is God’s Word, it would make no sense for Him to want to grow a church that either doesn’t believe what He has said, or twists what He has said to fit what the people want to hear. Scripture is clear, our churches are to be focused on correctly handling and proclaiming God’s Word.
How do we know God wants us to focus on growth right now? The church belongs to God, and we are to obey Him in all things. Have we as a congregation spent time in prayer both individually and corporately to seek His direction for the church? There could be any number of things God wants to do in the church before bringing a whole slew of new people in. He may want to do some pruning of the membership or the doctrine being taught. He may want to root out some corporate sin that needs to be dealt with. He may want to concentrate on building unity for some period of time. There could be a number of biblical things that are a higher priority to God for our church than growth.
People can grow an organization, club, colloquy or group, but only God can grow a church. If you have a group of people that is growing strictly by man’s efforts and/or in violation of Scriptural principles, it is one of the former, not the latter. The question is, do we want to grow an organization here, or do we want God to grow a church?
How did Jesus grow a church? After all, we’re to be about the business of following and imitating Him, right? If we take a look at how Jesus’ own following developed while He was on Earth as well as how the first century church grew, we don’t find that they had to go out and drag people in. They didn’t send out fliers, have space walks, barbecues, concerts and all that kind of stuff that so many churches do today just to try to draw people in. That’s a “top down” approach. Jesus and the first century church took a “bottom up” approach. They studied the Scripture, prayed, ministered to people as they had needs, and preached and taught the Word, and the people who truly wanted to know God and hear the Word came out and joined them.
Now, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with barbecues and space walks. Indeed, if a church is following Christ rightly and praying for God’s direction, they might decide to do some sort of outreach event that includes some fun activities. But the thrust of drawing people in should be the lifting up of Jesus in the church.
Want your church to grow? Make sure the church is completely in line with what the Bible teaches. Seek God’s direction for the church through corporate and individual prayer. Recognize that God is the only one who can cause a church to grow, and that growth – always in spiritual maturity, sometimes in numbers – is a natural by-product of an obedient, prayerful, true to Scripture church.