Throwback Thursday ~ It’ll Grow on You…

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.

Church, Guest Posts

Guest Post: Planting a Doctrinally Sound Church in the Midst of NAR Chaos

If your theology pretty much matches up with mine (as outlined in the “Welcome” and “Statement of Faith” tabs) and you’d like to contribute a guest post, drop me an e-mail at,
and let’s chat about it.


A Brief Word from Michelle:

I’m frequently asked by readers what to do if, despite their best efforts, they can’t find a doctrinally sound church within reasonable driving distance from home. One of my suggestions has been to look into church planting. Here is Elliott’s story of planting a doctrinally sound church in an area where none exist. If you live nearby, consider joining him in this work or at least stopping by to encourage Elliott and Naomi.

Planting a Doctrinally Sound Church
in the Midst of NAR Chaos
by Elliott Micha

I walked into a church on a normal, mid-February cloudy Sunday. An elderly woman came up to me and in a rather creepy timbre, leaned over and said, “God always shows up here.” Then the service started, and an old man in rusty Birkenstocks got up and started screaming. From that point forward all chaos broke loose.

The worship team played a well known Pentecostal song about the fire of the Lord falling down, and bodies started to drop like it was a World War II battlefield. A woman convulsed on the ground in front of me making inappropriate sexual-sounding noises. She appeared to have no control of her body and was almost drooling on the floor. Young people all wearing matching checkered flannel shirts ran to the front of the room to get the anointing as random people laid hands on others. It was a violent scene. This was my first experience witnessing Charismatic chaos in person.

Later, I went to visit a buddy, Russ, who was a local young adults pastor at the time. I asked, “Russ does that happen every week at that church?”. He said, “Yes, Elliott, every single week they do the exact same thing.”. From that day forward I was determined to stop the rise of the Charismatic chaos that had started to infiltrate Orange County Christianity.

At this point I was a young adult. Many years later, the chaos, false teaching, and carnage would escalate to a new level. Some of my close friends from my early twenties sadly got sucked into the emotion and started following famous traveling prophets. My wife, Naomi, coined a term for the fringe Charismatic churches: “koo koo land”. Many people I know, including Naomi’s boss and my dentist both were turned off to ever checking out any Christian church due to their bad experiences with Charismatic churches.

Over the years, Naomi and I saw more and more “pastors” who wanted to be viewed as Spirit-filled men of God, but had little care for God’s word. For a little while I became a church planter working alongside a group of churches, but then the faith healers, “prophets”, and skinny jeans started to arrive. I left that group of churches and dusted off my computer which contained the name of the church Naomi and I felt called to originally plant – Outpouring Church.

Naomi and I knew the blueprint the Lord gave us. There was no more biting my tongue and trying to be politically correct about the madness I had witnessed unfold in so many churches. We were called to plant a church that would be fiercely devoted to educating young people, old people, and those caught in deception about the dangers of the modern day prophets and apostles movement. We felt called to not just sit on the sidelines any longer, but to stand up and not be pushed around by the false prophets (who many times tried to intimidate me, calling me, “just some young punk”) in our region.

The city we live in, San Clemente, is a town that 68,000 people call home. For southern Orange County, that is a rather large population. Our area is home to three mega churches that have a weekly attendance between 700 and 2,000 people each. On the surface many people would say San Clemente has 15 churches total, so what’s the need for another church? These churches are all within a 4 mile driving radius of the rich white suburban side of town, and unfortunately, many of them now feature associations with the New Apostolic Reformation, prophets and apostles, worship music with aberrant theology, and loads of seeker friendly, watered down theology that turns church more into a ringside circus then an actual church service.

Naomi and I originally felt called to San Clemente before we got married. We didn’t want to move to San Clemente, actually. We wanted to move to inland Orange County. Inland Orange County is our version of the Midwest – everyone is hardcore Christian, and many of the people actually know the Bible. We knew it would be a life of contentment if we moved there, but we would be running from our calling. Many of the pastors in our town have even said, “I don’t feel called to San Clemente, I moved there because of the sunny weather,” or “I moved there because I love surfing.”. Naomi and I have zero interest in surfing or the ocean. By the time I was 18 (after working in the skimboard industry) I was really sick of going to the beach. We felt called to San Clemente because we met many “Christians” who were confused about what they believed. In that group we saw a massive need for discipleship and really sitting down and teaching people the Bible.

Our good friend, a local San Clemente native and faithful Christian mother who is 55 years old, went to a house one day for a “women’s gathering”. The women in attendance all said they were “Christians”. At this gathering one of the women started saying how it was okay for Christians to use horoscopes. Our friend rebuked the woman and the woman got really angry. This gives you an idea of the type of danger that has seeped into our local Christian scene. Many of these people don’t understand the basics of the faith and some of them have been walking with the Lord for years.

Naomi and I also felt called to San Clemente because no one wanted to go near the area we felt called to plant a church in. We felt called to Southern San Clemente and specifically an area called Surfer’s Row. Everyone plants churches in Talega (inland San Clemente) which Naomi and I joke is like Utah (it has a massive Mormon population) and is home to many wealthy Caucasian families. We live in a neighborhood in the middle of town that is largely Mormon and has lots of older Roman Catholics. In our actual tract of homes there are only a few Christians.

Naomi and I know another group of people right now that are leaving our area to plant a Bible-based church up in Idaho. We have watched as many people plant great churches in our town and then after a few years leave San Clemente due to the spiritual warfare and backlash. We were attracted to planting in Surfer’s Row because it is still unchurched. Surfer’s Row is home to drug addicts, local professional surfers, various ethnic people groups, a low income school, and dive bars that look like they belong in a Harley Davidson ad.

One of the huge battles we face in San Clemente is that many professing Christians idolize the sport of surfing. There have been Christian parents in our area who have gotten divorced because of their obsession with surfing. Some of the local pastors base their life and schedule around surf contests and conditions. We even have one pastor in the area who will skip being in the pulpit if there is a good swell coming in to surf. When I went to share the story of our church plant with another well known retired surfing pastor, he said to me, “Do you surf?”, as though surfing was a requirement for planting a church in our town. It was a very weird experience. (For the record I don’t surf. I grew up skim boarding.)

Instead, my father-in-law, Pastor Bob, has had a big influence on me. He is a retired pastor, Vietnam vet, and seminary grad who served for 50 years. But in his words, “You never retire from ministry.”. He’s my mentor when it comes to day to day church planting. In our first church planting experience, Naomi and I were struggling to find someone to really disciple us. At a certain point (when one of the pastors started teaching that Christians can be demon possessed and that Christians can walk on water just like Jesus did) we left that group of churches and realized that her folks had seen it all in a long career of ministry and would be great mentors on this crazy journey of planting a church.

We also have a few buddies that pastor churches in inland Orange County who are all great allies. These men have shown us how this whole process of church planting works and what it looks like to be faithful to the flock that God has given them. (The funny thing is we aren’t Calvinist, but we have a large following of Calvinists now because we are one of the only vocally anti-charismatic chaos churches in our area.)

So the next logical question is: how do you evangelize the people who call Surfer’s Row home? Naomi and I get up every Sunday and prayer walk the Surfer’s Row area. The main way we invite people into the story of Outpouring Church is door to door knocking. One day my friend Billy said to me, “You door knock to tell people about your church plant? That’s hardcore Elliott.”. It may be a rare thing nowadays, but so far it has worked to help start getting the word out. I door knock a few times a week, give out free Bibles at the local surf spot, give out free surf supplies to the surfers (if their boards need repair), deliver Bibles to the homes of people who need them, utilize social media (Twitter, Instagram,, Yelp), hand out contact cards with our info on it, and distribute free surf wax with our church logo on it. So far, these simple forms of outreach have started to build a small following of people in our area. Currently, we have four people on our church interest list. Once we get enough people, we will start our once a week “house church” style Bible study.

It might shock you, but many of the people in Surfer’s Row have never seen a Bible or heard about Jesus. The Bahai faith, Mormonism, fringe Charismatic Christianity, and the New Age are all large religions in that specific area. Some people within Surfer’s Row have large tiki statues of various Hawaiian gods they worship displayed in their front yards. Many of the pro surfers run nonprofits that push mindfulness, yoga, and New Age belief, and have no frame of reference for Christianity. I have had many good discussions with young (18-19 years old) surfer kids and they are blown away that Christians would actually care for them and want to talk to them. I always try to share the gospel with them. Slowly but surely we are starting to build a following.

That is just a little of our story. It has been a crazy ride so far. Through it all we have learned to always come back to Hebrews 13:8 which says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Naomi and I have learned the true meaning of the narrow road. We have seen what happens when you call out false teachers and stand for truth. I have learned what it feels like when you get home from plowing the fields for the sake of the Gospel and just want to sit in your chair. We are a tiny church with just a handful of people, but we are ready to make a big dent in San Clemente for the kingdom of God.

We are Outpouring Church and as always, “Our mission is His mission.”

Elliott Micha is the Founder and Senior Pastor of Outpouring Church at Surfer’s Row located in southern San Clemente, California. Elliott and his wife Naomi have two English bulldogs and are looking forward to one day starting their own family. Naomi loves equipping young women with biblical knowledge. Elliott, Naomi, and their ragtag group of friends are excited to see people who are far from Jesus come to know Jesus. Follow Outpouring Church on Twitter or Instagram.

Mailbag, Speaking Engagements

The Mailbag: Potpourri (Joni’s testimony, “Messy”, Female seminary profs…)

Welcome to another “potpourri” edition of The Mailbag, where I give short(er) answers to several questions rather than a long answer to one question. I also like to take the opportunity in these potpourrri editions to let new readers know about my comments/e-mail/messages policy. I’m not able to respond individually to most e-mails and messages, so here are some helpful hints for getting your questions answered more quickly. Remember, the search bar can be a helpful tool!

Our church has a ministry for the homeless where once a week, lunch is provided and a Bible Study is given usually by a woman, occasionally by a man to a mixture of both men and women. Some might be saved, probably most are not. What are your thoughts in regard to this situation from a Biblical perspective?

Great question! I’ve answered it in #11 of my article Rock Your Role FAQs.

We watched a video of Joni Eareckson Tada speaking at a recent Shepherds Conference. She gave her testimony and shared the meaning of Scripture and what some Greek words were so there was teaching going on as well as testimony. I know she is thought of highly but I was wondering about her speaking and teaching to groups of men.

Joni is not someone I follow closely, though I did read her first book, Joni, when I was a teenager. John MacArthur heads up the Shepherds Conference, which is a conference for men in church leadership, particularly pastors (“shepherds”).

Just to give a little background for anyone not familiar with him, Dr. MacArthur is a staunch complementarian and is a doctrinally sound pastor, teacher, and author I am happy to recommend to my readers. He would never invite a woman to preach at ShepCon nor invite a doctrinally unsound speaker. So I trust Dr. MacArthur’s judgment and reasons for inviting her to speak – that he was not inviting her to preach.

That foundation being laid, there are instances in which it is perfectly biblically appropriate for a woman to speak in front of a co-ed Christian group or a group of Christian men, and giving her testimony – so long as she does not veer off into preaching (instructing and/or exhorting men in the Scriptures) – is one of them. I’ve written more about that, giving examples, in these articles:

Rock Your Role FAQs (#7, 14)

The Mailbag: Should women give testimonies and reports, lead prayer and worship in church?

I have not listened to the talk Joni gave at ShepCon. It is possible that I would think her explanations of Scripture crossed the line into teaching, but it is also possible I would not. I just can’t say since I haven’t listened to it. (I would not consider giving the definition of a Greek word or two to be the type of biblical instruction prohibited by 1 Timothy 2:12.)

I would be more inclined to look at Joni’s history and intentions. Did she come to ShepCon with the intent of preaching or instructing men in the Scriptures? Does she have a track record of preaching sermons or giving Bible instruction to men at conferences? If the answer to both is no and she is normally very careful to stay within the parameters of biblical womanhood, I’d be inclined to extend grace on any bobbles she made during her testimony at ShepCon. It’s a very fine line to walk, and I’m sure I would probably make a few mistakes too if I were in that situation.

Update: Thanks to reader DebbieLynne (see comments section) for the heads up that Joni actually gave her testimony at the Strange Fire Conference (2013, also spearheaded by John MacArthur), not at the Shepherds Conference. Strange Fire was co-ed rather than men only. Whether or not women were in attendance at the conference doesn’t really change my answer to the reader, but it’s good to have the facts straight.

Is it OK for women to teach pastors-in-training at seminaries?

John Piper recently answered this question on an episode of Ask Pastor John. You should read his response for yourself (it’s not long), but, essentially his answer was that experienced pastor-mentors should be training up young pastors, and since it is unbiblical for women to serve as pastors themselves, they lack the experience necessary to mentor pastors-in-training. And, my word, the egalitarian world had a fit – including Beth Moore and her daughter Melissa (who helps run Beth’s ministry):

While I consider him to be a generally doctrinally sound brother in Christ, I’m not particularly a fan of John Piper, but I do want to say that I think his answer was taken wildly out of context by those pushing unbiblical agendas, that he was treated shabbily by many on social media, and that I thought his answer was very good, biblical, and just plain old made sense. Women are not qualified to serve as pastors. Why on earth would we want them training pastors? Moreover, what student wouldn’t want the most qualified and experienced professors he could get for his tuition money?

Let’s say you were the dean of the neurosurgery department at a medical school. A gentleman, totally blind from birth, comes in and applies for a position teaching surgical practicum (cutting, suturing, removing tumors, etc.). He has held positions teaching various subjects at other universities so his ability to impart information is not in question, but he has never performed surgery in his life because he’s blind. Would you hire him to train neurosurgeons to perform brain surgery?

The reason Dr. Piper’s answer caused a bit of a kerfuffle is that he limited his answer to the question he was asked. Imagine that. He was asked if women should train pastors and that’s the question he answered. The agenda-driven screaming neemies took his answer of “no” to mean that no woman should ever teach anything to anyone in any seminary anywhere ever. That is not what Dr. Piper said. He said women should not train men for the pastorate.

I would have answered the same way. However, if I were to expand on Dr. Piper’s answer, what I would further explain is that most seminaries (at least the ones I’m familiar with) do far more than simply train men for the pastorate. Take the seminary my husband attended for example, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. If you’ll click on the “Academics and Admissions” tab at the top of the page and examine the various degree and non-degree programs, you’ll find that most of them are not strictly preaching programs. There are programs for women’s ministry and children’s ministry (Surely we wouldn’t say women are unqualified to teach in these areas?), college ministry, urban ministry, music ministry, missions, counseling, languages, and many more. There’s nothing wrong with women teaching things like music theory, finance, general education classes like math, history, and English, archaeology, legal issues, languages, business, etc., even in a seminary.

There are definitely some classes women shouldn’t be teaching in seminaries, but there are plenty of other classes that would be fine for them to teach.

Since we’ve become parents my husband and I have mostly attended churches that were larger and offered childcare. We were saved out of Mormonism eight years ago which has its own order of services and no childcare provided for the main service, but I don’t know what to expect from a Christian service that doesn’t offer childcare. I don’t know what will be expected of me and my family. I have a four-year-old and I worry that he will end up running around or asleep on the pew. Do we call ahead? Pack a busy bag? Are snacks alright? How do you ever get anything out of the service for yourself?

Before I answer, I want to encourage readers who are experienced church members to really let this precious sister’s question sink in and inform the way you respond to visitors and new members. Increasingly, the people who are new to your church will have very little church background. Church culture may be old hat to you, but it’s like landing on Mars to many of them. They have no idea where to go or what to do, and they don’t speak Christianese. Make sure you warmly welcome and encourage newbies and let them know that it’s OK to ask questions.

I think my article Churchmanship 101: Training Your Child to Behave in Church will help with some practical tips and expectations. You should not allow your child to run around the sanctuary during the worship service any more than you would allow him to run around a restaurant if you went out to eat, or a store if you were shopping, but I would not get overly stressed about him making a few minor noises or dropping the occasional Bible during church. If a church doesn’t offer childcare, they’re surely used to children making a little noise during the service from time to time. Sermon-time naps at four years old are not the end of the world, but you’ll want to curb those as he approaches school-age (if he can stay awake all day in school, he can stay awake for 30 minutes or an hour in church).

Until your child gets into the routine of attending worship and learns how you expect him to behave, you may not get very much out of the service. That’s just one of those parts of being a mom that we all have to accept – like stretch marks :0) But if you will be consistent and diligent as you train your child, he’ll get with the program soon enough.

When you ask if you should “call ahead”, if what you mean is calling the church office prior to Sunday and asking any questions you might have, that is a super idea! Most pastors I know would be delighted to chat on the phone or in person to welcome you to the church and help you feel at ease. That is the point at which I would ask about snacks. Different churches have different policies about food and drink in the sanctuary. I’ve never heard of one that wouldn’t allow a baby bottle, but some may not be keen on the idea of Cheerios ground into their carpet. You could also ask if they have a “cry room”. Some churches have set aside a room near the sanctuary where you can take a fussy baby or jumpy toddler. Many of them have the sermon “piped in” so you can listen until you go back into the worship service. You might also want to ask if the worship service is recorded and posted online so you can listen at home to any parts of the sermon you may have missed. Never be afraid to ask an honest and polite question.

I have been hearing the word messy a lot in reference to our lives..has this word replaced the word sin?

Well…I suppose it may have for those who are trying to sand off the sharp edges of the gospel, but the biblical term is sin, so that’s the correct word to use, despite how popular “messy”, or any other trendy word, might be.

Can you recommend any doctrinally sound female speakers for women’s events?

(I promise this is an actual question I recently received, not one I made up for promotional purposes! :0)

Yes, me. Click the “Speaking Engagements” tab at the top of this page for more information.

If I’m not really your cup of tea, or I’m too far away for your travel budget, I happily recommend any of the women listed under the “Recommended Bible Teachers” tab at the top of this page (although I’m not positive all of them do speaking engagements).

If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.