We all desire to have our churches growing. If not, there is something wrong. Your call and profession might need a review. Growing a church is Biblical, and an imperative from our Lord. However, we also need to discover what it means to "grow a church." Most people consider numerical growth, and for good reasons. Numbers means success most of the time, and the more you have the more to whom you are ministering. Nevertheless, is that the main reason for growth? Well, see for yourself. Carefully read Matthew 28:18-20. Diligently examine each word. What does it say? The emphasis is on spiritual growth! Discipleship! When we are reaching all we can, all over the world, we need to be teaching them, not just corralling, and counting them!
These principles take into account the American way of life and our culture. It is sad, but true that most Christians are not mature in their faith. Over 80% come to church just to sit in the pew, either because they do not have the time to be further involved, or they do not want to be convicted or bothered. In any case, the secondary goal of the Christian life and experience is to grow in maturity and sanctification. This is rarely sought. The first goal should be our salvation and acceptance/election of our soul. Thus, the primary goals in church growth are the spiritual growth of the congregation, and growing in the Lord. When this is taking place, the numbers usually follow, because people are following the Lord and reaching out.
When I say, immaturity, I am comparing U.S. Christians to the early church, and the people in the world wide persecuted church. There is a vast difference between Christians suffering in Sudan, in mortal danger, meeting in tents and basements to worship Christ, versus the Christian in the U.S., who complains about the color of the carpet and then is attracted to a charismatic personality, unconcerned about Biblical truth.
Because of our immaturity, we have to realize how our culture works and work within it while still being true to the Word. We must also cater to people's comfort level. If people are not comfortable they will leave. You do not want people to leave for merely immature reasons. We cannot expect Christians, even those who may be mature, to have the focus and strength of a Christian in the underground church in China. Now, this is not to say that these things are shallow or wrong. They are not; they are facts of life. A genuine, committed Christian may or may not desire to spend all day on a cold floor, or meet in a basement. He may prefer to be in a comfortable room. We must strive to provide a comfortable environment, so that it can be conducive to outreach, since people are drawn to comfort rather than discomfort. (I need to say that this may sound harsh, but keep in mind that I work with and minister to and visit pastors all over the world for this ministry. There is a big difference in having visited a worship service in a cold, damp basement with members hiding from political authorities in a Middle Eastern county, people willing to risk their lives for the faith, and then coming back to my church here and hearing people complain because the room temperature is five degrees off!)
To use these Growth Principles suggestions, ask yourself, your leadership team, and your people this one question, "What Does a Healthy Church Look like?" Then listen for the feedback. Go though each of these suggestions, find out where you and your church are, and what will it take to implement the suggestions. For further help, read Preparing the Pastor and Church Leadership to Grow! and, A Primer on How to Lead and Manage the Church.
Forty-four Proven and Effective Biblical Church Growth Principles that Work!
Ideas to consider: (Romans 12:18; 14:18-19; Ephesians 4:3; Hebrews 12:14)
1.The number one reason for church growth is the preaching ability of the pastor. (Luke 3:1-7)
2.The number one reason why people stop coming to your church is conflict and gossip! (James 3:5-6)
3.The number two reason that people leave a church is poor "people skills" of the pastor and/or leadership, because they do not manage the conflicts and gossip! These poor "people skills" will cause the majority of conflicts between that pastor and the people. (Matthew 5:9)
4.The Bible must be taught in such a way that it is real and can be applied to the lives and situations of the people. You are to equip and disciple people, not just in the basics of the faith, but also in how to be Christians in their families, work, and relationships. They must be taught how to be effective Christians, and how to live their lives to His glory! (Psalm 119:9-12)
5.Preach holiness, how to worship, how to deal with sin, how to relate to one another, and how to love one another, while modeling it yourself! Evangelism, stewardship, and discipleship come out of these! As people are transformed, they can be taught and motivated. (Jeremiah 33:6; Romans 7:12; Galatians 3)
6.The best growing churches in the world have solid Biblical preaching at their core. These churches do not water down the Gospel so much that you cannot see the lifted cross! They do not overemphasize the seeker and ignore discipleship!
7.Real, heartfelt, God exalting adoration must be the focus of the worship service. It must never lift up the leaders or be a performance to entertain. It is God who is the audience and we are the people who are to praise and glorify Him! We are still to make our services friendly and innovative, as there is noting wrong with plays and contemporary themes as long as the service glories Christ and is not a medium just to entertain the people. Remember, the congregation is the performer, the worship team is the leader, and God is the audience! Don't mix these up! This is where all of the church growth and spiritual growth principles come to their focal point--the reason for discipleship, and maturity. All that we do in the church--from faith, fellowship, and outreach to facilities--come to this point and reason: TO WORSHIP CHRIST! (Psalm 138:1-4)
8.You must have a well thought out, empowered vision and mission statement with a clearly defined purpose, and strategies on what God has called you to do and be. It must be real and authentic, and you must be willing to act on it. It is one thing to write it out, but another thing to act it out (see the article on Preparing the Pastor and Church Leadership to Grow)!! (Hebrews 11:1-2)
9.Teach and model passionate spirituality. The Christian life is not meant to be dry and mundane. Even the Puritans were vibrant, just read their writings! Your job is to convince the people in your church to grow beyond just doing their duty to achieving spiritual passion and conviction. (Phil. 3:7-11)
10. The training, discipling, recognition, and encouragement of the church are critical roles for the pastor. If the senior pastor feels he does not have the gifts and abilities to equip and train others to do ministry, then he needs to build a team around him that does! If the training is not done, the church will fail! Some pastors are great teachers, but cannot do anything else. A pastor must operate in his gifted area, and encourage others who will compensate for him in the areas where he is weak. He must always strive to give support and to do the rest of these bullet points! (Romans 7:4-6; 1 Corinthians 10:14-16; 12; Ephesians 4:9-16)
11. Have a system of pastoral care to train your staff and leaders to immediately respond when they hear of a church member, especially another leader (most churches neglect their leaders, thinking they are OK and do not need anything!) or someone in their family with a pastoral need or emergency. Assign a key person to be in change by 24-hour shifts. Have a contact list and trained deacons or care workers to be ready to act when the need arises. No one is self-maintaining. We all need support and care! Make sure you have caring people to be there in a timely manner! (1 Corinthians 13:1-8; Colossians 4:5; 1 Timothy 3:14-15; Hebrews 12:14-15)
12. Confront sin, evil, and heresy in the church immediately! The leadership must put down conflict quickly, whether it involves political agendas, the color of the carpet, how to say an offertory prayer, what songs to sing, or who is to be in leadership. The church must move in purpose and unity. This is tough, but possible! (Philippians 2:14)
13. The church must be willing to spend at least one-third of its resources of time, talent, and money in outreach and missions. (Psalm 90:1-2)
14. Political agendas that are contrary to God's Word and Will are the second biggest disruption to the church! (John 13:35)
15. The church should strive to be effective. The best way to do this is by following the precepts of Scripture. We can organize the church by mobilizing the people according to their Spiritual Gifts! So few churches do this, even though it is so Scripturally clear! (Romans 12)
16. The church can achieve the extraordinary when the people serve in their area of their giftedness in a team manner. The quarrels and apathy will dry up as the energies are redirected and channeled in a Godly way. People will function less in their own strength and more in the power of the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12-14)
17. Good Biblical teaching and preaching will provide the Holy Spirit with fuel that energizes people and facilitates growth. The biggest growing churches are the ones who preach the Word with power, conviction, and in truth, such as Calvary Chapel (Acts 2:17-39)!
18. The leadership must have a real genuine sense and modeling of being Christ's servant, and the people in their care as His children. This is Servant Leadership Development. (Galatians 2:20-21; Ephesians 4:11-13)
19. Leaders of growing churches empower the people in their care. They do not see or use volunteers just as helpers, but as the tools and the prime resources with which to glorify God, and enablers of the goals of missions and needs to be reached. They do this by encouragement, training, and organization, all centered to have the people of God growing in and receiving the Spirit in order to reach the full potential that God has for them. If a pastor, coach, or key supervisor gives special recognition and encouragement even once, that leader and/or volunteer will usually remain very faithful and loyal to the church! (Romans 12; John 4:23; Colossians 1:24-29; 1 Timothy 4:15-16)
20. The leadership must be able to steer the church through rough white waters! (See our articles on Conflict Resolution, Gossip, and Hypocrisy, and Matthew 18)
21. The best plans and calls of the Lord will stall out due to conflict! God's voice is the first one muted--read the book of Amos! The Holy Spirit cannot work effectively when ill will and ill desires are running the roost. You must drop to your collective knees and pray for revival. That will work! However, church growth, spiritual or numerical, will never work in an atmosphere of conflict! (Philippians 1:6-8)
22. The best way to deal with conflict is to combat it through love. When people know that you love them and will listen to them, it is difficult for them to be mad. Love, indeed, covers a multitude of sins! (Proverbs 10:12 1 Peter 4:8)
23. Warning: do not agree when you do not! (Proverbs 9:8; 17:27-28; 26:20; 3 John 9-12)
24. Be careful about taking on too many negative people! Spread the load out. Delegate. There is only so much you can take, so guard your own heart too! (Proverbs 4:23)
25. If you want people to like you, then be nice to them! Interesting people are interesting because they are interested in others! People like people who like them, so be kind, thoughtful, listen, be polite, and do not forget to smile. Make sure you are real, for if you are not, then you are in the wrong position or profession! You must enjoy people and be interested in them to be a good leader or pastor. Being prideful and/or obnoxious only serves Satan! (James 1:2; Colossians 3:13)
26. Sometimes people just will not like you if you are modeling Christ, and some do not like to be led to Scriptural principles. These people are happy in their will and desires, and will not like the Fruits of the Spirit working around them. They are the weeds in the wheat. Let those people go, and focus on the ones whose hearts are after His! (Romans 16:17-18; Galatians 1:10; Titus 3:9-11)
27. Listening, without arguing or defending yourself, is extremely important! This requires prayer and self-discipline. If you cannot do it, you may be in the wrong profession. Have someone do it, just get it done! Your task is not to persuade people to accept your view, but to communicate Biblical precepts and get them to catch it! You are to make them feel heard. When they feel they are listened to, then their defenses will come down and relationships can be built. Then it will be a pleasure to lead them. They will respect and love you more, and will be more likely to be led by your goals. (Romans 8:31; Ephesians 4:25-29; James 3:1-12)
28. If, and when you use surveys, make sure you are determining between perceived felt needs versus real needs and what God is calling you to! Otherwise, you will take your church down a rabbit trail away from God's call! (Ephesians 5:8-21)
29. A leader must be willing to make improvements and change, even if it steps on the toes of others, but stay firm and be uncompromising to the Word. At the same time, allow people to be in the process with a listening ear, so they can catch the new direction and take ownership of it. (Colossians 4:7-8; Philippians 4:8-9)
30. Are you and your leadership learning and growing in community with one another, willing to go beyond your prejudices and fears and embrace what Christ has for you? (Colossians 1:24-29; 1 Timothy 3:14-15)
31. A church's spiritual health is a matter of focus. To develop an action plan, to change the pew-sitting church into the Christ powered church, you have to go beyond talking about it and actually do something! This requires a focus on Christ that turns into passion and conviction. That passion must come from growth in Christ. If it does not, you will be working for yourselves and not for the Lord and Creator of the Universe! The focus must be on Christ, not the church. That focus determines whether you have a survival mentality or a service mentality. Do you have a church filled with competing agendas, or one with a purpose that is poured out to our Lord? (Philippians 3:10)
32. A church must disciple, and small groups are the best means to do this. Arrange, train, and lead your small group leaders to teach the Bible clearly, going beyond just discussing passages to applying it to their daily lives. Make sure these groups focus on prayer, allowing healthy interaction, so people feel free to express issues, ask questions, and discuss the concerns of life, as the leadership encourages as well as teaches. (Psalm 119:9-12; Ecclesiastes 4:8-10; Matthew 6:33-34; 28:18-20)
33. Teach and model Discipleship, so that personal disciplines are in the Word, and you are filled with excitement and wonder, willing to train, share, and/or teach others what you have learned. (Matthew 28:18-20)
34. If the primary emphasis is on maintaining your building, or on getting more people involved, or on money, this is sure evidence that the focus is on survival. Do the people have a willingness to serve? If so, this is the greatest gauge of a Christ centered church! That willingness to model Christ in the community will only come out when it is done to others in the church first! That focus can only come out with a servant-focused attitude! (Matthew 28:18-20)
35. Pastors, who are real, and authentic, lead healthy churches. This builds trust. Real, authentic leaders will never grandstand, make up problems, or blame others, but will take responsibility, and tell their stories honestly. In wisdom, they will disclose truth, tempered with listening. Be open, and encourage the other leaders to do so too. Authentic leaders can be vulnerable and sensitive at the right times in the right places, and yet wise enough not to give out too much so as to be perceived as week and needy. Real Christians will forgive you for your mistakes when you are honest! (Acts; James 5:16; 1 John 1:8-10)
36. All to often in the American church, we try to offer people community without cause. The Seeker sensitive, watered down gospel says nothing and inspires people to do nothing. Without a real cause, the church is just another civic club, such as the Kiwanis or Lions. We have to teach the transformation that only Christ gives. (Ephesians 4:11-13)
37. Find out what the image of your church is in the community. To do this, go door to door, and ask people how you can pray for them, then come together as a church to pray for them. While you are asking them for prayer requests, ask if they know about your church and what you can do to improve. By doing this, you will get a feel about how the community sees you and then you can know what areas need improvement and work. This is a great project for all ages, especially youth groups! This prayer task can also be turned into a very effective way to reach out to people and transition into a "Lighthouse of Prayer." (Matthew 10)
38. Communicating the gospel in a postmodern context can make us feel forced to compete with the entertainment industry. Do not let this happen. Most people are over stimulated already, and do not always need the PowerPoint and multimedia show. They need reality. Use media as a tool if you need to, or if your people like it, but ask and find out! (I personally love PowerPoint, but I was on staff at a church that did not, so I did not use it.) We cannot compete with Hollywood. Furthermore, we do not have to! We have the power and presence of the living God! (Isaiah 55:6-11; Jeremiah 31:31-34; Romans 6:3-11)
39. Commitment to loving and caring relationships is essential! Loving relationships that are sincere, real, and practical from the work of Christ in your church will be the quintessential factor that will bring people in far better than any evangelism campaign could ever do! People do not want to just hear about Christ as much as they want to see and experience how Christian love really works. They can do this through you! Remember that Christ lived and taught the principle that people respond when we reach out to them. (Mark 12:28-31; John 3:22; 13:35; 1 Corinthians 13)
40. Organize a prayer base in your church. See our Prayer Channel for details. See the article in our prayer channel, Leading the Church to be People of Prayer. (John 13:34-35; 20:19-23; Romans 12:1-21)
41. For successful evangelism, the key is to focus the church's evangelistic efforts on the questions and needs of non-Christians. Find the need that is not being fulfilled and fulfill it, such as a parent support group, a daycare or an after school program. (2 Corinthian 2:3-4; Colossians 1:24-29; 1 Peter 3:15)
42. Do not be afraid to preach Biblical stewardship and how to handle money. If you do not know how, acquire resources to help you. Stewardship, as well as generosity, is a sure sign of the health of your church. A stifled church, no matter how many are attending, will always have financial problems, where a small, poor church with real conviction and purpose will usually have enough! (Proverbs 3:9-10)
43. Make sure your programming is appropriate and needed. (Philippians 3:12-14)
44. A healthy church is prayerful in all of the aspects of church life and ministry. They are reliant upon God's power and the authority of His Word! (John 15:4-5)
Copyright 1988, 1998, 2000 Dr. Richard J. Krejcir,Discipleship Tools http://www.discipleshiptools.org/