How To Grow Your Church

One of the most discussed issues in the evangelical world over the last couple of decades has been the debate over how to grow a  One of the catalysts for this discussion has been the rise of the megachurch.  Churches like the Rick Warren led Saddleback Church and the Bill Hybels led Willow Creek have led pastors of smaller churches to try to emulate the “success” of these pastors as their churches exploded in numbers.  This fascination with numerical growth has even reached the point in many circles where good methodology is defined and determined by the amount of new people it brings in to the church.

I could perhaps understand the fascination with all the debate over methodology, growth, and the like if the Bible did not give us any clear answers on how the church should be grown.  Because if that were the case then we would indeed be left on our own to figure out the best way to grow our churches.  The problem with that is that the Bible does give us some pretty clear indication of how God desires His church to be grown.

Consider these words from the apostle Paul who spent nearly the entirety of his life as a follower of Christ as a missionary and church planter:

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. — 1 Corinthians 1:17-18

What does this have to do with church growth?  Let’s take a closer look and see.

First, Paul states that the purpose for which he was sent out by Christ was the proclamation of the gospel.  Not only the proclamation of the gospel, but more specifically the plain proclamation of the gospel.  Paul is clear that he intentionally avoids “words of eloquent wisdom” because he fears robbing the cross of its power.

Let that sink in for a moment.

The very thing that many church growth gurus encourage, namely preaching the gospel in a more eloquent manner, is the very thing Paul says can rob the cross of its saving power.  He isn’t worried about making the gospel more accessible or understandable or anything else.  Paul, who planted thriving churches throughout the ancient world, says his mission was to plainly preach the gospel of the cross of Christ and let its power be what draws and saves sinners.

So, you want to grow your church pastor?

Put down the latest church growth book.  Cancel your trip to that church growth conference.  Stop trying to emulate the megachurch down the road or across the state.

Open your bible and reacquaint yourself with the powerful gospel of Jesus Christ.  Know it inside and out.  Preach it boldly and plainly.

It worked for Paul.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. — Romans 1:16

7 thoughts on “How To Grow Your Church

  1. Pingback: Pastor, ¿Así que quieres hacer crecer tu iglesia? | LOCURAS Y PENSAMIENTOS DE UN JOVEN PASTOR

  2. I don’t think there is or has to be a disconnect between practical research and the Word. I think way to often (and maybe I just haven’t read the same books you have) church growth books are based on either principles from the business world or they are, as you mentioned, “here is what worked for me and it will work for you and your church too” type books. I absolutely agree that research and knowledge about your community or your target audience is important. As long as it helps inform you as to how to bring the Word to bear and how best to teach the Word to that audience. What I have seen is other methodology become the primary focus of the church in its effort to reach people. The primary method of growing a church is Christ being formed in the body of Christ through the teaching and preaching of the Word and then the body taking the Word out to the communities God has placed them. How they take the Word out will be informed by who is in that community and knowing that is beneficial.

    But even then the gospel must be communicated clearly and plainly even if it may be received poorly.

    I don’t think we are as far apart on this as it appears. I appreciate you taking the time to engage with me on this.

  3. It makes no sense to just dismiss all the research done by dedicated, Christian scholars on this topic. After all, God gave them the wisdom and skills to do that research. God created the realities that prevail in the research process, if it is conducted properly. The early Christians, in the very first chaptes of Acts, are already collecting numbers and paying attention to audience segments. The mission of the church is dictated by Jesus, not by research, but the research tools are among His gifts to the church to help it make wise decisions and think creatively about strategy. To over-simplify things is to dishonor God by insulting His gifts!

    • So it is your belief that I have misread Paul in the passage I posted? I will readily admit that is a possibility (I am far from infallible) and am open to correction if that is the case. If so, what do you believe Paul to be saying there?

      • I don’t see anything in the passage that leads to the conclusion that what can be learned from practical research about what works and what doesn’t is to be ignored or devalued. Paul clearly engaged in this kind of thinking. He focused on the “god-fearers,” the non-Jewish believers in the Jehovah God of the Old Testament who attended synagogues but were hesitant to go ahead with circumcision (understandable with the medical technology of the time). He proclaimed that since the Messiah had come, circumcision need no longer be an issue and this was good news particularly for this target group. When the synagogue became conflicted with his new teachings, then he withdrew (see Acts 18 as one typical passage) and started a house church similar to the synagogues of the time (gatherings, not facilities) nearby. I just don’t see the big disconnect between Scripture and practical research that you see. I don’t think it is somehow more holy to focus on passages of Scripture and play them off against other valuable knowledge. Obviously, the Word of God is primary, but in this case there really is not conflict between the Word of God and the findings of real research. Please understand not every book about “how to grow the church” is based in research. The vast majority are simply somebody telling their own story and the extrapolations they make to tell others how to do it are useless because they are not based in real research. Just because something worked for me in a given church does not mean it will work for every pastor everywhere.

  4. Pingback: Pastor, ¿Así que quieres hacer crecer tu iglesia? | LOCURAS Y PENSAMIENTOS DE UN JOVEN PASTOR

  5. Pingback: So… you want to grow your church? Is it as simple as this? |

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