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 church. 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