A gracEmail reader in central Texas writes: “Our congregation is not growing. Some believe it is because we do not know how to grow a church. We need help. Can you suggest some guidelines that might help us get started?”
* * *
It is good for us to think about the growth of God’s kingdom and of his church, and to pray and work accordingly. We must fill our minds with Scripture principles, however, lest we be distracted by worldly models of success (Rom. 12:1-2; Col. 3:1-3). The Bible emphasizes the spiritual growth of God’s men and women, individually and collectively, not the numerical growth of a particular local assembly (Eph. 2:21; 4:14-15; 1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18). The goal of godly growth is the glory of God (Isaiah 61:3; John 15:8). The source of such growth is God himself (1 Cor. 3:6-7). The means of such growth is union with Christ (John 15:1-6; Eph. 4:16; Isaiah 61:11).
The more important question is not our size but our faithfulness to God. The church originally met in private homes (Acts 12:12; Col. 4:15; Philemon 1-2). Sometimes God increases the numbers of believers in a particular city (Acts 2:47; 5:14; 11:24), and sometimes he scatters believers for the spread of the Gospel (Acts 8:2). Yet this does not minimize our need for introspection. Our first priority must be God’s kingdom and righteousness (Matt. 6:33), and some other questions might help us determine whether it really is.
What would you consider church “growth?” Transfers of membership? Proselytes from other denominations? Conversions of the unsaved? A productive fruit tree must grow deep roots, then strong branches, and finally healthy fruit. Can you identify your church’s situation in those terms? What is the primary message from your pulpit? Is it Christ or something else? What do your members perceive to be the church’s most urgent mission? Do you view ministry as the business of every Christian — or as something done by paid professionals?
Are you convicted, energized or encouraged by the singing, praying, preaching or Communion each Sunday? Do visitors ever say they sense the Presence of God in your assemblies? Do you allow any room for God’s immediate prompting? Are peace and joy hallmarks of your church? Do outsiders sense Christ’s welcome and compassion through you? How do you relate to other Christians in the town who are not just like you? Do the people in your congregation obviously love each other and truly live in community? Do you together ask God to reveal his agenda for your congregation — then seek to hear his answer? Will you be content to serve God faithfully, at any numerical size?