Becoming A Growing Church
In this post I am examining how a church becomes a “Growing Church”. My thoughts are taken from reading a post here “Level 1 Church moves to Level 4” where the author declares a level 1 church is “subtraction, scarcity, and survival”, level 2 churches are “tension, scarcity, survival, and growth”, level 3 churches are “addition, growth, and accumulation”, and level 4 church are “discontent, new scorecards and reproducing at all levels” and level 5 churches are “multiplying, releasing and sending”.
Let me begin by saying that I disagree with the author’s approach. You do not need to put “scientific” names on things and make them into more than they are, looking at NEW man-made programs to remedy problems, and trying to glamourize the thing in order to get people to read your words. I have spent my entire life in the ministry, and that ministry God has called me to is evangelism and church planting. I am putting down my thoughts here on this.
Getting our Foundation Right
The church is a kind of organization, but also an organism. Churches are arranged internally by men, but a church is also a living thing if it is at all pleasing to God. Here is where we start sorting out the wheat from the chaff. Not all churches have a biblical foundation because their doctrine and practices are not founded on God’s Word. I can declare that Kingdom Halls (Jehovah’s Witnesses) and Mormon “Churches” are not biblical churches, and it makes no different what they do, they are still condemned because their doctrinal basis and foundation is just not there. They are not included in Jesus’ famous words,
Matt 16:18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Going beyond the obvious here, that many “churches” in our day are just not worthy of the name “church”. They are error clubs. But I am Baptist, and there are a goodly number of Baptist churches that are not much better. I say that because I see their false doctrines and unscriptural practices, and I can come to no good conclusion about them. They do not fulfill their biblical purpose.
So what is the biblical purpose of a church?
God designed churches to do the work of God on earth. This is similar to a country taking a group of men and making them into a fighting unit. It makes no difference if they have some that get called back, others get sick and sent off, and others go AWOL. Whether they have a net gain or loss, or they become bigger numerically or smaller (special forces are typically a small group in action), but that doesn’t grade their quality as excellent or poor. What does make them good mediocre or poor is how they fulfill their purpose.
The biblical purpose of a church is to accomplish the will of God, and accomplish the work of God. This must be clearly discerned and strongly held to and promoted and become the church’s mission. A biblical church has to give the gospel out to the unsaved. This is where everything begins. It is seen on several levels, preaching a clear gospel in the church, preaching a clear gospel in their neighborhood, and supporting missionaries that are doing the very same thing, pushing a clear gospel abroad unto the uttermost parts of the earth. I have seen satanic doctrines like Calvinism or hyper-calvinism (I don’t see much difference personally, one is going to the position of not witnessing, and the other is already there), internal fighting and bickering, sidetracking like praising ourselves to death (as if praise was an entertainment experience, and not something that we do to please God), and other idiotic doctrinal positions like the emerging church (universalism where we don’t need to witness because everybody will get to heaven eventually).
A biblical church is built on the foundation of a clear forceful gospel message that is energetically given out. The center point (flag pole) around which everything in the church rotates is that of our Savior, our salvation. Nobody can be a part of the church really without saluting that flag. So many “churches” today simply have unsaved people peppering their membership, and some even running things, so that “to them” distractions and leaving the centerpiece of Jesus Christ and his cross work is “just natural”. A biblical church has that centerpiece clear in its crosshairs, and is pushing for evangelism.
It sickens me when I see evangelism delegated to underlings because the pastor decides it is “indecorous” for him to go out door to door and tell people about Christ. Instead of being a leader and example to the flock, he is an embarrassment to Christ and that church and their people.
1Pet 5:2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 1Pet 5:3 Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.
A pastor is to be an “ensample” or example of Christ to the flock. If Christ thought it was so important as to come to earth and die on the cross, how can a pastor relegate it to being unimportant for him, and set it aside completely, or turn it over to an “evangelism pastor” so that he doesn’t have to do it.
On the flip side here, I see certain churches that are promoting easy-believism. These churches are “soul winning” churches. You would think this is the place to be, but they remove repentance from their gospel presentation, and they gloss over true belief. Instead they want lip service to the gospel, and people “just repeat the words” and then are told they will go to heaven. We can discern this false gospel because typically they will have 1000s “saved”, 50 or so baptized out of those 1000s, and they grow by 10s. These churches are very “porous” meaning that as well as many come in, many leave without any problem. It never bothers these pastors and leaders of these churches that they are responsible for disciplining these 1000s and in a month, they don’t know where they went to. To question their gospel or gospel presentation as lacking something is not in their mindset.
So a true biblical church will be a soul winning church. There will be a culture of evangelism in which the pastor is an excellent example of a soul winner, but there will also be a number of men and women who also can sit down and witness to an unsaved person and lead them to Christ. This body of people do this regularly in the church. Moreover, the people emulate them, and they are joyfully wanting to learn how to do it also.
Internal Functioning of a Biblical Church
Once we get that thought of biblical evangelism, we need to understand that we cannot just do evangelism. The mission we have is to also disciple our converts into our movement and to become good Christ-like Christians (as we should be). Here the easy-believism churches think that discipling is summed up in learning about soul winning, and “we are done”. Not so fast.
The actual local church is a workshop of sorts, and this is where the magic happens. People need to grow spiritually, and God (in his genuis) has set up the local church as a place and a means for this spiritual growth to happen. First of all, all spiritual growth begins and is based on God’s word. A biblical church has an extreme addiction to the word of God. They preach and teach it constantly. They see the Bible as their only authority.
Moreover a biblical church gauges all things personally and corporately by the rule of God’s Word. When homosexual “politically correction” garbage comes along, they see what God’s word says about it, and they openly and forcefully condemn it because God’s Word presents a different position. A biblical church is “Fundamentalist”, which means that they understand that God has given us fundamentals (essential core doctrines) and these doctrines are to be championed above all else. Salvation, the clear gospel message is one such fundamental.
This thinking or mindset is instilled in the church’s people. We need to understand that a biblical church “sells” their mission and approach to their own people constantly. It is a pressure that is exerted by the pastor and leadership in which many of the members “get onboard” and participate in the witnessing and disciplining. So many churches want to be “good” but they just teach inane Bible facts. These Bible facts have a purpose that dovetails in with God’s purpose of evangelism and discipleship.
What people don’t realize is that the key to this is much more than a body of facts to be memorized. Body life where we relate one to another is where the godly principles are truly understood and then can be internalized, and can the spiritually transform the person. This “body life interaction” is a spiritual activity that shows Christ through our speech and actions but also through our attitudes. This is the spark that makes witnessing real for those outside of Christianity. They see Christ in us, and they want what we have, peace, tranquility in the presence of problems and anguish, love between brethren, sacrifice emanating out of a profound love of Christ that works itself out in the form of selfless good will towards others.
All of this has to happen in the context of a local church within their functions, services, and fellowship. No other context will do. This is superimposed on a conext of constant biblical exposition and preaching directed at these very same points. The preaching must not be exposition that has no application, but rather “morality forming” which is preaching that has a purpose, to make Christ within the people. So many churches think that “knowing Bible facts” is being Christlike, but actions are the only thing that will prove Christlikeness. Character must be formed also, but character likewise is only seen in actions.
Characteristics of a Biblical, “Successful” Church
So when we want to know if a church is “successful” IN THE EYES OF GOD, we must start by asking ourselves some questions.
Do the people love Christ, and Christ’s redeemed?
The action we see here is concern and sacrifice. When people actually show up to the church services (all of them) and are interacting with the rest of the people, asking them how they are, praying for their needs and problems, and finally, sacrificing for their needs, this is the action of a successful church.
1John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 1John 4:8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
God makes a clear statement that Christians who do not love other Christians have never been born again. That person claiming to be saved hasn’t a clue about God and what goes on inside of God and all of God’s children. This is extremely important because today so many churches are hotbeds of contention and fighting. No love there. This is horrible. God condemns this the most forceful way possible, i.e. you are not even saved if you do not love and enjoy and want healthy fellowship with your brethren in Christ.
Do the people witness the clear Gospel message?
If we (the church) are achieving our goal as to forming Christ in the people, and Christ’s chief concern was the salvation of men, then our people should 1) know how to lead a person to Christ, and it is a plus when they specifically are experts in leading children, cultists, etc. to Christ. 2) when they are actually leading people to the Lord (here new faces that come and stay because somebody lead them to the Lord and/or invited them to join our fellowship, 3) the church services/sermons are such that visitors are given the clear Gospel message frequently, and people who are not saved are invited to Christ.
It is disgusting to see churches that never invite people to Christ, if somebody wants to be saved, nobody seems to know what to do with them at that point, and there is no interest in winning people to Christ. Again, we must emphasize that there are churches that confuse the gospel with other things, and there is no clear emphasis on the gospel. To “make a decision” is not the same as accepting Christ. To come and knee at the front is not the same thing as some experienced believer sitting down with an open Bible explaining the plan of salvation. Giving money in the offering is great, but it is not salvation. Charity work with the needy is also wonderful, but it is not the same as giving the gospel message. So often good men “tack on a gospel appeal” to other things, and the entire program and event is not developed around the gospel in the first place, and the gospel seems “out of place” in such things.
Does the church support missionaries that give a clear Gospel message?
I am a missionary. Book ministries, summer camps, Bible schools, radio programs, counseling programs, all these are good things, but it is not the same thing as actually giving the plan of salvation. Today missions is stuffed to the gills with missionaries that do everything except actually give a clear gospel explanation. Missionaries that are true biblical missionaries like Paul and Barnabas are people who are highly involved in mass evangelism, and then direct the converts into a local church if available, or start one if not available.
Churches are responsible for selecting good missionaries highly involved in getting the gospel out. If you want to support some other “ministry”, do so, but not with money marked for missions. Do it with benevolence funds, but keep a good portion of your gifts on biblical missions. Beyond giving, a successful church is constantly supporting in other ways their missionaries, like through times of prayer for them.
What level of Church is your church?
To get back to the article’s premise that a “successful” church or a truly biblical church is one who is a level 5 “multiplying, releasing and sending”, what about this? Actually you cannot force this on a church that is not a biblical church. The Roman Catholic Church and other churches do these things, but they are not successful in God’s eyes. Many Protestant churches likewise multiply, train, and send out workers, but they are not a biblical church and they are not pleasing in God’s eyes.
The issue here is what causes the multiplying, training, and sending out workers? The answer is God has set principles into all of this, the what and where and how and wherefore of the church, and only by observing these principles will it work correctly. The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons are good examples of how this doesn’t work. The JWs teach that their people must spend somewhere between 20 to 40 hours per week in door to door work in order to get to heaven. Great! So where I am in Mexico City, we see groups of 40 JWs going door to door. But they are counting hours, not witnessing. Their gospel is “join us and study with us (submit to our authority) and everything will go good for you when the Apocalypse happens.” That is actually their pitch when somebody answers door and listens to them. What you see though is their people arguing inanely and without purpose with the people in the street, and most people just refuse to talk of religion at their front door. We have been met with “Are you a JW?” when we knock on doors. Moreover, I read on the main JW website, JW.ORG that they tell their leaders that they need to spend at least around 500+ hours to get 1 new convert. The Mormons are similar. They practice multiple wives for each mormon man despite their denying it. So when you have 1 man, basically 1 income, and 5 wives and 25 kids, how do you feed and clothe them? How do you send them through school and college? Brigham Young University. For every good Mormon young person that goes on a 1 year missionary trip (paying his own expenses) he gets his 4 years for free. What we see is the motivation is totally wrong. Where is Christlikeness in all of this activity? Nowhere.
If we turn to the easy believism deeply entrenched within Fundamental Baptists, we see the same. They are taught that only soul winners get a free pass with God. Jack Hyles said that God overlooks a soul winning pastor when he falls into sin, and so should the rest of Christianity. So witnessing is a “get out of jail free” card with God. Nothing different here either then.
Where true Christianity differs with these false churches is that the motivation is to be like Christ, so they tell others of Christ’s saving power. They focus on the cross, and on the person of Christ as their example, what they want to emulate. Only when churches are grounded and saturated in the truth of God (this is the truth of God), then will they naturally multiply, then will they willingly seek to ministry, and then will they volunteer to go around the world to carry their religion to others.
I saw a Pew report (I believe it was) that said the number one reason why people join a church is because of a personal contact in that church. In other words, they were invited by a family member or friend, or they knew nobody but visited and somebody made an impression as being friendly and followed that up. That is overwhelmingly the reason people join a church. That is being like Christ. Christ loved.
What is the number one problem why our churches fail?
It is very simply because God’s people are not in the word growing personally and individually, and therefore Satan comes along and uses their immaturity, and causes somebody in the church to do something that “offends them” and a small war is set off. When people are fighting amongst themselves, they are not doing God’s will nor God’s work. The friendliness of the church disappears quickly. The Holy Spirit like a dove gets easily disturbed by this aggressive activity and flies away. Nothing is good no matter how “biblical” it is after that.
We must understand that we are in a spiritual fight, a contest, a competition. Satan desires to have us, basically to keep us from being anything or doing anything for God. When we get caught up in trivial things (from an eternal standpoint) then we get sidetracked. We don’t do what God wants us to do. That is why we fail.
How do I make my church grow?
While there are a lot of people out there preaching and teaching secrets, the truth is do what God wants. Go back to the Bible, and just obey it. Refuse to allow anything else to take over the assembly, and center things on Christ, salvation and the gospel, and the body life as it should be if we are loving Christ and loving each other because of our love of Christ.
Growth is something that you really cannot force. It is a lot like farming. You just get the right elements together, and there is some critical timing (like when to plant, and in a church, when to get literature, help, interest, energy, etc. into a new believer, or a grieving Christian, etc.), but basically there is no secret. If the right elements are there, growth unto fruit will come.
What we do so wrong in our churches is to try to “force fruit”. First we “jump the gun” defining fruit as being an outward external act or character. Good Christians all are generous. So we try to force our people to be generous. But it doesn’t work that way. When people’s hearts get right, they will be generous to the right thing. That is the problem. We try to define what spiritual fruit is in ways that are not right. Then we try to force that conduct on our people, and often they will do it but without the spiritual motivation, and everything goes wrong.
Will that always make the church grow? No.
People do not understand that life is very complicated. If we examine Israel, we see that they were hell bent on not following and loving God. There were revivals and repentance that lasted for generations, but eventually things got so bad that God had to punishment them and cut them off from the favored place where they had at one time. Many times churches take a similar path. The people are so ornery and mean that God will chasten them, and even extend it to their children and grandchildren when the children and grand children do not break from their parents sins.