Everyone wants the sure thing.
If we just learn the right principles, follow the latest How To Grow Your Church list, or (my favorite) “do it like the early church”, then Boom! Our church is guaranteed numerical success.
Here’s the reality behind church growth.
You can predict church failure. Do enough of the wrong things (or not enough of the right things) and almost anyone can predict that a church body is doomed.
But you can’t predict church growth.
You can remove the obstacles to growth. You can put in systems that will help you be ready for growth. You can pray for growth, work for growth, preach about growth, evangelize for growth…
But none of that makes numerical church growth guaranteed or predictable.
Why There Are No Growth Guarantees
How can I be so sure? Because there are so many great pastors and congregations that followed all the right steps but didn’t see the promised results. And there are other congregations that have made a ton of mistakes, but experienced rapid growth.
One church says “we followed the latest research, changed what needed to be changed, upgraded our music, our facility, our discipleship program, and that’s why we grew.” Another church says “all we did was preach the Word, and that’s why we grew.”
Meanwhile a third church says “we followed the latest research, changed what needed to be changed, upgraded our music, our facility, our discipleship program, but didn’t grow at all.” While the church down the street says “we’re just staying faithful and preaching the Word, but we’re not growing either.”
What you won’t ever hear is “we argue a lot over music, it takes forever to get a budget item approved, we criticize the pastor’s every decision, and we expect new people to do things the way we’ve always done them – and wow, have we been growing!”
That’s why, while you can’t predict or guarantee church growth, you can predict church failure.
Thankfully, there’s one more thing you can predict – church health.
You Can Predict Church Health
Want a healthy church? It’s not easy, but it is simple.
Behave like a healthy church.
Do what the New Testament tells us to do.
The Great Commandment: Love God, love each other.
The Great Commission: Tell others about Jesus’ love for them.
Make Disciples: using what I like to call The Pastoral Prime Mandate, from Ephesians 4:11-12, the leaders of the church (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) are not called to do ministry for church members, but to “equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.” (ESV)
If we follow the essential New Testament principles, we’ll have a healthy church. Guaranteed.
No Maybes About It
Whether a congregation gets bigger or not, church health is the one positive thing we can predict.
A healthy church may not be easy to come by and it’s a struggle to get there if the church is currently unhealthy
But it’s not a secret. There are no maybes about it.
And when it happens it’s an amazing thing to behold.
Church growth is a mystery.
Church failure is predictable.
But church health is what really matters.
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