I believe the most overlooked key to growing a church is this: We must love unbelievers the way Jesus did. Without His passion for the lost, we will be unwilling to make the sacrifices necessary to reach them.
Jesus loved lost people. He loved spending time with them. He went to their parties. From the Gospels, it is obvious that Jesus enjoyed being with seekers far more than being with religious leaders. He was called the “friend of sinners” (Luke 7:34). How many people would call your church that?
Jesus loved being with people and they felt it. Even little children wanted to be around Jesus, which speaks volumes about what kind of person He was and what kind of pastor He’d be. Children instinctively seem to gravitate toward loving, accepting people.
If your church has plateaued in its growth for a while or shows signs of being unhealthy, things may need to change, and the pastor is the point person to produce positive change in any church’s culture.
Having said that, leading a church through change is difficult, and sometimes it can be detrimental if you don’t consider some important questions before starting the process.
Three aspects of change you should evaluate before shaking things up are:
A few months after we started New Song Church, I began to pray about how our little church could play a part in Jesus’ Acts 1:8 vision for the church. How could a young church like ours play a part in reaching our Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world?
Fast-forward 20 years, and God has done exceedingly abundantly above what we could ask or imagine. By His grace, New Song has played a measurable part in planting 163,000 churches around the world. Those 163,000 churches have seen over 7 million come to Christ.
I recently asked myself, “How did this happen?”
A young man in my last church cut off three of his fingers while cutting a piece of paneling in a van customizing shop. As he was being rushed to the hospital, he was asked, “Where are the fingers?” A man rushed back to the shop with a bowl of ice, grabbed the three digits and then rushed them to Birmingham in the ambulance along with the young man.
Nineteen hours of microsurgery reattached those fingers to the young man’s hand. Had they been left in the sawdust of that shop, the fingers would have been useless. They were only good to him if they were attached to his body.
It’s the same way when it comes to our attachment to the body of Christ, both globally and locally. We are members of the body—whether a finger, an ear, an eye or a spleen—and we need the rest of the body in order to live. We cannot make it on our own.
Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with a denominational leader in a different part of the country.
Over the last few years, he’s personally been involved in consulting engagements with about 60 declining churches within his denomination. That grabbed my attention. Honestly, I don’t have a lot of experience working with churches that are in decline.
With that in mind, I was curious to learn if there were any common themes. Within moments, he rattled off these five attributes of churches he’s worked with that are in decline:
“Since everything around us is going to melt away, what holy, godly lives you should be living!" (2 Peter 3:11 LB)
Your commitments can develop you, or they can destroy you, but either way, they will define you. Tell me what you’re committed to, and I’ll tell you what you’ll be in 20 years.
It is at this very point of commitment that most people miss God’s purpose for their lives. Many are afraid to commit to anything, so they just drift through life. Others make half-hearted commitments to competing values, and that leads to frustration and mediocrity. Others make a full commitment to worldly goals, such as becoming wealthy or famous, and they end up disappointed and bitter.