Over the past couple of years, I’ve had the privilege of planting another church. In April 2011, our church-planting team and a core group of believers launched Grace Church outside of Nashville.
The methods of planting may have changed, but the motivation has stayed the same.
Needless to say, I love church planting. Yet church planting is different today than it was 25 years ago when I planted my first church in Buffalo, N.Y. We started that first church plant in Buffalo just going door to door. In other churches, we used direct mail, telemarketing campaigns and just about any other way to get the word out.
Almost any time I mention numbers related to church life, I anticipate some responses about the value of numbers and congregations. In the 1980s, this type of discussion came primarily from more liberal churches that weren’t growing.
Some of these leaders felt that declining membership and attendance were likely a sign of health. The members who really cared about the church were the ones who remained. They could make the biggest difference without the more nominal members remaining as obstacles.
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.
Books and seminars on leadership dominate pastoral reading. And that is good. The axiom is true that an organization or a church does not rise higher than its leader.
But do leadership and ministry equal the same thing? I do not think so. Ministry includes much more.
When I am looking for an example or prototype for ministry, I first look to Jesus. How did He minister? What kind of a minister was He? If He is the Chief Shepherd (Pastor) and I the undershepherd, what kind of pastor or minister am I to be? If I am to follow in His steps, what were His steps?
Let me lift from His ministry a brief moment that encapsulates Jesus’ pastoral concern. I do not pretend that this pericope represents the totality of truth about Jesus as our model for ministry, but I find in it three essentials that serve as an example for us.
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:
Whatever your goals are for the rest of this year, I’d like to encourage you to include at least one goal that helps other churches.
Helping other churches is a multiplication strategy. If you can help someone else do what you do well, you’ve doubled your effectiveness. More importantly, Genesis 12 indicates that we are blessed to be a blessing.
Helping others has always been God’s intention for His people, particularly for leaders.