Have you ever wondered why your church is not growing, or what you can do to make it grow?
I want to share some ideas that can be helpful to your congregation or to your pastoral or personal leadership skills. These five practical steps will help your church grow, enhance body ministry in your congregation and make it easier for your church members to find and fulfill their giftings.
1. Use the latest technology. Incorporate all current existing social media technologies in your overall advertisement campaign and your ministry. YouTube, email, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook are some of the venues for sharing inspirational thoughts for the day from your church as well as for disseminating PR material and effectively informing people about your church. However, someone with expertise in electronic communication and developing succinct sound bytes and videos should do PR.
While this professional approach may seem unspiritual to some, it is not. Suppose we applied this train of thought to other spiritual gifts and attempted to operate in the gift of Word of knowledge without the knowledge. How would the outcome be? Or suppose we tried to prophesy without first hearing from the Holy Spirit? What impact would that have on your congregation?
In like manner, if we do not have the professional skills to present our creative ideas in a technological format, our congregation might shrink rather than grow. Wise pastors will focus on what is in line with their calling, and recruit the services of those who are skilled in today's technology to enhance the ministry of the local church and develop the body of Christ. Thus, ministry, outreach and PR will be able to flow harmoniously and pleasing as unto God, thereby edifying the entire body and possibly attracting many people to your congregation.
2. Develop a vision. "Where there is no vision, the people perish; but happy is he who keeps the teaching (Prov. 29:18, MEV). So often, the first half of this encouraging verse is quoted, but not the second half. However, the second half of the verse is what empowers one to develop a vision. Attending to the counsel of God is the bedrock from which our individual visions are birthed to do great things for the kingdom of God. Knowledge comes by attending to the teaching of God's Word; as a result, the Holy Spirit illuminates our minds. Righteous living gives us the desire to expand God's kingdom on earth, and that desire feeds our vision to reach our communities for Christ.
Envisioning a plan or outreach should be followed by sharing that vision with board members, friends, team members, church members and other relevant people, with an invitation to those who are on board with you to engage in strategic planning to fulfill that vision. At this point, designating various aspects of the strategic plan to those with the appropriate corresponding gifts and skills should occur, so that the team can bring the vision to fruition, resulting in church growth. While pastors and other church leaders remain the source of the spiritual vision or plan, other appropriately gifted individuals are able to package that vision in a way that grabs the attention of readers, viewers and other potential church members and supporters in your community.
3. Provide quality ministry. Quality ministry does not flourish under a lone ranger. Lone rangers tend to burn out. Rather, quality ministry is most effective when church members are encouraged to explore their giftings with the freedom to fail so that they can find out where they fit in. For example, when John Wimber taught "Signs & Wonders" at Fuller Theological Seminary (MC510) in 1982 and 1983, he gave students the freedom to explore, practice and experience the gifts of the Spirit during the last hour of class time after his lectures.
He called that last hour of class each week the "clinic," and he gave us the freedom to fail, with no pressure to perform perfectly and no fear of embarrassment. This kind of freedom produces growth and maturity in our giftings that stays with us for the remainder of our lives. Some of us experienced the miraculous, including healings, wisdom, experience in the supernatural and insight as a result. Consider what would happen if every pastor allowed both the instruction and the freedom for practical learning in their congregations during services or during home fellowship groups. Think how revival could be ignited in various communities across the nation and even around the world.
4. Evangelize. Evangelism is not merely speaking forth God's Word, or throwing seed onto unknown ground. The full range of evangelism goes further in leading people past salvation and into long-term maturity; it includes planting the seeds, fertilizing the ground, nurturing and watering the seeds and bringing forth fruit to our work. Engel's Scale of Evangelism is a helpful tool to show what is involved in evangelism, culminating in the first group of disciples multiplying themselves, and in turn evangelizing others.
Evangelism is not an option in Christian living. Christ gave us a mandate to do this. He said, "'All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.' Amen" (Matt. 28:18b-20). All Christians are called to be witnesses unto Christ. By definition, we are witnesses that Jesus Christ is living in our souls. Although not all of us may have the gift or calling of evangelism, we all have the mandate to share Christ through both our verbal witness and our everyday living. All believers are witnesses that Christ is alive and is living in each of us.
5. Communicate with society. Pastors and congregations need to be in regular communication with people in their communities outside of their church family. This can take place in a variety of ways: personal contact, face-to-face, door-to-door, by telephone, through electronic communication as previously discussed, letters, media ministries, mailers, and/or other ways. I have told numerous Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses who have come to my door, or who are my friends, that they are doing what the rest of us should be doing. If the rest of us did what they do, the world would be a much better place. They exemplify step number five by keeping in touch with society and reaching outside the walls of their respective meeting places to make a difference in the world.
There is no excuse for the church to be so timid as to hide within their four walls wondering why we do not see society turning to Jesus Christ. One sure way to become a strong, vibrant Christian is to begin verbally witnessing to others about Christ. If you want to see your faith grow quickly, open your mouth and speak forth the Word of God to a stranger or an unsaved acquaintance, and attempt to lead him or her to Christ. Develop relationships in the community through communication with the goal of reaching your community for Christ, and watch your church grow.
James F. Linzey, M.Div., studied church growth under C. Peter Wagner and Signs & Wonders under John Wimber at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the chief editor of the Modern English Version Bible and is ordained as a Southern Baptist Convention minister.
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