Yesterday was my last Sunday preaching at my beloved MTVchurch in Columbus, MS as I begin the transition to serve as Lead Pastor at Centreville Baptist Church in northern Virginia just outside of Washington, D.C. For my last sermon I tried my best to set my (now former) church up for success by giving them six rules for church growth. I hope these benefitted them and perhaps they’ll benefit you and your church as well.
Rule #1: Churches grow when we bring our friends. It’s not any more mysterious than that.
I first saw this statement in the book Church Growth Flywheel and it’s stuck with me ever since. So many times we make growing a church mystical and mysterious when it really isn’t. You bring your friends, your church grows. Now a major responsibility the church has is to make sure church doesn’t feel like your daughter’s 4th grade school play, where you’ll sit and suffer through it because you’re family but no way you’ll ever invite your boss to come check it out. But bring your friends and watch your church grow!
Rule #2: Care more about lost people going to heaven then lost people care about going to hell.
We’d never come out and say it, but many of us are too comfortable. We’ve got our seat. Our ticket to heaven is punched, we’re good. If you interact with the world at all, you’ll discover that people are determined to live their lives on the path that will lead them straight to hell. Our ‘want to’ has to be more powerful than their ‘want to’. To do what it takes to see lives changed, we have to care more about lost people going to heaven then lost people care about going to hell.
Rule #3: Marry the mission, date the model.
This gem came to me from Andy Stanley, and it’s simply a way to rephrase the very common struggle churches have of discerning between the things that can never change (like our foundational belief in Jesus as the Son of God and that he’s the only way to heaven) and the things that must change to reach a changing world (like buildings, programs, music styles). The churches that are suffering from a slow and steady march towards irrelevance and death are the churches that have married the model, and they’re committed to reaching people only a certain way. And if America ever goes back to the 1950s, they’re ready to go! Some things can never change, but a lot of things have to change. Growing church figure out what’s what.
Rule #4: The most attractive part of your church will always be the biblical family.
Society can’t offer most people a loving, functional family anymore. We are broken, isolated and alone. When the church functions like a biblical family, like community, it’s the most attractive part of any church. When you can walk onto a church campus and know that people will call you by name, care about you and your family and engage with you on a personal level, you’re staying there for life. Churches that practice true biblical community need to start figuring out where to put all the people that will be beating down their doors.
Rule #5: Don’t choose between grace and truth. Be both.
This is for all the culture warriors out there. The easiest thing to do is to pick a camp and start lobbing bombs at those on the other side. But Christians are called to be better than that. Jesus modeled what this looks like (John 1:17). His views on morality were stricter than the religious leaders of the day, and yet the people who wanted to hang around him the most were the tax collectors and prostitutes. When people flood into your growing church and they don’t have their beliefs, actions or priorities figured out, you don’t have to choose between grace and truth. You can be both.
Rule #6: Engage at your church like it’s all up to you, and pray like it’s all up to God.
This is the divine mystery, which Paul referenced often. We need to work, we need to give, we need to volunteer, we need to serve like it’s all up to us. Spiritual couch potatoes are only dead weight to a growing church. Yet at the same time, we have to be on our knees and ask God to do what only He can do in the hearts around us. If we work like it’s up to us and pray like it’s up to God, get ready for growth!