Have you ever asked yourself, “Why are they growing and I'm not? What makes me different? Why them and not me?” These are questions I have asked myself repeatedly. Interestingly enough, I would compare similar questions to someone who is single desiring to be in a relationship. Doubt begins to kick in and one may begin to ask “Am I attractive enough? Why don't they like me?” We then find ourselves changing, and subsequently begin to try to look and act like someone or something we are not. God only requires us to be us. We should focus on being the best we can be, with what we have. We have to use the talents that He has given us. This is a situation church planters know too well. In my current reality, I am a pastor of a multi-cultural, multi-generational church of 180 with a consistent Sunday morning worship attendance of 96. Do I desire for our church to be filled to capacity? Absolutely! But, I also know that God will not allow us to expand if we are not ready or have the capacity. We can have all the components in place (greeters, hospitality center stocked with coffee and donuts, a scream team, perfect lighting, and aesthetics) but, if God is not ready to open the floodgates, we have to be patient and wait on the Lord. While we are waiting, we should be faithful in our serving and not with a motive of serving to grow. According to the Bible, growth happens with community and fellowship with one another;
Snellville pastor Richard Bumpers shares insight on how to grow a church from his experience launching a re-plant congregation.
“So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:46-47This tells me that if we are faithful to prayer, building authentic relationships with one another, and praising and worshiping God, the Lord will give us favor through our intentionality with one another. Growth must first happen among the body of church planters before it can happen with the people you are trying to reach. In an organization I previously worked for, ministry was driven by numbers. Our evaluation was based on our effectiveness to reach, grow, and attract. Somehow, I believe this has become the standard for healthy ministry. I haven’t read about this measure of evaluation anywhere in the Bible. Jesus did tell a parable of the great banquet in Luke 14:23:
Then the master said to the servant, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.’We have missed the purpose of the parable for the push to fill the house. We have taken the word compel out of context and defined it in modern terms to mean bribe into relationships instead of building relationships. We compel by our compassion, commitment, and authenticity, not by growth strategies and campaigns. Church planting is not about growing larger churches, but about reaching those who are lost, disenfranchised, and without hope. Do not get me wrong, an attractive atmosphere for guests to have a great worship experience is good, however; it cannot be the focus. Church planting is not a business – it is a call. Our goal should not be to have a large church, but to have an effective church. People are drawn to authentic and personal relationships, not strategies and gimmicks. Growth is not a formula, but a fulfillment to faithfully serve those who need to hear the greatest story ever told about Jesus. When Jesus fed the 5,000 in Matthew 14:13-21, do you think that he set out to have that many follow him? Do you think Jesus intended to have a massive following at the start of his ministry? In fact, it was the total opposite, but the people followed him and because of his compassion and authentic desire to care for the people, they stayed. Jesus was first concerned and moved by their emotional and physical needs, not by the number that was following. Too often, we focus on the growth strategy of the 5,000 to come instead of caring for the need of the multitude of those already around us. I’ve found some key principles to help me stay focused on the growth strategy of people instead of remaining in the rat race of church numerical growth.
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