In a follow up to my March newsletter article blog “WHY MORE PEOPLE DON’T MEET JESUS AT YOUR CHURCH.” I’m going to seek to write each month for the remainder of 2017 about instilling a “WHATEVER IT TAKES” mentality in our churches. Be advised that whenever I highlight or use that phrase, I am talking about all that is within the boundary of Scripture. I can tell you now, that you are not going to agree with everything I write…but I DO promise you that each word will be prayed over intended to challenge the church to BE CHRIST in the communities where you serve.
I’ve cited many times a Lifeway study that indicates that 8 out of 10 of the approximately 4000,000 churches in America are declining or have stopped growing/plateaued. Ground is still being lost despite the pace for new church plants (which ARE seeing growth in reaching people who are unchurched). SO, if this is true…what can we do? WHATEVER IT TAKES!!!
I have always been a student of trends and in this case it is studying what do churches do that ARE growing versus churches that are not? Let me first say this and say it clearly, Scripture and experience are clear: 1) God intend that living things grow. 2) God causes true growth to happen. 3) God works through people to accomplish His mission, to cast vision for the future, and to disciple people for His glory. 94% of churches aren’t growing as quickly as the communities they’re in. Now, let’s talk about the tension of what growing churches are doing today (Thanks to Dr. Thom Rainer, Lifeway, Dr. Ed Stetzer, Rich Birch, Carey Nieuwhof, and Brandon Kelley for these insights). These are NOT in order of priority.
1. Staff Led, Elder Protected Governance Structure.
Look at the statistics across America and you’ll discover that growing churches have very few congregational votes. They voluntarily limit voting to the development of an annual budget, on the appointment of leaders who oversee the work of the churches (committees, teams, staff), calling a senior pastor, and on anything that has to do with adding debt, sale/purchase of property. These congregations have one-two “business meetings” per year. These churches are staff led or led by a team of Scriptural Elders (Acts 14, I Timothy 3, 5, Titus 1, 2) instead of purely congregationally led. I know this isn’t always an easy transition for churches to make, but it is a clear principle in looking at churches of all sizes that are healthy and growing today.
2. Courageous Leaders Who Pray Boldly And Take Bold Action. Church leaders shouldn’t JUST be PRAY-ers they should be DO-ers. PRAY and OBEY for there’s no other way.
3. A Genuine Heart for the Lost and Desire to Embrace the Mess.
The gravitational pull of human nature is toward SELF, NOT TOWARD OTHERS. Growing churches aren’t just conscious of the lost, they pursue them and are ready to take on the messes of life they may bring. Inward-focused churches are dying churches. To pursue the lost will often require church members to give up preferences/traditions on the altar of “WHATEVER IT TAKES!” “When your preferences keep unchurched people from the promise of Christ, it’s time to change your preferences (Nieuwhof).”
4. Engaging, Gospel-Proclaiming Preaching.
Preaching in growing churches engages people on multiple levels (spiritual, intellectual, emotional) and is a tool to proclaim the Good News of Christ. “Preachers who can’t that “Good News” to the unchurched will speak to an ever-shrinking crowd because one day only unchurched people will be left (Nieuwhof).”
5. Children’s Ministry that Kids Don’t Want to Leave.
This goes far beyond fun and games, but those are a part of it. Imagine kids being in an environment that allows them to understand God’s love for them while being invested in by caring adults who partner with parents to disciple them!
6. A Clear Path to Guide Guests to Become Regular Attenders.
Develop a clear and easily identified path to help guests make a “next step” to get connected at your church.
7. Leader Development and Empowerment.
EQUIP THE SAINTS (Eph. 4:11-13)! Scripture tells us to do it, but what does this really look like? Leadership development is something we know we need to do, but so many are at a loss when it comes to practically doing so.
8. An Intentional Small Group Strategy (that MAKES DICIPLES).
This can be Sunday School, small groups, life groups, discipleship groups, whatever your church’s small group strategy is called, these groups MUST be about teaching the Word of God and LIVING out a Christ-centered life together in COMMUNITY. “People are more connected than ever but feel more disconnected than ever (Niewhof).” You must have a clear strategy to “make disciples.”
9. A Clear Path to Guide Regulars to Become Members.
To me, church membership is more than just agreeing with a church’s beliefs and showing up on Sunday’s. It’s about GENEROSITY…in serving, investing, and being a part of Christ’s mission.
10. Shareable Church Communication that Inspires and Informs.
Too many churches do a poor job of communicating past Sunday morning. We can and MUST DO BETTER! Whether it is updating a website, starting a website, using Facebook, or other social media, or simply making a printed newsletter available in digital form.
As your Lead Follower, I am going to do all I can to provide opportunities to equip your churches/leaders to become more effective in each of these areas. Our BEST DAYS ARE AHEAD AS LONG AS WE DO WHATEVER IT TAKES to bring a lost world to the saving knowledge of Jesus.