So much has been said already about church growth strategies that adding one more thing might just make you puke! If you were to add up all the growth “principles”, “methods”, “strategies”, and put them into a folder you would most likely need a whole room of filing cabinets, terabytes of storage on your data server, or at the very least a few drawers full of folders.
Church growth has been on the mind of every church leader since it first began. All the Apostles were concerned with it. The Jewish church wrestled with what should and should not be tolerated. The church elders living in predominantly pagan cities were certainly just trying to hold things together while awaiting another Pauline epistle to arrive to provide some “clean-up” instructions for the messy state the church was in.
In fact, Paul was the very first church health and church growth consultant writing book after book to the churches in order to keep them healthy and growing. Sometimes he was able to visit in person, hang out awhile, and help get things back on track and moving forward. Other times he was unable to be their in person but was there by letter.
Either way. The church has always needed help keeping on track and discerning what was needed in a order to sustain the growth and health of the body of Christ in their local setting.
Although there is enough articles already written, books already published, conferences held, and sermons preached on this subject. I feel the need to push in a little more. Why? Because the church has not yet arrived to the “full level of maturity” that Christ desires in Ephesians chapter 4. Secondly, because most of what has been said about this subject is less about Christs own instruction to the church and more about coming up with different “attractional” models for ministry.
So here are 5 Christ centered strategies for growth that are foundational for every church.
ONE: Rediscover Ephesians 4:11-13 which is the mind of Christ for the Church.
- Dream about what a church might look like driven by the 5 ministries of Ephesians 4:11.
- Understand that all of those ministries where given by Jesus Christ Himself and according to Paul they are to be for making disciples.
- the “perfecting” of the saints (KJV)
- to equip His people (NIV) for the equipping of the saints (NASB)
- to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work (MSG)
- …in other words, they are used to “equip followers”/”make disciples”.
- Admit which of the gifts have the weakest support or are completely absent from your ministry model.
- Establish their importance in your church once again.
One of the best resources for this process that we at Leave.Follow.Shine have found and have begun to use in our church coaching is found at www.5Qcentral.com
TWO: Realize that everyone in your church is broken. With brokenness comes trauma. With trauma come obstacles that prevent Kingdom growth.
The very reason Revelations 21:4 is such a powerful verse is because it speaks to every person who has ever lived.
“4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.””
- Dream about a church where people are constantly finding emotional healing from their traumatic pasts and getting set free.
- Place the right leadership (according to Ephesians 4:11) over that healing ministry in order that it might flourish.
- Create an environment where trauma can be dealt with biblically and safely in order to get people out of being immobilized and into kingdom work.
- Have a transition plan once people are set free to join the work of the kingdom in a meaningful and powerful way (again according to the 5 gifts of Ephesians 4:11).
Two of the impactful systems that are currently helping thousands of people are www.celebraterecovery.com, www.cleansingstream.org.
THREE: Simplify discipleship so that is easily reproducible
- Assess your current offerings and realize their might be too many. Having many ministries or programs for people to participate might give the impression to people that participation in your programs equals being a good disciple.
- Have a simple definition of a disciple. For example at LEAVE.FOLLOW.SHINE we help churches define a disciple as “someone who makes another disciple”. While of course a disciple is always learning, doing, and teaching what Christ commands (which we teach in our workbook) he or she is always focused on discipling others.
- Align your church offerings with the definition of a disciple. Every ministry whether it is structured as a childrens, youth, young adults, seniors ministry (age) or sports, homeless, food, foster care, elderly, (external service) or choir, transportation, shut-ins, (internal service) should have a focus on making other disciples based on a reproducible definition.
- Eliminate church offerings that are too self-serving and do not lend themselves to making new disciples.
FOUR: Treat the Bible as the basis for community.
- Be Aware of the difference between “A” community and a “Biblical Community”. There a distinct difference between the two type of community. One is highly self-serving and the other is highly missional and kingdom focused. You want the one that is building Kingdom always.
- Encourage diversity. Diversity is something that distinguishes a biblical community from others. Although it can be tough (Acts 6:1) it is the vision of Christ for the church. This means racial diversity, socioeconomic diversity, stylistic diversity, diversity of traditions, and so forth. Too often we see a white church STAY a white church or a black church STAY a black church based on history, traditions, and preferences–even if the demographics around them are changing.
- Embrace the Shift. When a biblical community is constantly shifting that means kingdom work is happening. As the early church wrestled with the different groups of people becoming disciples there was a lot to tackle. As the church grew and Paul came to the church in Jerusalem I am sure it was tough to embrace people from Roman cities and pagan religions responding to the gospel–but it had to be done in order to continue the work of the kingdom. Can you imagine the many traditions, cultures, and worship customs that came with that? If your church isn’t constantly shifting it is not constantly growing.
- Stay Healthy. Most unhealthy behavior in churches come from two things. First, it comes from conformity. When a church conforms to what feels good and is comfortable it will eventually arrive at a place where people are no longer engaged in the mission. Second, unhealthiness comes from bad teaching. When a churches teaches more about how important we are to Christ rather than how important Christ is to the world we have placed an unhealthy focus on us rather than the mission of Christ.
FIVE: Use globally focused lenses for everything
- Create a global identity locally. Many churches are focused on creating a brand for themselves in their neighborhoods and in their cities. Having worked with and visited many churches, LFS coaches have seen many similar style churches trying so hard to distinguish themselves as a “cut above” the other churches in the area. Traditional marketing says a business must stand out from others. Christ says we must be ONE (John 17:21). Focus believers on being a part of a global church body.
- Stop calling your local church “the body of Christ”. It is only part of the body of Christ and must function alongside of, in conjunction with, as a part of–the global church, the entire body of Christ of which Christ is the head so that “the world will believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21). Hard to believe Jesus is real and functioning as the head when the body of Christ (churches, ministries, etc.) refuses to get to know each other, work with each other, and glorify Him together.
- Care about the world outside of your church. Ephesians 4 gifts are not only valuable inside of the church walls, they are valuable to the entire world to push the mission of Christ forward into new territories (apostolic), connect the outside world to the body of Christ (evangelistic), and hear from and represent God in today’s culture (prophetic) even before the pastor gets a hold of them and glues them altogether with Christs compassion (shepherd) or they receive a theological foundation on which to base their lives (teacher). Think about the education and business sectors, healthcare and hospitality sectors, and connect with community, city, and state leaders to bring about positive change using the gifts God has given your church.
- Leverage global partnerships. In order to leverage global partnerships to advance the kingdom, you have to create some. Start creating them. Get innovate, strategic, and creative on how you can partner with churches, ministries, and Christian organizations around the world. Explore how all your partnerships can work together to create a global impact for the kingdom. Get to know the strengths and weaknesses of each other and learn to unite the body of Christ in a way to create a holistic approach to advancing the kingdom.
I hope some part of this can be helpful for you wherever you may in the journey with your people. Use it wisely and always with prayer.