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The Secret to Church Growth?

December 18, 2009

I’ve read alot of books on church growth lately. This year, more than any other, I have tried to think through several issues surrounding what it means for a congregation to grow – leadership, ministry, structure, style, etc. I’ve read alot of ideas that I thought were great. I’ve read alot of ideas that I thought were bad. I’ve thought, “I think that could work for us.” I’ve also thought, “There is no way I would ever do that.” I don’t have anything against church growth books; they have sparked some creativity in me and stretched my thinking. I especially like the stuff by Gary McIntosh,  Ed Stetzer, Andy Stanley, Thom Rainer – they have all produced works I have found helpful.

But do you know what is interesting? They all have different opinions and different styles. The churches surveyed by Stetzer and Rainer often have very different, sometimes completely different approaches. So, even though these books are helpful, they don’t contain the one secret to church growth that works everywhere (if one did, the rest of their publishers would take a big hit). There is no one program or idea that works everywhere. Ultimately, growth models don’t work unless people work. (Obviously, God causes growth, but He does it through His people).  Simply adopting a new program or idea isn’t going to incite growth unless we work hard to reach others. Unless we step out and start working for Christ, those ideas won’t help us. As I look back on the past year, the most exciting moments of growth have come when members at Crittenden Drive have taken the initiative and worked for God. I’m excited to share more of those experiences in the future, and we are blessed to be in a congregation where those things happen.  

Dad pointed me to an article in the Arkansas Gazette that I found interesting. A reporter interviewed Rodney Stark, co-director of the Institute for the Studies of Religion at Baylor University. He was discussing the growth of the Mormon Church. It was interesting to hear him describe their teaching. I doubt I would have to spend much time pointing out all the ways in which we would disagree with them, but I would like to quote one phrase that I thought was interesting. When asked about their growth rate, he simply said, “If you work hard at growing, you grow.” He mentioned the dedication of their members, the high expectations of their congregations, and the ways in which people make sacrifices for that cause. Their dedication causes me to stop and think about what I am willing to sacrifice for God.

Every place is different. Some soil is harder than others. There are times when we experience numeric growth, and that is a blessing. There are times when we don’t, but by staying faithful in our efforts, we grow in other ways. That is also a blessing from God. As we enter in a new year, I am excited about all the possibilities, yet I also need to realize that true church growth comes from people who are willing to work. Yes, that includes learning, organizing, and leading. But programs don’t do the work. Christians do. If I wasn’t evangelistic before I added a specific theme, program, or ministry, I probably won’t be that evangelistic once the new program is going. Over the holidays, I am going to be praying for God to change me and help me grow more than helping us think of the perfect idea for a church to grow. What do you think?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Rpack permalink
    December 18, 2009 4:51 pm

    Andrew:

    I think you are “on target”. What a joy it has been to follow your work and growth!

    Your insightful blog entry was much appreciated today.

    Rolland

    • andrewdphillips permalink
      December 19, 2009 11:36 pm

      Thanks Dr. Pack –
      We just recently spent time in one of our classes on Job, and I worked through some of my research from the Honors Thesis. That was an incredibly valuable experience for me! I hope your holidays are wonderful!

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