There it stood with cracked windows, grass and weeds grown to the window ledges, the paint faded, holes in the roof, the identity sign hanging by one nail, and a host of other evidences that the church was no longer meeting in this building.
I fell sad as I looked at this building where a once thriving congregation o f the Lord’s people met; now it stood as a monument to failure. The death of a congregation is always heartbreaking be cause it means that souls are lost, and the devil is happy because the “ pillar and ground of truth ” has been removed from a community (cf. I Timothy 3:15). Everyone is affected when a congregation ceases to exist.
What happened to this congregation? It died. Why? I don’t know all of the reasons or details. However, one thing is certain: it wasn’t growing! Growth doesn’t produce death. The death of a congregation is the result of spiritual sickness. A healthy church never dies. This is why, therefore, we must learn all we can about HOW to keep a congregation healthy and growing. The future depends upon it.
“I wonder what they are doing to grow so rapidly?” This question was asked by a preacher as we were discussing certain congregations in the brotherhood that are growing. Every member in the Body of Christ must have an interest in church growth. Churches don’t grow where there is no interest in growing. Why do some churches grow, while! others seem to stay in the same conditions year after year? “At least we’re holding our own” is how one leader responded to questions about growth in his congregation. “It’s hard to grow in the part of the country where I preach” is how another leader justified his congregation’s failure to grow. Sadly, one leader said, “The congregation where I attend is dead!” How can we grow strong churches? is the question every leader must ask and properly answer.
During the past eleven years I have learned that there are a number of principles which when properly used help churches grow. My experience consists of visiting growing churches, reading and studying about church growth, researching in church growth, teaching leadership and church growth classes, and working with a growing church (The White’s Ferry Road church, where I worked for 10 years, baptized more than 1500 persons during 1969 to 1979). In the final analysis, the Bible is the authoritative source for all church growth. No principle of church growth can be used unless it is sanctioned by Scripture.
- Growing churches are convinced that they MUST evangelize the world. They usually see it as their task alone. They are not waiting for others to do it. They believe teaching the lost is a must if they are to please God, Who is the author of evangelism. This stems from a burden for the lost.
- Growing churches have a deep sense of respect and loyalty for the church Jesus purchased with His blood (Acts 20:28). They don’t believe there are several ways to reach heaven (cf. John 14:6). They believe Jesus built only one church (cf. Matthew 16:13-18).
- Churches grow when God’s will for the church is know and followed. This is the basis of ALL goals and actions. The Bible is the guide and must be studied with diligence (II Timothy 2:15).
- Churches grow because faith is maintained in God. This faith in His power and ability to bring about progress in His work. Growing churches believe that they can do all things through Christ. They don’t depend upon themselves for victory (cf. Ephesians 3 :20).
- Powerful, Bible-centered preaching is another reason why churches grow. The sound from the pulpit is clear. “Thus sayeth the Lord” is the foundation of every message. The preacher is alive and dynamic in the pulpit. The members are challenged to obey the will of God for their lives.
- Growing churches have dedicated elders who watch, feed and guide the (lock through their examples (cf. I Peter 5:1-5). They inspire others to want to go and do likewise. Elders can’t push a church into growth. They must lead it into growth.
- Crowing churches stress and show love. Every member is encouraged to love one another (cf. John 13:35-37). This is a powerful force for evangelism. A loving church is a growing church.
- Growing churches set goals. They know where they are going. Plans are laid for 5, 10, and 15 years in advance. These plans cover every area of work. From time to time they are revised because o f needs or changes.
- Churches grow because they place importance on EVERY MEMBER IN THE BODY. Every member has something to contribute in the ongoing of the church. Each member has a work or ministry in the Body (cf. I Corinthians 12:12-27). Special effort is put into helping each member feel like a VIP.
- Growing churches have balanced Bible classes in which growth is stressed. All ages are taught that the church must seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). A balanced diet of the Word is planned for all classes.
- Churches grow because new converts are nurtured and cared for by other members of the Body (cf. Ephesians 4:12-17). A good follow-up program is used to ensure that all new “babes” are cared for. It has been said that if a new member doesn’t get to know at least seven other members of the church he will fall away. (This is on a one-to-one basis. Not just talking about at the building).
- Churches grow because mature leaders help the members find their place of service in the Body. Members aren’t left to struggle on their own. An immature leader can’t mature an immature member. (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:18)
- Churches grow where members realize that true greatness comes through being a servant to another. Jesus set the example for us to follow (cf. Mark 10:45). A congregation full of members doing their “own thing” or acting as if they were on a “solo ” trip will not grow.
- Churches grow because a spirit of enthusiasm prevails every assembly, meeting or class. It is a LIVE church. Worship services are spiritual and meaningful (cf. John 4:24). People leave with a good feeling for having attended, and they want to come back.
- Churches grow because the members are friendly to one another as well as to visitors. A cold congregation will turn people away as quick as anything. God’s people should be warm and friendly. (John 15:14)
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