By Will Harmon
A healthy church is a growing church— it’s automatic. All living things grow if they are healthy. You do not have to make them grow – they grow because it is natural for living, healthy organisms to grow.
God has blessed my wife and me with three wonderful children. My three kids are growing because they are healthy. Not one time have I stood over their bed at night and commanded them to grow. All I have done is provide an environment conducive to growth and remove obstacles that would inhibit growth. As a result, they have grown naturally. If my kids don’t grow, something is terribly wrong. It indicates an unhealthy situation or possibly a disease.
The church is no different. It is natural for churches to grow. Jesus called the church “My Body.” A congregation is a living organism – not an organization. It is a body – not a business. If it is healthy, growth will come naturally.
The key for health and growth is balance. In the physical realm we must have a balance of proper nutrition, exercise and rest to be healthy. At church, we keep our balance by filtering everything we do through our mission statement, which can be summed up in three words: win, train, send.
- Win people to Christ. We believe in “every member” evangelism. Spread the gospel at home, work, school and in your neighborhood. Share the ABCs of salvation with them. Admit your sin, Believe in Jesus as your Savior, and Confess Jesus as Savior and Lord.
- Train believers to become disciples. The church I pastor is dedicated to training people to Christian maturity. This is accomplished through small groups and Sunday School classes. We were created to become like Christ and this only occurs when we practice discipleship.
- Send disciples to impact the world. God has called each of us to be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” The church must be dedicated to sending people for their mission “possible” – to go out into the world and fulfill God’s plan for their life.
Healthy, lasting church growth is multi-dimensional. In order to fulfill our mission, keep “balance on the ship” by building the church around seven key areas— the seven “ships” of the church:
- Worship— God-exalting worship is one of the most important aspects of church life. God must be glorified, Christ must be exalted and the Holy Spirit must have freedom to minister.
- Fellowship— God formed you for His family. Churches must do more than love; we must become an “intensive care unit” for people – constantly offering care –“people caring for people.”
- Discipleship— Bible training that leads to Christian maturity is the goal, to become like Christ in all things.
- Partnership—It must be our goal for every member to become a minister. That is, each of us must use the gifts and talents God has blessed us with to minister to others. We can do so much more when we “partner together” in ministry.
- Friendship— One of the more effective ways to reach lost people is by befriending them. We must reach people where they are and bring them to a full relationship with Jesus Christ. Only then can we experience true growth through evangelism of our community.
- Stewardship—Recognizing that God owns everything (our time, our talents, our treasures), we must become faithful in all that we manage.
- Leadership— To effectively reach people for Christ, we must raise up spiritual leaders who enthusiastically support God’s work.
Church growth is the natural result of church health, but church health can only occur when our message is biblical and our mission is balanced. Each of these seven New Testament mandates must be in equilibrium with the others for health to occur.
If growth is not happening in your church, you should ask: “What is keeping our church from growing?” Your job is to discover all the restricting barriers so that natural growth can occur.
Sometimes we look at growing churches with a mixture of confusion, jealousy and even resentment. We wonder why some churches grow and others do not. Instead of rejoicing over the fact God’s Kingdom is growing and lives are being changed, we criticize and make inaccurate assumptions about growing churches to justify our own lack of growth.
A common complaint is that to have a growing church you must compromise your convictions, cater to current trends and water down the message. The truth is just the opposite. People are hungry to hear the truth that will set them free. They want to be challenged to sacrifice for something bigger than themselves. They are searching for purpose and significance.
It is interesting that Jesus always attracted large crowds. The Bible refers to them as “multitudes.” Jesus had a magnetic characteristic to His ministry. I believe that a Christ-like church can still attract multitudes of people. You do not have to compromise your convictions or weaken the message. All you have to do is minister to people like Jesus did.
Why did large crowds flock to Jesus? Jesus did four things with the multitudes: He loved them, He ministered to their needs, He spoke the truth in love and His teachings had life applications. If you do these things, you will have a healthy church and attendance will be the least of your problems.
Article adapted from Contact magazine, July 2003.
About the Writer: Reverend Will Harmon pastors Cavanaugh Free Will Baptist Church in Fort Smith, Arkansas.