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Church Growth Discussion

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  • Church Growth Discussion

    I have gotten involved in discussion about church growth at my current church. Below is a copy of the email I sent. To give you some context, some background points: the church is currently building a building so we can move out of our rented space. The church is about 20 years old. The pastor holds a full-time job in addition to pastoral duties.

    Interested in your input even though the information below does not give a complete picture.


    I have been paying attention to church attendance trends since 2019 if not earlier. Part of this comes from my experiences in churches in this area. Three churches where I was a member have closed. At least three other churches in the area about my house have changed hands. As I drive about the city, I can see other churches that are now closed or under new management. This does not give me a great feeling about the resiliency of churches in the area.

    From what I understand of church attendance history, (church name) was founded about the time the tide started shifting from people coming into churches to people leaving churches. Covid only accelerated a trend that was already in progress. From what I’m reading, the trend is not reversing.

    One of the churches I was a member of was a new plant. The pastor was basically working on the church growth plan of “If you build it, they will come.” Well, they didn’t come. I am sorry; however, statements about how people will see the building and come in strike me as naïve. Yes, a few people will probably give us a try and maybe a couple will stick. Hopefully, a few of the previous members will give us a try when the building opens. I’m not expecting great church growth as a result of having a building.

    I don’t know what the church finances are. Given what I can see, I fear the building expenses will swamp the current congregation and we’ll end up in some form of perpetual fund raising. Yes, we need more people. The question is how to get them to come in and stay in.

    The first part of the answer lies in the question of what kind of church should we be? While there are many possibilities, my perception of the leadership and congregation is we would best do it by being a community. Ephesians 4-6 or the shorter version in Colossians 3:1-4:6 seems to be the Biblical starting point for what to do. We just have to figure out the how to do it. This would also help us minister to what I perceive as a society need of restored community and combating loneliness. I think it is pretty well established that connecting via tech is not effective.

    The second part is to train and encourage the congregation to reach to others and encourage them to come. We cannot depend on a bi-vocational pastor to have the time to do extensive outreach. This will have to be everyone who attends regularly. This means building a community where the people think “we’ve got this great place, and it would great if you joined us.” It will take the whole congregation to do this.

    Yes, I am ignoring doctrinal concerns. That is such a broad area that we cannot hope to satisfy everyone. We just have to be faithful to what we have been given and let God bring in those who will be blessed. While I may quibble with some points at BHCC, my view is you’re within orthodoxy and maybe the fault is more with me.

    I agree with (other member) email about this worth a meeting. One can only go so far on this via email.
    "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

    "Theology can be an intellectual entertainment." Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

  • #2
    First, as I just mentioned the other day, God never told us to make church members, but to make disciples.
    I think that's the biggest failing - most churches are running after members or "attendance", and not after investing in the lives of the people.

    Sure, you can have "lots of people" by going the entertainment route, but is that really "making disciples"?

    I have been a bi-vocational pastor on a number of occasions, and I have always realized the need to enlist and train others -- 2 Timothy 2:2 -- to partner with me.

    Unfortunately, many churches focus on "stealing sheep" rather than making disciples.

    As for the finances, I almost never preach on money, believing that if you are doing what God wants you to do, He will bless. On the other hand, I've begun to realize I may be cheating people out of the joy of giving by not preaching more on stewardship.

    Those are just thoughts off the top of my big empty head.
    The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
      First, as I just mentioned the other day, God never told us to make church members, but to make disciples.
      I think that's the biggest failing - most churches are running after members or "attendance", and not after investing in the lives of the people.

      Sure, you can have "lots of people" by going the entertainment route, but is that really "making disciples"?

      I have been a bi-vocational pastor on a number of occasions, and I have always realized the need to enlist and train others -- 2 Timothy 2:2 -- to partner with me.

      Unfortunately, many churches focus on "stealing sheep" rather than making disciples.

      As for the finances, I almost never preach on money, believing that if you are doing what God wants you to do, He will bless. On the other hand, I've begun to realize I may be cheating people out of the joy of giving by not preaching more on stewardship.

      Those are just thoughts off the top of my big empty head.
      I was talking to the level of my audience. You're comment helped to clarify me that I'm dealing with a church that doesn't rank very high on the maturity scale. My wife likes the church, it's important to me that we go together, and I think I do some good. I'll stick it out there for a bit.

      I agree about making disciples. It's a topic that gets mentioned on occasion but not really acted on. I will point out you need a body of people to draw on to help some become disciples.

      I've been under both dedicated pastors and bi-vocational pastors and both work. It all depends on how the pastor does the job.

      I agree about preaching on stewardship and joy of giving.
      "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

      "Theology can be an intellectual entertainment." Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post
        First, as I just mentioned the other day, God never told us to make church members, but to make disciples.
        I think that's the biggest failing - most churches are running after members or "attendance", and not after investing in the lives of the people.

        Sure, you can have "lots of people" by going the entertainment route, but is that really "making disciples"?

        I have been a bi-vocational pastor on a number of occasions, and I have always realized the need to enlist and train others -- 2 Timothy 2:2 -- to partner with me.

        Unfortunately, many churches focus on "stealing sheep" rather than making disciples.

        As for the finances, I almost never preach on money, believing that if you are doing what God wants you to do, He will bless. On the other hand, I've begun to realize I may be cheating people out of the joy of giving by not preaching more on stewardship.

        Those are just thoughts off the top of my big empty head.
        I want to thank you again for responding to my post. I really needed to understand that I'm at a church that doesn't measure very high on the spiritual maturity scale. It may be a bit higher than I give it credit for.

        Since my wife likes the people at the church, I'll stick it out. As the Lord enables me, I'll try to encourage the church to grow. Maybe I'm flattering myself a little; it does seem the content of the sermons has matured a little.

        I also will have to be patient. They're building a new building and that is swallowing everyone's time. Post Easter may be the time when the leadership can get back to being more focused on the flock.
        "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

        "Theology can be an intellectual entertainment." Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

        Comment


        • #5
          In my church's case, "If you build it, they will come" really has worked, although it wasn't until COVID hit that it really started to pick up (8 years after building). It helps that our church building is quite distinctive (traditional Orthodox timberframe), though it's also set back from the road a fair bit (and our massive, sturdily built brick roadsign is parallel to the roadway instead of perpendicular to it, making it a little tough to read at highway speeds).
          Enter the Church and wash away your sins. For here there is a hospital and not a court of law. Do not be ashamed to enter the Church; be ashamed when you sin, but not when you repent. – St. John Chrysostom

          Veritas vos Liberabit<>< Learn Greek <>< Look here for an Orthodox Church in America<><Ancient Faith Radio
          sigpic
          I recommend you do not try too hard and ...research as little as possible. Such weighty things give me a headache. - Shunyadragon, Baha'i apologist

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Thoughtful Monk View Post
            I have gotten involved in discussion about church growth at my current church. Below is a copy of the email I sent. To give you some context, some background points: the church is currently building a building so we can move out of our rented space. The church is about 20 years old. The pastor holds a full-time job in addition to pastoral duties.

            Interested in your input even though the information below does not give a complete picture.


            I have been paying attention to church attendance trends since 2019 if not earlier. Part of this comes from my experiences in churches in this area. Three churches where I was a member have closed. At least three other churches in the area about my house have changed hands. As I drive about the city, I can see other churches that are now closed or under new management. This does not give me a great feeling about the resiliency of churches in the area.

            From what I understand of church attendance history, (church name) was founded about the time the tide started shifting from people coming into churches to people leaving churches. Covid only accelerated a trend that was already in progress. From what I’m reading, the trend is not reversing.

            One of the churches I was a member of was a new plant. The pastor was basically working on the church growth plan of “If you build it, they will come.” Well, they didn’t come. I am sorry; however, statements about how people will see the building and come in strike me as naïve. Yes, a few people will probably give us a try and maybe a couple will stick. Hopefully, a few of the previous members will give us a try when the building opens. I’m not expecting great church growth as a result of having a building.

            I don’t know what the church finances are. Given what I can see, I fear the building expenses will swamp the current congregation and we’ll end up in some form of perpetual fund raising. Yes, we need more people. The question is how to get them to come in and stay in.

            The first part of the answer lies in the question of what kind of church should we be? While there are many possibilities, my perception of the leadership and congregation is we would best do it by being a community. Ephesians 4-6 or the shorter version in Colossians 3:1-4:6 seems to be the Biblical starting point for what to do. We just have to figure out the how to do it. This would also help us minister to what I perceive as a society need of restored community and combating loneliness. I think it is pretty well established that connecting via tech is not effective.

            The second part is to train and encourage the congregation to reach to others and encourage them to come. We cannot depend on a bi-vocational pastor to have the time to do extensive outreach. This will have to be everyone who attends regularly. This means building a community where the people think “we’ve got this great place, and it would great if you joined us.” It will take the whole congregation to do this.

            Yes, I am ignoring doctrinal concerns. That is such a broad area that we cannot hope to satisfy everyone. We just have to be faithful to what we have been given and let God bring in those who will be blessed. While I may quibble with some points at BHCC, my view is you’re within orthodoxy and maybe the fault is more with me.

            I agree with (other member) email about this worth a meeting. One can only go so far on this via email.
            Studies of religious groups in England indicate that those which have strong adherents and growth are those which promote adherence to the principles of the group - leading to an increased interest in the alternative faith systems over Christianity.

            Discipleship is not an optional extra and congregations tend to conform with the demands made of them, so it is not be a good idea to make no demands.

            1Cor 15:34 Come to your senses as you ought and stop sinning; for I say to your shame, there are some who know not God.
            .
            ⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛
            Scripture before Tradition:
            but that won't prevent others from
            taking it upon themselves to deprive you
            of the right to call yourself Christian.

            ⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by tabibito View Post

              Studies of religious groups in England indicate that those which have strong adherents and growth are those which promote adherence to the principles of the group - leading to an increased interest in the alternative faith systems over Christianity.

              Discipleship is not an optional extra and congregations tend to conform with the demands made of them, so it is not be a good idea to make no demands.
              I agree that discipleship is required and a low demand membership is acceptable as a starting point. However, the church should be helping the members grow into the image of Christ. That seems to be the neglected part these days.
              "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

              "Theology can be an intellectual entertainment." Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Thoughtful Monk View Post

                I agree that discipleship is required and a low demand membership is acceptable as a starting point. However, the church should be helping the members grow into the image of Christ. That seems to be the neglected part these days.
                Which is why we're adding "care groups" to our Church's ministry - for the purpose of discipleship.
                The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post

                  Which is why we're adding "care groups" to our Church's ministry - for the purpose of discipleship.
                  That's good. I'm hoping the something will happen at my church once the building is complete and we move in. For now, I guess I possess myself with patience.
                  "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

                  "Theology can be an intellectual entertainment." Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post

                    Which is why we're adding "care groups" to our Church's ministry - for the purpose of discipleship.
                    I've noticed you use the word "discipling" as a verb a number of times. I've always been biased against it (and probably a number of other people here) since I read JP Holding say that people shouldn't use the word because it's associated with cult tactics. But I'd like to consider a different perspective. What do you have in mind with it?
                    "I am not angered that the Moral Majority boys campaign against abortion. I am angry when the same men who say, "Save OUR children" bellow "Build more and bigger bombers." That's right! Blast the children in other nations into eternity, or limbless misery as they lay crippled from "OUR" bombers! This does not jell." - Leonard Ravenhill

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post
                      I've noticed you use the word "discipling" as a verb a number of times. I've always been biased against it (and probably a number of other people here) since I read JP Holding say that people shouldn't use the word because it's associated with cult tactics. But I'd like to consider a different perspective. What do you have in mind with it?
                      I'm curious - in "the Great Commission" we are told to "make disciples", so why should the verb form be odd? And, basically, it's about 2 Tim 2:2 - And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

                      The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Thoughtful Monk View Post

                        I agree that discipleship is required and a low demand membership is acceptable as a starting point. However, the church should be helping the members grow into the image of Christ. That seems to be the neglected part these days.
                        Therein lies the rub. John the Baptist and Jesus both made the conditions clear from the get go. There was no "easing people" into discipleship - the conditions were laid out from the moment of first contact.
                        1Cor 15:34 Come to your senses as you ought and stop sinning; for I say to your shame, there are some who know not God.
                        .
                        ⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛
                        Scripture before Tradition:
                        but that won't prevent others from
                        taking it upon themselves to deprive you
                        of the right to call yourself Christian.

                        ⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by tabibito View Post

                          Therein lies the rub. John the Baptist and Jesus both made the conditions clear from the get go. There was no "easing people" into discipleship - the conditions were laid out from the moment of first contact.
                          But it's not an "either / or" - those who were not called into discipleship for whatever reason don't forfeit being discipled. It's pretty much what the New Testament is all about - helping Christians become better Christians through teaching, examples, warnings, exhortations, instruction...
                          The first to state his case seems right until another comes and cross-examines him.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Cow Poke View Post

                            But it's not an "either / or" - those who were not called into discipleship for whatever reason don't forfeit being discipled. It's pretty much what the New Testament is all about - helping Christians become better Christians through teaching, examples, warnings, exhortations, instruction...
                            True enough. Maybe a little less of "its all beer and skittles" and a bit more of "heaven is not for everyone, but for those who are willing to put in the hard yards" in the evangelical phase would go a long way toward helping people make an informed decision.
                            1Cor 15:34 Come to your senses as you ought and stop sinning; for I say to your shame, there are some who know not God.
                            .
                            ⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛
                            Scripture before Tradition:
                            but that won't prevent others from
                            taking it upon themselves to deprive you
                            of the right to call yourself Christian.

                            ⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛⊛

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by KingsGambit View Post

                              I've noticed you use the word "discipling" as a verb a number of times. I've always been biased against it (and probably a number of other people here) since I read JP Holding say that people shouldn't use the word because it's associated with cult tactics. But I'd like to consider a different perspective. What do you have in mind with it?
                              I once had a pastor who was on the whole very sound but would not do discipling. His reason was apparently there was a "discipling" movement in the 1990's or early 2000's that went way beyond disciplining to controlling peoples' lives. I agree that discipling by the wrong person can lead to bad or even tragic results. I think this is what JP Holding is thinking about. However just because something can be done badly, doesn't mean it shouldn't be done.

                              To answer your question, the closest analogy I can come up with is personal or group therapy. However instead of helping someone deal with life, discipleship is that plus helping the person develop a Christ-like character. For example, see Matthew 16:24 or 2 Corinthians 3:18. Part of this would also be helping the person develop a deeper relationship with God.
                              "For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings." Hosea 6:6

                              "Theology can be an intellectual entertainment." Metropolitan Anthony Bloom

                              Comment

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