Why grow your church in the first place?
Holy Scripture specifically, in Matthew 28, and generally, throughout the New Testament, speaks of growth, both spiritual and numerical. Jesus did not intend His followers to casually mention the Gospel to a few good friends, go home, and continue on with the status quo. Nor did He suggest that our relationship with Him would some day reach a plateau where we could safely stow it away, only paying attention to it on the occasional Sunday morning. Rather, the Gospel is about never-ending growth and transformation – as individuals and congregations.
That said, we churchgoers often tend to put more emphasis on numerical growth, perhaps as a by-product of our capitalist culture, which favors the quantitative, even though the Bible does not do this. Deepening our faith in Christ, deepening our spirituality, and our commitment to service in the world through the faithful ministry of the Church, is paramount in the Bible and in this course. Thus the cornerstone Scripture for Grow My Church! is not so much Matthew 28:19 as much as it is Colossians 2:6, “Continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Church growth is about growing more deeply into the vocation to which we have been called.
The fruit of healthy ministry, then, is found in changed lives, which is the goal of Grow My Church! This curriculum is not primarily about growing attendance in congregations, as much as it is about encouraging faithful ministry, which nearly always results in congregational growth. We seek to grow in purpose, faithfulness, service, spirituality, organization, etc. knowing that when we make progress in these areas we will most often see membership growth. As theologian Anthony Robinson points out, numerical growth is a secondary effect of faithful ministry, not its primary purpose.
Growth along these lines tends to be slow and steady versus rapid and remarkable. Grow My Church! concentrates on establishing healthy structures, organizational habits, relationships, boundaries, and ways of being the Church that will endure over time. This is not a flash in the pan church growth program aimed at spiking attendance until the next ‘now and wow’ program comes along. It is intended to inspire honest reflection on who you are and rediscovering your first love, or a new one, with the goal of renewing your congregation for this new day.
Much of this work is done by simply returning to what our Creator first intended – growth. Just as the Lord planted a garden in Eden to flourish and mature, so, too was the Church created. Pastor Rick Warren says that churches are organic by nature – they were created to grow and when proper planting, watering and weeding are done, they flourish. Thus, our job is to pay attention to the things that nourish us and the things that don’t. It’s to identify the weeds – the things that choke out new growth and take away the valuable resources we need to grow. Grow My Church! can help identify these problem areas and return to fulfilling one of the Lord’s primary missions in the world – establishing a healthy, growing and outward-focused church.