Growth Factors versus Failure Factors
So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 2 Corinthians 5: 16
Is Christ LORD, Lord, or lord over your church?
Out of learning why churches fail, we also learned why they succeeded. The churches that were healthy, growing spiritually, and socially vibrant have significant aspects that set them apart from the failing churches. These factors are displayed in order of relevance and importance. Each one of these factors creates a harmony, contentment, and atmosphere for a churchgoer to come to church services and fellowship, and then to invite others. When they feel this church is "home," they will learn and grow, then desire to become a member, become active, experience and give love and Fruit, and be able to serve our Lord there. Each of these themes is significant as they motivate, inspire, and spur people on to feel part of something greater than themselves. They become a conduit for the work of the Gospel, the moving of the Spirit, and the glorification of our Lord. These churches are places to know Christ, to be effective, and to grow spiritually-"true spirituality" as Schaeffer challenged us with.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5: 17
The main, significant factor over all else of why churches succeed is this one point: they were centered upon Christ as LORD! They were not centered on a personality, a vision, a denomination, an emerging paradigm, or a set of trends. They were "souled out" to Christ as central and sovereign. Each of these points relate to the Lordship of Christ.
The Significant Seven
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5: 18
1. The number one reason people come and bring other people to a church is the love and Fruit that is real, felt, and displayed. (This is why the Mormon Church grows, even with aberrant and cultic doctrine; people will look past that when they are loved. Imagine what would happen if we honestly loved and taught real, biblical, uncompromised truth-yet so few churches do that!) People are motivated to bring other people when there is "real" hospitality and warmth in the Church-where they feel welcomed and a part of, connected, safe, and content, as well as stimulated to learn and grow. These church people are motivated by Christ and thus are learning and growing in Him, demonstrating they care for Him.
2. The number two reason people stay a part of a church is the teaching aptitude of the pastor to stimulate spiritual knowledge and growth. The best growing churches in the world have solid, biblical preaching at their core. These churches preach the holiness of God, the blood of Jesus, how to worship, how to deal with sin, how to relate to one another, and how to love one another, and biblical precepts for knowledge and living, which the leaders are modeling! All of the preaching is done by and through the Word with power (His), conviction, passion (real sincerity and eagerness to live for Christ), clarity (taught in a way people understood), and in truth (uncompromised Word of God). These churches do not dilute God's truth or misrepresent the Gospel message. These churches lift up the cross! When there is no effective Bible teaching, the church will fail or become a showcase for an egomaniacal, charismatic personality who may motivate but does not instruct, and/or teaches false doctrine. When that person leaves the church (if it ever was a church), it will quickly die. Your church must be centered on the Person of Christ-not a personality!
3. The number one reason people will stop going to any church is because of conflict and gossip! Healthy churches have a plan to recognize and then resolve conflict and sin. The best plans and calls of the Lord will stall out in the presence of conflict! If the rumors, conflicts, and lack of Fruit are not managed, the people will leave because all that is left is inhospitality. The people who stay will be the "problem people," continuing to create factions, disunity, and strife. Healthy churches are on the lookout for people and leaders who have agendas and attitudes that are contrary to God's Word. They are counseled, and if they will not stop, they are removed from fellowship until they repent.
4. The number one reason why people are stimulated to serve is because the Bible is taught in a real, effectual, and applicable way. They want to be a part of it. The people who leave because of the Bible teaching are the people who do not want to be challenged or convicted. These people will not serve anyway and will not give, but they will cause trouble. We are called to reach and care for them, but as the Bible says, these are the "tares." God asks us to cultivate His wheat.
5. The number one reason people grow spiritually is by being encouraged to read through the Bible, do devotions, and practice the disciplines of the faith as modeled by the leadership. These churches equip and disciple their people, not just in the basics of the faith, but also in how to be Christians in their daily lives and to live their lives to His glory! The pastors and leaders teach and model passionate spirituality; they challenge and model for their people how to grow beyond themselves in achieving spiritual passion and conviction and are joyful in doing so. From this pool, new leadership is formed and recruited. Churches that cannot find leadership have people who are not discipled, and who are not willing or do not know how to lead.
6. The number one reason a church is effective in its outreach and missions is because of its real, authentic worship. There is a direct correlation between authentic service and authentic worship! Worship is seen as a response to God-our gratitude for who He is and what He has done. Thus, people respond with their service, too. Churches that do not have "real" worship have little to no missions, or the people in it are from other churches. These churches do not overemphasize the "seeker," and ignore discipleship! They do not turn their worship into mere entertainment. Real, heartfelt, God exalting adoration must be the focus of the worship service. These churches never just entertain, lift up the leaders, or become presentation orientated. They see worship as the Bible teaches; God is the audience and we are the performers who praise and glorify Him! These churches are still able to make their services friendly and creative, but the focus is to glorify Christ. In biblical theology, we do church-from faith, fellowship, and outreach on to service-for One and only One reason: TO WORSHIP CHRIST! Effective churches get this; ineffective churches do not.
7. Healthy churches that are growing in Christ have prayer as a primary focus from the pulpit to the boardroom to their personal lives. These churches operate in and with an organized prayer base. These healthy churches are prayerful in all aspects of church life and ministry. They are reliant upon God's power and the authority of His Word.
Other Significant Growth Factors that come from these top seven:
That God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 2 Corinthians 5: 19
8. Healthy churches that are growing in Christ have leaders who focus on Christ and serve Him. Their leadership style is not by will; it is by being a servant. "Servant Leadership" is modeled and practiced.
9. Healthy churches that are growing in Christ have people that are disciplined and growing in Christ. This is the reason they are loving and caring, practicing the "one another" passages. They are enamored by God's presence in their church and life, and thus place Christ first, acting on His character and call! They are not selfish or inwardly focused, but care for others and focus on their community and world.
10. Healthy churches that are growing in Christ have a system of pastoral care. They train their staff and leaders to immediately respond when they hear of a church member in need. They hire licensed, qualified people and/or train and assign trained deacons or care workers; also, a key person is in charge.
11. Healthy churches that are growing in Christ have effective evangelism, stewardship, and discipleship. These programs come from those top seven factors! As people are transformed, they can be taught and motivated. They also tend to spend at least one-third of their resources of budget and talent in outreach and missions.
12. Healthy churches that are growing in Christ have a well thought out, biblically empowered vision and mission statement. This is clearly defined by a purpose that points to Christ, and strategies on what God has called them to do and be. In addition, the people know this and are willing to act on it. It is one thing to write it out, but another thing to act it out. The vision does not lead the church; rather, it s a motto that encapsulates the work of the Spirit and the precepts of Scripture that calls, empowers, and employs the church. A vision is a sign to show what is happening and help others see the direction of the church so they know where to go. A vision will not motivate or lead, just as placing a label for soda on a can of water does not make it a soda.
13. Healthy churches that are growing in Christ tend to organize and mobilize their people according to their Spiritual Gifts! The people are more content and motivated so serve in a team manner when they serve in their area of their giftedness. The quarrels and apathy will dry up as the energies are redirected and channeled in a godly way. People will function less in their own strength and more in the power of the Holy Spirit.
14. Healthy churches that are growing in Christ empower the people in their care. They are training, discipling, recognizing, and encouraging their people, especially those in critical roles. They do not see or use volunteers just as helpers or as people to control and manipulate, but as the essential tools and prime resources with which to glorify God, enablers of the goals of missions and needs to be reached. These churches see the pastor as the trainer for the congregation. If the senior pastor feels they do not have the gifts and abilities to equip and train others to do ministry (what the biblical principle of a "pastor" is), the church hires or build teams around them that do! If the training is not done, the church will fail! Some pastors are great teachers, but cannot do anything else. A pastor must operate in his gifted area, and encourage others who will compensate for him in the areas where he is weak or does not have the time.
15. Healthy churches that are growing in Christ are willing to and do confront sin, evil, gossip, slander, manipulators, and heresy in the church-immediately! The leadership puts down gossip and solves conflict quickly. Healthy churches move ahead in purpose and unity.
16. Healthy churches that are growing in Christ have pastors who are real, joyful, and authentic, and lead healthy, disciplined lives. Their leaders are learning and growing in community with one another, willing to go beyond their prejudices and fears and embrace Christ. They are willing to publicly repent, apologize for past mistakes, make improvements, and change. They do not have thick skin as much as loving hearts, and they give people grace and room to grow. They are not afraid to step on the toes of others, but remain loving, listening, and firmly uncompromising to the Word.
If your church is not heeding these themes, ask why? When we run our church our way, even when we are sincere and think we are doing right, our LORD becomes Lord and then lord. God's voice is muted and His move is stalled. Not so sure? Just read the book of Amos! The Holy Spirit cannot work effectively when "my" will and desires are running HIS CHURCH. You must collectively drop to your knees, repent, and then pray for revival. That will work!
We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. 2 Corinthians 5: 20
If you have nothing relevant or appropriate to offer your people and you are not hospitable to them, you are producing a failing church.
Even if you have numbers, if you are not centered on Christ, you are in trouble and you are not succeeding for Him. We can change our worship format, make our parking lots bigger, and make our programs more relevant, trying to be a better WHO. Our "who" is that we are in Him-who we are in Christ; we are Christians by His love. But, what about changing it to HOW-to change how we are, how we behave, how we treat one another, how we are loving, how we care, how we learn, and how we grow in Christ. The big how is that we know and then model Christ as a reality, that Jesus Christ really is in our lives. We are learning, experiencing, and living in and for Him! By really and truly being His ambassadors and allowing His Spirit to sustain and use us, we can be used to turn others toward Christ.
God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5: 21
© 2007, Research from 1992- 2004, complied 2005, R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development http://www.truespirituality.org/