We know that God is the one who makes a church grow, that it isn’t on us. This is both a comfort and a problem.
It is a comfort because we can rest. We don’t have to force things, we don’t have to make something happen. It is a problem because it can make us lazy. It can make us throw up our hands and say, “Well, I just need to preach the gospel and that’s it.” This is much like the Calvinist who doesn’t share his faith because “God will get who he’s going to get”, as one pastor told me.
Those are extremes, but they are important to point out.
Yes, Jesus grows his church. God grows the seeds that are planted. The Holy Spirit draws people, and often times a church grows and God moves with no explanation.
Other times a church grows, and while the Holy Spirit did the work, there were specific things that church did and did not do.
How much are you praying? How much is your elder and staff team praying? Not only for people in your church but for people not in your church? Are you asking God for specific people you are in relationships with? Are you praying that God will send 300, 500 people to your church this Easter? How burdened is the pastor for people who don’t know Jesus? Are there any sins in your church, leadership team or your life that you need to confess that are hindering the work of God?
In your church and in your preaching and worship, are you exalting Jesus and making it simple for people to understand?
Many times I’ll have pastors ask me to listen to their sermons, and all I can think the whole time is that I have to have a seminary degree to understand what he is talking about. Being simple is not being shallow. Being simple is being helpful. The gospel is complex, deep and robust, but it is also so simple that my four year old can explain it to you. Our kids can draw a picture of the gospel, so our preaching should reflect that to a certain degree.
One of the ways we evaluate this in our church has to do with communion. When we move from the sermon to communion, is it an easy transition or does it feel like a hard right turn?
We’ll talk about systems in a minute, but do you have a clear vision, a clear strategy and a clear picture of what you are shooting for? For example, can you articulate in simple terms what a healthy, mature disciple looks like? Many times in our churches, we can’t. I’m sad to say, in our church we waited too long to articulate this, and it did a disservice to our people.
I think the work of God is deeply connected to our ability to clearly help our people grow. They are connected. If Jesus builds his church and the gates of hell will not prevail, what kind of people will withstand those gates?
Many times churches do not know what they are trying to build in people. They don’t know what a healthy, mature disciple looks like, so they aren’t sure what they are aiming at. For our church, we took too long to define this clearly, and I think that hurt us as a church.
Not only did it not serve our leaders and people well, we weren’t able to ask God for specific things to build into our people. It hinders the ability to focus a sermon calendar on those important discipleship aspects.
Let me leave you with an important question for churches, boards and staffs: What kind of disciples are you building? Is that what the New Testament calls us to? Do you have a clear path to accomplish that?