I talk to more and more pastors these days asking the question, “How do I get my church to grow?” They have conferences about how to grow your church and increase your attendance, how to be more effective and reach different people groups. The truth of the matter is, you cannot make your church grow.
That’s right. I said it. Jesus said that He would build His church; he would grow it. That doesn’t include your particular organization if that’s all your church is; your little club, or your group that you want to build so you can build buildings and fill them up, and talk at conferences, and write books about how to grow churches. That having been said, and assuming you’re not that kind of person or you wouldn’t be reading this blog, here’s what you can do.
Instead of trying to make your church grow, or your organization, or anything else, let it grow. Every living organism, church, movement, particularly the church of Jesus Christ, grows by the law of the farm, not the law of the factory.
At most of the conferences I attend, speakers speak on the basis of the law of the factory. In other words, build a great assembly-line, fill it with product and great workers and out will come really great stuff. And if you want more of the great stuff, just increase the workers, do some re-aligning, and most of all increase the speed. Nothing could be further from the truth in growing something truly important and significant.
If you’re a pastor anywhere in America trying to make your church grow, stop it. Let it grow, which means you’ve got to have good seed. That’s the gospel. It’s the best kind. It is the power of God and the salvation to everyone who believes. The gospel works on its own. All we are to do is faithfully tell the redemptive story and be forces of reconciliation.
Once you’ve planted the seed, water it. Understand that you’ll be planting it in different soils which means it’s going to grow at different rates. So give it time. Water it. Fertilize it. Create a healthy environment. Give it some time and it will grow on God’s timing, not yours.
There is nothing you can do to hurry up the growth of the spiritual organization. Yes, it is true you can slow it down and you can impede it altogether. But your job is to take away the impediments to growth: the boundaries, the walls, things that arise to keep the church from growing spontaneously as a move of God.
So here is my advice. Love people, plant the seed of the gospel, water it, wait, and let God grow the church. You’ll be happier and the result will be a lot healthier in the long term.