Summary: Most folks want their church to grow, but what are the practical steps to make that happen? This message addresses three areas that need to be prepared if we are going to see growth in our churches.
Growing the Church
You ever think about Church Growth? You ever wonder about whether or not Cornerstone is growing? Does it every cross or mind, is it even relevant in your life?
There are some folks at Cornerstone who honestly never think about church growth, they attend, they enjoy the services but whether the church is growing or in decline never crosses their minds, until it effects them personally.
They arrive and can’t find a parking space, the coffee has run out or they have to sit too close to the front. Or if all of a sudden we didn’t have the volunteers to greet them at the door or make their coffee then they might wonder where folks went. But it’s not on their radar, if asked they might say: Not my circus, not my monkey.
Then there are others who are asking me all the time about how our attendance is? Are there more folks attending now then there were last year? Others want to know what our plans for growth are, will we add more services or expand the building?
And they want to know what Cornerstone is actually doing to grow, do we have a plan? Because they know that in order for us to continue to grow we need to have a plan for where people will go, or we will end up in the same situation as the restaurant in St. Louise that Yogi Berra was speaking of when he said “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”
And then there is a third group and they think that any talk of church growth is worldly, that we should simply let God take care of growing the church and we should focus on more spiritual issues.
But regardless of how you view church growth the reality is the church was born to grow, just like each one of us was born to grow and everything alive was born to grow.
Listen to some of the early descriptions of the church Acts 2:41 Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all. Acts 2:47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved. Acts 4:4 But many of the people who heard their message believed it, so the number of believers now totaled about 5,000 men, not counting women and children.
Eventually they just stopped counting, and so we read in Acts 5:14 Yet more and more people believed and were brought to the Lord—crowds of both men and women. Acts 9:31 The church then had peace throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in numbers.
Last week Stefan led you through “Why We Need to Grow” and he spoke about how Jesus Commands it, the Bible Illustrates it and Reality Demands it.
But that still leaves us with the question: how? How do churches grow?
Sometimes I embarrass Angela, for various reasons. One of those times was when we went to see “A League of their Own” with a group of friends in Australia.
Perhaps you remember the movie. It starred Tom Hanks, Madonna and Genna Davis and it tells the story of the first professional women’s baseball league which was formed during the Second World War.
And there is a scene where Coach Jim Dugan is confronting Genna Davis’ character who wants to quit the team and move home to Oregon. So let’s pick it up with this clip. (Clip for A League of their own.)
And I loved that quote, and so in the dark of the movie theatre I start asking who has a pen and paper to write it down. Because that is not only the reality of baseball it is the reality of church growth, it is supposed to be hard if it was easy everybody would be doing it, and they’re not.
There are only a small percentage of churches that grow on a consistent basis. The rest? The best case scenario is that they hold their own. They aren’t growing but they aren’t declining, they have plateaued. Sometimes they will say they are consolidating or just stepping back so they can get a running start at moving to the next level. And often it might seem like it’s a plateau but once you start looking at it over the long term you would see that it is actually a gradual decline.
But for too many churches the decline isn’t gradual. Every year there are fewer people worshipping than there had been before. And it wasn’t always like that, I mean before they could stop being a church of 100 or 200 they had to become a church of 100 or 200. There was growth somewhere in their history.