In the last seven years, my church has grown by an average of almost 200 people annually.
That’s a shift from a church of about 650 to a church of around 2,000…in less than a decade.
I say that with no arrogance because I recognize that I am the successor to a great leader and the servant of an awesome God.
It’s worth saying, though.
The Unstuck Group writes that numbers are important because “numbers start honest conversations.”
So let’s have an honest conversation.
Seven years ago, in 2009, a strategic decision was made by our church leadership. The decision was to move our church away from one service format to three separate services with three different styles. Maybe you’ve heard an approach like this: the hymn service, the chorus service, the “contemporary” service.
In less than two years, the “contemporary” service had become the junior higher of the house–needing extra attention, always hungry for activity (and food!), and outweighing everyone smaller on the teeter totter. A shift had taken place. The shift looked a lot like momentum.
At this point, another change was made. The last two services both moved to a contemporary or progressive format and the “hymns” or “traditional” service filled the final spot on a jammed, 3-service Sunday morning. We’ve kept that pace since and the trajectory set in 2011 has continued to climb. The growth has been assisted by a fourth service, an overflow room, a livestream, and a Saturday night service on big weekends.
Thankfully, our junior higher grew up, began to take ownership, became the core of the house, and started to pay the bills.
I say all that to say this:
In 2009, with resistance, our church made a decision to make a move.
And that decision has paid huge dividends.
Making a decision to make a move should not be a once-in-a-lifetime decision for a church.
Making moves should be the regular approach of the church.
I think it’s fairly obvious that a politician using the same platform in 2016 as they did in 2000 would prove them outdated and unprepared for leadership in a world that is quickly changing.
It seems obvious that a doctor who uses the same approach and practices as they did at the beginning of their career in 1976 would not have a successful practice 40 years later in 2016.
Isn’t it obvious that a business using the same approach that they did in 1990 (pre-WIFI, Apple revolution, and debit card) would fail in 2016 if they didn’t make some changes?
Isn’t it obvious that the church has to continue to change?
Here are three ways you can become an agent of change in your church:
1- Get Involved in the Mission
Those that are able to make the jump are those who see the bottom line.
The bottom line in the church is SOULS.
The bottom line is NOT the personal comfort, nostalgia, or showmanship of the believer.
Think about how that changes how we use money, spiritual gifts, and our gatherings.
I’m not just talking to older generations here. Younger generations that are uninvolved in the mission of soul-winning will be left unsatisfied with their churches. They will disengage or go looking for platforms for their own promotion. It puts us on alert because without these conversations, this generation will become nomadic and their journeys will most likely lead them away from involvement or association with the local church.
Next gen: We desperately need your creativity, entrepreneurship and vision in the local church!
KEY: Those who are able to “commend His works from one generation to the next” and stay healthy through decades in the church are those who are committed to the mission of souls and choose to let go of predispositions.
If you don’t SERVE the HOUSE or the MISSION, you SURRENDER your OPINION.
2- Get Used to Saying “YES”
We have all been around those people that always say ‘no’. “Don’t do that! Don’t touch that! Don’t think that! Don’t go there! Don’t be like that!” Growing up in the church, I was keenly aware that I should NOT run in Sanctuary (By the way, what does that word even mean to an unsaved person?). I was aware that I should probably NOT touch the piano, keyboard, communion table, or the really large Bible on the communion table (Who said there had to be a stationary table for communion?). I was also aware that church was where you went to behave correctly, not talk too loudly, and to definitely not fall asleep at any point.
The point of this blog is not to beat on the local church because I am a product of a small church in a tiny town in one of the least populated states in this great Union.
My point is that sometimes you just have to realize that some approaches are no longer relevant…or not even Biblically or relationally correct. My faith meant a lot more to me when I realized the house of God was not a building I went to every week but was actually this life God has given me to live out every day. My life and faith changed when I learned how to treat that house. And when I learned how to treat it, He began to fill it more and more. My life changed.
When new ideas, new people, and new approaches come into our sphere, we should see them as possibility and opportunity. Too often the church has learned to say “no” to people because they don’t fit or act the part, “no” to ideas because it’s a lot of work or it moves someone’s cheese, and “no” to approaches because we have never done it that way before. Start saying “yes” because you may be in that person’s situation some day, the cheese is getting moldy, and it had never been done the crucified Savior way until Christ went to the cross.
But he said “yes” anyways.
3- Get Acquainted with Seeing People Rather than Programs or Aesthetics.
There are approaches we take at our church that I don’t like.
But I choose to look at people and how they respond to those approaches instead of what I’d prefer.
Why? Because people are way more important.
Jesus didn’t give a whole lot of instruction on what the church should do on Sundays.
He didn’t say much about weekly activities.
Sure, he gave us principles that should be a part of those things but he focused on saying, “Be the church. Overcome. Win.” He said a lot about loving people. It may be easier to produce and/or criticize programs but we are called to produce disciples.
Christ assured us that we could be his fragrance on this earth. Things that don’t change start to stink because they die. Have you checked your fragrance lately? If it’s moved from fragrance to odor, it may be time to make a move and reapply.
Jesus called his church a pure and spotless bride.
Jesus said his church would overcome.
Jesus said the church would love God and love people.
Jesus promised the enemy would not overcome her.
Your church could be one move away.