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How to Grow a Church

There are 5 stages in a church’s life:

  1. Birth
  2. Growth
  3. Maintenance
  4. Decline
  5. Death – where the congregation closes shop and moves on

Revival is optional, therefore it is not a stage in a church's life.

Birth and Death are absolutes; once done, it cannot be undone. Once Born, it cannot be unborn. Once Dead, it cannot be undead.

But Growth, Maintenance and Decline can flow and change from one to the other.  They are fluid. A church in decline can start to grow again.  A church in Maintenance can stay where it is, or grow, or decline.

The word church, as used here, refers to a Christian congregation meeting at a specific place. It is not the "Catholic Church" or the "Baptist Church." It would be the congregation of a place named something like "St. Anne's Catholic Church" or "Calvary Baptist Church."


A church can grow in two ways:

  1. by Showmanship
  2. by God's Increase


I assume the pastor wants the church to grow by God's Increase. Sometimes a really capable pastor can get good growth in a church by great Showmanship but he wants it to be God's Increase so much, he calls the results of his Showmanship "God's Increase." Now understand what's happening here: he's putting on a good show; people come to see him perform and he calls their attendance "God's Blessing."

I, for one, enjoy a good show and would be inclined to attend a church that has both Showmanship and God's Increase.

Showmanship, like Maintenance, can still bring new people to God – that is, by accident.

In Maintenance, new people come to church
1. by culture (i.e. they were raised in a church denomination and start attending this church because it's in their neighborhood and of their denomination),
2. or by accident (someone decides to go to church),
3. or by birth (they grow up in the church).

In Showmanship, new people come to church
1. to see the show
2. by accident, but continue attending because they enjoy the show.

In both cases, while attending church, the person somehow finds God because the pastor or program is open to him finding God, or God himself leads the person in the right direction by dealing with his soul on a spiritual basis..

It's just that, in a showmanship type church, more people are attracted to the Showman (pastor) than to God. Therefore, when the pastor ages, dies, retires or otherwise goes away, the church goes into Maintenance or Decline mode, and the people who did not attend in order to find and serve God, goes away looking for a new Showman.

The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:1-5,

When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.

Paul rejected church growth by Showmanship in favor of church growth by God's Increase. Possibly because Paul was never a very good Showman anyway. And that also may have been one of the reasons Jesus appeared to Paul and not to Apollos, and sent him to preach the gospel to the Gentiles.

God's Increase

A church grows through God's Increase when the pastor is following God's lead by both spirit and scripture. These steps are involved in a church that grows by God's Increase.

  1. The pastor-to-be seeks God and asks for God's guidance
  2. God leads him or her to begin a ministry to a certain group of people. That may be to the New Yorkers, or to hoodlums, or to single mothers, or to immigrants, and so on. He or she knows it is God's leading, because the longing love in his heart for these people won't go away. Soon that love becomes more than an urge and he or she accepts God's commission to go to these people.
  3. Prayers are given for wisdom and guidance in this mission, plus the commitment to God to follow his leading.
  4. The pastor gives the church a mission statement, such as,
    "We are going to target young black people between the ages 18-45 in this city.
    1 We will first and foremost preach the gospel of salvation to them.
    2. We will help them grow spiritually.
    3. We will help them learn how to find answers for their own questions in the scriptures.

Notice that in this scenario, God chose the pastor. It was God that put the love and desire in the pastor's heart. David, the Shepherd-Poet-King, said this in Psalm 37:4.

Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.

If you are loving God and spending time with him, then when you find a godly desire welling up in your heart, it was put there by God.

If God tells the pastor to preach the gospel – be it man or woman – no one else has the right to tell that pastor that he or she cannot.

Being a good pastor is more than having a commitment to God. It takes skill, too. Therefore if the pastor needs additional skill to fulfill his task, then his duty is to get it.

1. If he doesn't speak good English, he should start to learn immediately.
2. If he doesn't know the peculiar habits and culture of his congregation, he should learn them.
3. If he has undesirable personal habits, such as a short temper, pride, intolerance, lust, or anything else that could ruin the mission, he must act with God immediately to get those under control.
4. If he is ignorant of scripture, he should make every effort to learn it fully.
5. If he is a bad presenter of the message (bad showmanship), he should learn to be a better showman
6. If he is a bad speaker, he should join Toastmasters or in some other way to learn to be a good speaker.

The pastor is responsible to polish himself up to be a better servant and tool for God.

If God gave you a mission and you follow that mission as it is being led by God, then you will have God's Increase.

But if you love the mission and think you can do it well because you have all the skills necessary, and you want to explore your full potential, and you envision a great, successful church — then it's all about you, not God.

In Church Growth, Good Showmanship is a great help only if God comes first; otherwise it will be disasterous when something changes and the showman moves on.