I’ve pondered various elements of church life over the last couple of weeks, one question is how far one should go to build a ‘larger’ church.
First, what I do if numerical growth was the key issue? I would focus on:
1. Sunday morning experience:
– Preaching to encourage people, helping make connections between the Bible, sermon and daily life; motivating them to Christian living. People need to leave feeling the sermon (or interactive discussion group) is an indispensible part of their week.
– Worship which makes good use of music to enable people to celebrate, give thanks and connect with God, using Scripture, prayer, testimony and other creative means so heart, mind and soul engage in an encounter with Jesus. People need to leave feeling the worship was great, they love the band/worship leader, and just knew that God was there.
– Excellent provision for babies, children and young people alongside a commitment to enable them to be a full part of today’s church. People come if they feel their children are enjoying it and if their faith is being nurtured.
– Ensure that every potential church attendee within 20 mins travel of the church knows about us and has a growing understanding of the type of church we are. If we want to grow big we need to be the place to come.
– Vision: with a strap line that defines churches mission in language most people can understand. People need to be able to explain what they are coming to with their friends.
– Clear, uncluttered communications (web, newsletter, notices, etc etc) which embody the ethos of the church, promote the vision of the church and deliver key messages. People need to understand what we are about.
3. Personal Growth:
– A relentless focus on opportunities and resources to enable people to grow as disciples. Including an attractive small group programme as well as specific elements targeted to engage people at different life stages from cradle to grave. Emotional commitment to church is one thing, but in the longer term people need to be transformed.
– Continuous opportunity for relationship; encouraging people to develop supportive friendships with other Christians so members of the church can watch over each other in loving and transforming ways. People want friendship, acceptance, love and support; they will stay if they feel church provides it.
Second, what we would loose if we did.
1. Concern for local community.
– isn’t the church’s engagement with its local community a sign of health and an important element of mission?
2. Covenant relationships.
– isn’t a church which draws people from outside a local area because of the quality of its services, inevitably creating a consumer church with shallow relationships?
– doesn’t it also suck the life out of smaller gathered communities meeting in the wider area?
– isn’t a church based on programmes failing to take spiritual disciplines such as prayer and service seriously enough?
-isn’t worship based on celebration and preaching with an emphasis on exhortation just going to produce shallow activism?
Thirdly, is there a way of reconciling these? I don’t know but suspect these three things might help.
1. God focus
An expectation that God would speak and intentionally seeking the Holy Spirit are not about church size, neither is a sense of anticipation. But churches that seek God usually don’t go far wrong!
2. Kingdom orientation
Churches which equip people to make a difference; encourage them to share good news, get involved serving and transforming communities and look to see evidence of the kingdom will have a positive impact on both local communities and the wider world.
3. Transforming lives
“The kingdom of God is near, repent and follow” puts discipleship at the heart of our faith. Following in the footsteps of the one who said love God and love others; living to serve the God of justice, compassion and mercy; developing the fruit of the Spirit and a life empowered by the Spirit of holiness and wholeness will see everyone changed for the better.
I write some of this a bit 'tongue in cheek' but suspect a church which endeavours to transform followers of Jesus will revolutionise the world. I'm much more sure that churches need to be clear about what they hope to be or do; because the answer to that question makes a big difference.
Neil – I agree wholeheartedly, but some churches have a prevailing sense of tiredness as the congregation ages. (and I say that as a member of a very small baptist church) Sometimes it can feel tiring to be a member of a church like that, and I don’t mean that as criticism of my own church or yours, just reality! Associations becoming more inter-connected will hopefully be a very good thing for those of us as congregations that need the support from other, bigger churches. Some good thoughts here!