There are two ways to try and grow a church.
Plan A has years of tradition behind it: Convince those in the pews to get off of their blessed assurance and move out into the mission field to make disciples. Pastors have been trying to do that for longer than any of us have been alive. The results are pretty much what we’re experiencing – 85% of all US churches are in decline and only 4% are seriously growing. In over 40 years of ministry and 20 years of consulting, I’ve yet to find a church that started to grow because the preacher’s sermons inspired the long-time members to start putting their backs into faith-sharing ministry. Even Jesus tried that with the religious folks in his day and in the end he chose to start something new with 12 guys he could convince to follow him.
Plan B is the road less taken … very less taken. That plan for growing a church starts with a pastor who turns his/her eyes beyond the existing church members and invests their best efforts with those outside the church. That plan takes a lot of work – more work than most pastors are willing to do. And, at first, Plan B tends to make the existing members rather uncomfortable. But when church members start to witness new people coming to faith, and when they see lives being seriously transformed, that’s when some of the existing members will start to crawl out their pews and get into the action – but hesitantly at first.
Evangelism, discipleship, and life transformation are caught rather than taught. And they’re best caught when people see it happen right in front of their own eyes. The Jesus’ Model of See One … Do One … Teach One launched the first church growth movement … but it didn’t start until Jesus showed them how.
Pastor, you can keep trying to educate your members that it’s their responsibility to get out there and share the faith and grow the church … or you can step up and step out and show them how it’s done.
Plan A or Plan B in 2023?