Growthbusters!

I’ve been coaching pastors for over a decade now and I’ve noticed that we (yes, I include myself) often struggle with the same things.

When our church isn’t growing we feel defeated, dejected, and discouraged. It can be very frustrating and I’m convinced that many good pastors have thrown in the towel too soon.

For those of us who have stuck it out and yet stay stuck, we ask the all-important question:

What’s keeping my church from growing?

That’s the right question, but I’ve noticed that when we begin to explore the answers we tend to always start with what’s going on OUTSIDE the four walls of the church: culture, secularism, atheism, sports leagues and the rise of the “Nones” to name a few.

However, more often than not the biggest GROWTHBUSTERS are to be found on the inside, not on the outside.

Here are a few GROWTHBUSTERS that need a blast from the proton pack!

1. Comparison

One of the most insidious growthbusters infecting churches is the sin of comparison. The moment we begin to look at what “they’re” doing, it destroys what God’s doing at our church. Paul tells us, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit…” (Philippians 2:3).

If you want to grow your church, you’re going to have to keep your eyes on your own paper as my teachers used to say.

STOP looking at Outreach magazine’s “Top 100” lists. They tell you NOTHING about the health or context or even caliber of growth those churches are experiencing.

As Shakespeare said jealousy is a “green-eyed monster,” and it’s one that needs to be ZAPPED!

2. Copying

A kissing cousin of comparison is copying.

There’s a fine line between guarding against jealousy and becoming unteachable.

We should have the humility to learn from other churches: what they’re doing to successfully reach and develop people for Jesus.

Someone once said, “I’ll be original or nothing” and they were both. Learning from healthy churches demonstrates humility and wisdom. Why on earth would we want to reinvent the wheel when someone may have already solved the problem I’m facing?

With that being said, we must learn the art of perceiving the principles behind the methodologies. You’ve probably heard it before:

Methods are many;
Principles are few.
Methods may change;
Principles never do.

It is imperative that church leaders learn how to contextualize successful methods without copying.

Instead of asking, “What are they doing?” Ask, “Why is it working?”

Simply copying some other church’s program with no thought to your own culture and context can introduce unnecessary growthbusters!

3. Control

Perhaps one of the most common growthbusters is the problem of control. It’s the number one reason listed by Carl George and Warren Bird in their best-selling book, “How to Break Growth Barriers.” Warren writes, “The key [growth] issue at your church is probably not a stubborn deacon or even a perennially unmet church budget. Instead, it is probably the lack of a workable set of values to overcome certain obstacles in ministry. This looks like a clear case of “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”

Leaders who feel they must oversee every ministry, attend every meeting, generate every idea, recruit and train every volunteer, plan every program, audit every lesson, visit every sick person, and marry and bury every member, has basically said, “This church rises and falls on me.”

Pastor, let me state it plainly. You can have control or growth, but you can’t have both. If you want your church to grow beyond your capacity then you must begin to release authority and empower people for ministry.

Why on earth did God go to so much trouble to gift every believer if their primary role in the church is to sit, soak and sour?

According to the Bible, a pastor’s primary job is to equip and empower God’s people to do the ministry:

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11–12, NLT)

You need a Moses moment where God is saying to YOU, “Let my people go!

If you want the church to grow beyond you then it has to be released by you.

4. Competence

A fourth growthbuster is when the church leadership lacks the necessary skills to take the church to the next level. Grandma used to say, “Work smarter, not harder.” The Bible says it this way:

A dull ax requires great strength; be wise and sharpen the blade.” (Ecclesiastes 10:10, The Living Bible)

The point is simple. It takes more than hard work to grow the church. It takes skill.

One of the saddest reasons many churches will not grow is because their pastor is too prideful to admit that he or she doesn’t have all the answers. He’d rather mask it in a smokescreen of false spirituality claiming that church growth is all a bunch of washed-down, entertainment-focused, corporate-borrowed, hogwash, and he’d rather “keep the faith.” The problem is that he’s doing just that – keeping the faith to himself!

A church that is so focused on keeping the church “pure” versus winning as many people to Christ as possible, isn’t being Christlike.

Jesus said, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10, NIV)

Evangelistic passion should drive us to sharpen our axe.

Every year our church hosts The DREAM Church Conference where we focus on equipping church leaders to “sharpen their axe.”

Frankly, we often learn as much from the attendees as we teach them. It’s an awesome time of collaborative learning where we do all we can to reach as many as we can for as long as we can.

I hope you will consider joining us as together we “cross streams” and wipe out the growthbusters…who ya gonna call?


What growthbusters would you add?

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