I start with some caveats today. First, I understand that the words “church growth” carry baggage of American pragmatism and a watered-down gospel; so, I’m careful in using that descriptor. Second, I want everything we do as a church to be thoroughly biblical. Thus, I am not arguing for anything that lacks a biblical foundation. At the same time, though, I do think that strategizing for church growth has merit. Here’s why:
- God is a strategic-thinking God. From the beginning, He had a plan. He knew He would call out a people through whom the nations would be blessed. He planned the cross even as He formed the hillside on which Jesus would die. He sent His disobedient people into exile so they might return to Him in faithfulness. He formed the New Testament church, gave it some basic structure, and has a plan to return at just the right time to redeem His people and establish His kingdom. He is not a chaotic God (1 Cor 14:33); He’s a God of order and strategy, and we’re to follow Him.
- The enemy we face is also a strategist (Eph 6:11). In fact, he often has more access to the church because he’s a better strategist than most church leaders. He’s a schemer who knows how to infiltrate the church and attack its leaders. What we do strategically – that is, with intentionality and direction – to lead a church to biblical growth helps ward off the enemy.
- Good church growth strategizing demands knowing our community. Any strategy formed without analyzing the demographics of a community becomes an inwardly focused plan that often leads only to transfer growth rather than conversion growth. Good strategies lead to reaching non-believers and the unchurched.
- Good church growth strategies strive to place all church members in places of service. A strong strategy recognizes that we need all members of the Body to find their place (see this post on a 1 Cor 12 church). Where church members are either (a) allowed to sit or (b) permitted to overwork to burnout, the church’s strategy is ineffective.
- Good church growth strategies require evaluation. They ask questions like, “Are we really reaching non-Christians?” “Are we keeping the people we’ve reached?” “Are our members getting invested in small groups and ministries?” “Are people living a godly life?” “Are we sending out members into ministry?” Answered honestly and empirically, these church growth questions are important ones.
Here’s my point: it’s not unbiblical or man-centered for church leaders to think, plan, strategize, evaluate, and adjust as needed to do the Great Commission as long as the Bible clearly remains our foundation. It’s possible to be gospel-centered and strategically wise at the same time.