No, I don’t actually have a note on my desk reminding me that the size of my church isn’t up to me. But maybe I should. Maybe a lot of us should.
I know one thing for sure. If the size of my church was up to me, it would have been a lot bigger a long time ago.
And yes, I know the drill. Just preach the Word, train disciples, reach people, remove obstacles and the church will grow, won’t it? It’s inevitable, right?
I’ve already written several articles refuting that false belief, (check the end of this post for some of them) so I won’t do it again here.
But in spite of the fact that I know it’s not true, sometimes I still want it to be true.
After all, it just makes sense. How can a church be healthy and strong, but not grow numerically? It seems counterintuitive and … I don’t know … wrong somehow.
But that’s reality. A lot of healthy churches don’t grow numerically.
No matter how many right principles we follow, how well we preach and promote it, or how many obstacles to growth we remove, some churches Just. Don’t. Get. Bigger!
Previous Growth Is No Guarantee of Future Growth
For example, a couple years ago I met and became friends with a pastor of a church near mine. He was previously on staff at a megachurch, where he led a huge youth group and participated in some well-known Christian music projects. He’s especially good at graphic design and promotion.
When he started pastoring, he faithfully applied the principles that had previously worked for him and that he’d seen work for the pastors he’d worked with. But, while his church is great, it has stayed small.
As he and I were talking about this a while ago, comparing his previous successes to his current frustrations, he blurted out, only half jokingly, “It ticks me off that my preaching and graphics won’t build a big church!”
Me too, I told him. Then we laughed at our own stupidity.
I Can’t Make Growth Happen
I want to make my church grow.
There’s just one problem with that.
It’s not my church to grow.
I have to remind myself of that all the time.
It’s Jesus’ church. Not mine.
The church existed before I came along. This church – the one I currently pastor – existed before me, too. And both will long outlast me.
So I have to keep learning this frustrating truth.
Some things are beyond my control.
There. I admitted it. That should make me feel better. But it doesn’t.
Because I want to be in control. Or, at the very least, when I surrender my control to the control of the Holy Spirit I want results that make sense.
The Wisdom to Know the Difference
I keep learning to relax my grip and surrender to Jesus. To give him control and to be OK with what I can’t control.
If only someone would come up with a short, memorable prayer about knowing the difference between the things I can and can’t control and what to do about it. (Insert sarcasm emoticon here. If that’s not enough, click here to read the Serenity Prayer.)
So I have to live with this reality.
The numerical growth of the church is beyond my control. I have no say in the outcome of my efforts. The only control I have is whether-or-not to stay faithful.
Preaching the Word, training disciples and ministering to the community may or may not increase the number of people who sit in front of me from Sunday to Sunday.
But it will produce a healthy church.
If I am faithful, God may sometimes bring numbers, but he will always bring health.
I’m learning to be OK with that.
Because healthy matters more than big.
Here are some of the posts I mentioned earlier:
- Growing a Bigger Congregation Is Hard, Rare and [Gasp!] NOT a Biblical Mandate
- We Followed the Steps – Where’s the Church Growth?
- Everything You Know About Small Churches Is Wrong
- 9 No-Fault, No-Excuse Reasons Many Healthy Churches Stay Small
So what do you think? Do you sometimes get frustrated when your best efforts don’t bring the expected numbers?
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