Facebook seems to know a lot about me. I’m pretty sure that they know I’m a pastor. Why do I think that? Well whenever I go through my news feed there are advertisements for church marketing programs. Yes, church marketing programs. It amazes me how many strategies there are for church growth. Now, while I do not believe that having a strategy for evangelism or church growth is useless, I do believe that Scripture has given us what should be our primary strategy for church growth: preaching the gospel of Christ.
Consider with me the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians:
[full_width padding=”5px 20px 5px 20px”]
“When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come with superior eloquence or wisdom as I proclaimed the testimony of God. For I decided to be concerned about nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and with much trembling. My conversation and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not be based on human wisdom but on the power of God.”
1 Corinthians 2:1-5 | New English Translation
When Paul arrived at Corinth he didn’t try a “5 steps to church growth” system. He didn’t attempt to be “trendy,” “wise,” or “relevant.” Instead he simply and humbly proclaimed the message of the Gospel. He demonstrated the transforming power of the Holy Spirit by how he lived. Even though this message was considered foolish to those perishing, Paul knew that it was the only message of salvation and power (1 Cor 1:18). He knew that if he used eloquent words to attract people, those attracted would eventually fade away. So instead Paul preached the gospel of Christ. He preached that people had fallen short of God’s glory, but that they could enter into a relationship with Him and then live for Him – just as he himself was doing.
Now, when it comes to church growth there are two important truths to remember. First, healthy churches will usually see church growth (Acts 2:47). Secondly though, church growth doesn’t prove that a church is healthy (Isa 9:16; Acts 20:30). So while church growth can be a “helpful metric” to consider, it cannot become the primary focus of the church. Otherwise, any method of getting people into church –even crazy ideas like offering $1,000 per visitor- would need to be considered. That is why I humbly believe that if church growth becomes the primary focus of the church – instead of glorifying God- it becomes a false god.
So does that mean there is no “strategy for church growth?” Not at all! I believe that the greatest strategy for church growth is to boldly proclaim the gospel. That is, we must proclaim that everyone has fallen short of God’s glory, that only Christ can get us rightly related to God, and that we have been created to live for God’s glory.
What might this look like? Well sometimes it will be calling sinners to repent of falling short of God’s glory. So perhaps talking to a co-worker, neighbor, or even stranger about their need of Christ. Other times it will be calling each other to faithfully live for God’s glory –whether corporately through preaching, or individually through relationships with other believers.
While there are many different strategies for church growth, if church growth becomes our goal we will have lost sight of what is most important. Instead, we should focus on proclaiming the gospel’s power to transform us from sinners fighting against God into faithful glorifiers of God.