Saturday, January 23, 2010

Church Growth Principles

1. Prayer or Spiritual Warfare

Prayer is indispensable to church growth. The principle of unified prayer, or prayer with one mind and purpose, is a thread that runs throughout Acts. Luke's initial description of the 120 shows that they followed Christ's command to wait for the Holy Spirit by obediently praying as a group Ac 1:14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. See also Acts 4:18 (Sanhedrin); Acts 12:5 (Herod); Acts 11:11 (Peter's rescue).

2. A clear and unique vision

Pro 29:18 "Where there is no vision, the people perish". Vision is God's plan of what he wants to accomplish in and through our lives and the lives of our churches. Several churches have vision statements they never use. What God blesses with success in one place is not necessarily His plan for any other. Every growing church has a sense of unique vision and purpose - a clear sense of direction. The church’s pastor and the members share a common vision for what God wants that church to accomplish. In most cases, the church’s pastor and the people can clearly describe and articulate their vision. This gives the people a sense of direction. They are moving toward an objective. They are not merely existing.

3. Leadership

A vigorous growing church is catalyzed by dynamic leadership that draws the entire church into action. For the church’s pastor to function as a good leader, he must have certain specific character qualities and carry out certain specific leadership responsibilities. The pastor must truly desire growth for the church and must be willing to pay the price in hard work. The leadership must lead the work to organize the mission, set goals, develop plans, and mobilize the people to accomplishment. He must be creative, innovative, and assertive with regard to the vision and mission God has for His work.

4. The recognition and importance of the members

The people of the work must be equipped to discover and use their gifts. They must be ready to assume new responsibilities and willingly hand over various leadership positions to other new people as the church continues to grow or expand.

5. Strategic Planning

The idea is to develop ongoing strategies that will help achieve the mission of the church. These should move the church toward realizing the accomplishment of its vision. With specific instructions from the Saviour, the apostles established a strategy to reach Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8). Nehemiah positioned his people in areas of interests. Paul went to the synagogue and then the agora which was both a market place and centre of public life (Acts 7:17). A good church website can help your church to grow. Unfortunately there is an on-going war in this technological age: Technophilia vs. Technophobia. Several church leaders are yet to realize potential of a website for church growth. Yet a church website, specifically designed to reach outsiders, integrated with other appropriate outreach strategies, could be a major key to drawing non-Christians to your church.

6. Sunday School Classes

This could be stated as the principle of assimilation. Perhaps the most important aspect of this principle is that the church must be structured in a way that develops an organizational base for growth. The larger the base, the greater the possibilities for growth. Sunday school classes provide a critical function that facilitates a church's growth along with, Youth Groups, Ministries (Men, Women, Youth, Children) etc.

7. Indigenization

Paul and Barnabas left the indigenous churches with leadership that would provide the direction after the apostles departed. Though the forms of church government vary in the New Testament, they appointed elders to continue their leadership roles. The elders were within the church ("in every church" Acts 14:23) completing the indigenization process.

8. Open Gospel

In the early church, some regarded Christians as Jews who have received Jesus as the promised Saviour. Consequently, any Gentile desiring to become a Christian must first become a Jew. This 'closed' gospel was a major concern for Christians like Paul. The Jerusalem Council became a pivotal point in the history of the early church. Neither circumcision nor adaptation to the Jewish community would be a requisite. Christians today should discover the same attitude to the unbelieving world. Is the gospel open today, or does it carry the baggage of cultural expectations, idolatry of tradition etc? One should not necessarily become a member of your tribe before he is a Christian.

9. Follow-Up

The mission of the church is to win souls. Therefore, evangelism is not treated as a single principle since that is the primary mission of the church. The related concept of 'follow" is crucial for young Christians. According to Acts 15:36, And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do. Follow-up could be regarded as a motherly instinct. It is a deliberate focus on young and new believers for the purpose of spiritual guidance and counseling.

10. Discipleship

According to John Wesley, leading souls to Christ without a discipleship program is to beget sons for the devil. Church growth is enhanced when each member becomes a part of the body (Eph. 4:16; Rom. 12:3-8; I Cor.12:12-22) and is endangered when they do not identify with the body. What we have learned must be committed to the faithful to teach others also 2 Tim 2:2. The importance of Bible Study, Sunday School Classes etc. cannot be overemphasized.

11. Sovereignty (Supreme Authority of God)

Despite the abundance of conflicts and setbacks in the early church, Luke communicates clearly that God is the final authority. Acts, in one perspective, is a narrative of the sovereign work of God in the midst of external and internal forces that would thwart any 'normal' movement. Though we are the vehicles to communicate the Gospel, our strength and power come from God. He gives the increase after the 'planting' and 'watering', He makes everything beautiful, not in our, but in His time. One sows, another waters but God gives the increase. The clay does not question the Potter's intent.