Growing Churches Part 2
January 28, 2014
Updated February 27, 2014
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This blog entry is the second in a four part series on Growing Churches in the CRC and RCA. The first entry is located here.
Today’s entry continues with the factors that led to growth in CRC and RCA churches.
The church was at a point where it was ready to take risks and to make changes.
Some pastors explained their church’s situation in more negative terms- “the church had to grow to survive,” while others put a positive spin on it- “the church was in crisis mode and they were finally at a place where they wanted to change.” Whether the church was on life support or not, a number of pastors noted the importance of their church being flexible, adaptable, and willing to take risks. It was important for these churches to put away old traditions if they weren’t working and to try new things to reach new people.
The church prayed for growth.
There was a real sense that the pastors who mentioned prayer as a factor in the growth of their church were in congregations that took prayer for unchurched persons seriously. In most every case the pastor was quick to identify growth as a result of the work of God and the movement of the Holy Spirit. While they had very pragmatic strategies and perspectives as leaders, they saw God’s hand in all of that work.
The church focused on raising up disciples and leaders.
A few of the churches interviewed are being intentional about discipling people into leaders who will disciple more people, creating a leadership multiplication effort. Although almost every church has discipleship opportunities for persons of every age, what set these churches apart was their desire to raise up leaders for the church.
The church values solid, Reformed, Biblical preaching.
These churches are not turning away from Biblical preaching in the name of being attractional or culturally relevant. In fact, it appears that many of them have a renewed focus on delivering strong Biblical messages (while remaining conscious of the new visitor and cultural connections). Although some of the churches have distanced themselves in name from the denomination, they still maintain their strong ties to Reformed theology and worldview.
The church views itself as part of God’s larger Kingdom.
Although not necessarily a factor that led directly to growth, it is worth noting that many of these pastors commented on their role in God’s larger Kingdom. Most of them did not set out to grow their church just for the sake of increasing attendance numbers. They had a Kingdom perspective on ministry- that if their work and the work of their church was bringing people to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, then they were being faithful to God’s call. They were willing to partner with other churches for ministry programs or community renewal projects.
I think there is a general misconception of growing churches- that they must be walking away from their biblical, Reformed roots and adopting the ways of trendy culture in order to see growth. These five factors in particular dispute that clearly. The pastors of these churches are keeping the Bible central to their work and their worship. They are praying for God’s hand to lead the church and to change the hearts of people. They are focused on growing the Kingdom of God more than competing with the church down the road.
Reformed theology is a missional theology- one that, when lived out, should see growth. How can our denomination live out that theology in ways that expand the Kingdom of God?
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I appreciate the factors you mention and compare them with Nehemiah, who consciously carried out God's work as his mission, bathed with prayer, working through God's people to accomplish the task. It is never about the earthly leader, always about God, yet as with Nehemiah, until he showed up, no one did anything.
If there was a "like" button here, I would use it. :)
Thanks for this list! I'm curious about the item titled, "The church values solid, Reformed, biblical teaching."
I would love to read more about how these growing churches utilize our confessions in the classroom and the pulpit.
Hmm...that would be a great follow up question. Maybe the new Worship Collaborative Work Group should follow up on this?
The conversations I had mostly pointed to the fact that they did not try something flashy or thematic (think: the TOP 5 WAYS TO SUCCEED IN BUSINESS or WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM THE SUPER BOWL)- their worship services were biblically based, excegetical, and from a Reformed perspective.
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