As a former church planter, current traveling evangelist and lifelong student of church growth strategies, I'm convinced that there are 5 big reasons many churches never experience the right kind of growth.
I use the phrase "right kind of growth" because church growth that benefits from sucking other church members out of smaller congregations in the area is not ideal. Sure, it does and will happen, but the optimal brand of church growth happens when new disciples are being made and multiplied by the members of that church.
Having preached in tons of churches across the nation and having personally interviewed hundreds of pastors and thousands of youth pastors I'm convinced there are at least 5 big reasons why your church may not be experiencing significant growth.
1. Your church is not united in prayer.
"I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles. Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing." 1 Timothy 2:1-8
When Paul wrote Timothy about building effective churches, he reminded him that priority number one must be prayer. Paul knew that when a church was united in prayer, it will be united for action. As the old saying goes, "Much prayer, much power. Little prayer, little power. No prayer, no power."
Far too many churches today fail to experience growth through evangelism because they fail to experience God through prayer. The day before his death Jesus himself reminded his disciples in John 15:5, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing."
Jesus' promise to us is that if we stay connected to him through prayerful dependence we "will bear much fruit." So if you want your church to grow then start praying and get your people praying too!
2. Your church is not fully "gospelized."
Do you give the gospel every Sunday? Have you trained your people to share the Good News of Jesus in a clear and compelling way? Are your church services, Sunday school classes and small group meetings drenched in stories about new disciples being made and multiplied?
If your answer to these questions is "no", then your church is not fully gospelized.
To be gospelized means that your people are drenched in Gospel Fluency. They know the gospel message because they hear it week in and week out. If someone put a microphone to their lips and asked them to present the gospel clearly they could because you have helped them master it through relentless repetition. Like Charles Spurgeon, your sermons are always making "a beeline for the cross." No matter what preaching on the gospel is your endgame.
If your church is gospelized, it's because you have adopted the strategy of the Apostle Paul when it comes to church growth and revitalization, "For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" 1 Corinthians 2:2.
For more help in gospelizing your church or youth group, go to gospeladvancing.com and take the self-assesment (diagnostic).
3. Your church leaders are not modeling Gospel Advancing, disciple multiplying lives.
In Luke 6:40 Jesus said, "The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher."
If the pastors, leaders, elders, deacons, small group leaders, youth leaders and Sunday school teachers in your church are not actively sharing their faith, then they won't be challenging those under their lead to share their faith.
People replicate what they see modeled. Far too many church leaders don't model evangelism well so this crucial DNA strand of the church is never replicated in the congregation.
I challenge you to get your entire leadership team to read the Dare 2 Share Field Guide. Take them through it and wrestle through some of the questions at the end of each chapter. Although it's designed for teenagers, it's basic enough that even a ministry leader can understand it ;)
It will give you and your leaders the Biblical framework for evangelism as well as the practical "take off to touch down" gospel sharing skills they need to carry on a gospel conversation in a clear and compelling way.
But once they are trained to share their faith, it will be up to you to keep the gospel central to your leadership meetings. It will be up to you to hold them accountable to share the gospel story consistently and compassionately.
Because the more your leaders evangelize, the more your people will.
4. Your church services are lame.
Far too often churches don't grow because the music stinks or the preaching is subpar or the nursery is messy or the programs are disorganized.
We must be willing to speak (and hear) the truth about these things if our churches are going to grow. Our church services must be organized. Our sermons must be compelling. Our buildings must be clean. Our programs must be tight.
And don't give me the lame excuse about not having enough budget. For the last 25 years, I have been training teenagers to share their faith through full weekend Dare 2 Share conferences. We've not always had the budget to do everything we've wanted to so that we could produce high quality events. But, what we've lacked in budget, we've made up for in prayer, creativity and hard work.
It doesn't take a big budget to have inviting services and tight programs but it does take a big effort. You and your team must be willing to make that effort!
5. Your church's "lampstand" has been taken.
"Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place." Revelation 2:5
This is when the power and presence of Jesus has evacuated the building. The people are cold, the warfare is hot and the momentum has stopped.
To prevent this from taking place in your church, Jesus gave three "calls to action" in Revelation 2: He challenges the Ephesian believers to remember, repent and return.
Remember your original gospel fire. Repent (literally, "change your mindset") about how and why you're doing ministry. And then return to doing what you did (or should have been doing) when you first got into ministry. In other words, start gospelizing again!
Through Jesus, it's not too late. It's never too late!
My prayer is that this article motivates you to take action and build a church that is growing both deep and wide! Through Christ it can be done!