By Chuck Lawless
I understand that “church growth” has been associated with pragmatism and a watered-down gospel, but properly understood historical church growth is rooted in Bible-based, strategic evangelism and discipleship. It is, in Thom Rainer’s definition, “effective evangelism that results in fruit-bearing disciples in the local church.”
As a new year approaches, I encourage church leaders desiring to see healthy church growth to make these commitments:
- I will pray every day with my spouse and family. Growing churches are praying churches, and praying churches are led by praying pastors, staff, and lay leaders. Church leaders who really pray begin by praying with those that matter most—their family. If even for only a few moments each day, make family prayer a priority.
- I will read through the Bible this year. Church leaders who want to make a difference long to hear from God each day, and they hold themselves accountable to reading the Word. They thus lead churches with conviction and certitude—two traits that research indicates attract the unchurched. Start this next year by following a workable Bible reading plan, perhaps one found under “Bible Study Tools” at crosswalk.com.
- I will memorize at least one scripture verse each week. Healthy church growth involves a spiritual battle, and we can rest assured the enemy will strike churches that want to reach people and make disciples. Only the best armed spiritual leaders are ready for that battle. Memorize the Word, and have the Sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17) ready when the enemy seeks to discourage and defeat you.
- I will walk in holiness. Let’s be honest: even leaders struggle with sin. Many leaders, in fact, wrestle in secret areas of their lives. The strongest spiritual leaders, though, bring sin out of the darkness through confession, turn from it, and follow Christ. It’s a basic Christian commitment – but it’s a non-negotiable one for leaders who desire God’s blessing.
- I will speak about God to someone each day. Most of us will be better witnesses for God if we simply speak about Him more often to anyone—including other believers. Rejoice with others when God answers prayer. Steer conversations to God’s goodness. Simply talk of his righteousness all day long (Psa. 71:24), and witnessing to non-believers will come much more naturally.
- I will seek opportunities to share my faith weekly. One word—intentionality—characterizes evangelistically growing churches. If you want your church to grow in the new year, lead intentionally by sharing the gospel at least once a week. Pray and watch for God-given opportunities, and don’t miss open doors (Col. 4:2-4).
- I will personally disciple at least four believers this year. God often blesses churches with new growth when they are most prepared to disciple new believers. Effective discipling begins with leaders who intentionally mentor other believers. Commit next year to mentor at least four believers, perhaps working with two for six months at a time.
- I will increase my commitment to global missions this year. With two billion people having little or no access to the gospel, Christian leaders cannot ignore this global need. You may give more, pray more, send more, or go more – but plan to do something more next year than you have this year.
- I will honestly evaluate the church’s growth throughout the year. Too often, growing churches become comfortable with only “swapping sheep” with other congregations. This next year, lead your church to ask recurrently, “Is God using our church to reach non-believers and make disciples?” If not, pray the Word of the Lord would spread rapidly through the ministry of your church (2 Thess. 3:1).
- I will hold myself accountable to someone for these commitments. Healthy church growth does ask questions about techniques and strategies, but it does not start there. It begins with God and His called leaders who walk with Him, love His Word, share the gospel, and invest themselves in new believers. In many ways, healthy church growth in this next year will be about doing old things well – and so deeply committing to them that you hold yourself accountable.
What other commitments do you intend to make in the new year? Let us know, and take time to pray for each person who responds.
This post originally appeared on thomrainer.com.