Lesson I Remembering
Some of my earliest memories are of sitting between my parents at church. I sang in a loud off key voice. In fact, I still do. As a five year old, I found the services long and boring. Many times today, I still do. I would whisper questions to my mom and dad. Today, I whisper to my wife. My parents made "shushing" sounds when I talked to them. My wife makes the same sounds today. In order to keep me quite, my parents allowed me to doodle on the bulletin. Today, I usually count the spelling errors in the bulletin. As a fidgety five-year-old boy, I couldn't wait to escape the long-winded ranting of the preacher. As a fifty-nine year old former professor of theology and homiletics, I still find myself wondering if there isn't a better way to worship.
Yet in spite of all the distractions, that five year old accepted Jesus as his Lord, was baptized and grew up to be a preacher. Somewhere in the formal, ridged liturgy of the Sunday morning worship hour, I met God. I can close my eyes and see the stately blue, red and green stained glass windows. I can feel the straight-backed, hard oak pews. I can hear the booming baritone voice of the pastor.
The strength of God's calling on my life was found in the walls of a colonial red brick church with massive white columns. The goal to serve in a full-time Christian vocation flourished and grew with each passing year. The call to ministry was ever before me. My first public speaking experience was in a church training class. As I earned a bachelors degree in journalism, I knew the target was theological training and a minimum of a masters in theology. The church confirmed my call. The church supported and ordained me. The church supplemented my seminary costs. The church called me to be a pastor, missionary, writer, seminary professor, and director of missions.
I have helped birth, strengthen and disband churches. I have marveled at congregations that should be vital and growing but are dying. I have likewise marveled at congregations in transitional neighborhoods that have flourished and grown. I have often times wondered why some churches succeed and others die.
I have studied church growth with Dr. Donald McGavran, the father of the modern church growth movement. I have stood with and encouraged new works that grew from two to two hundred in 18 months.
Everything I read in the area of church growth fell into one of two categories. Some books were full of helpful principles, but did not explain how to apply them. They were theoretical and not practical. Other books discussed specific church growth methods, but their models were so tailored to reach their specific target group that I knew they would not work in my situation. In spite of incredible opportunity, extensive experience, and mammoth reading, I still have as many questions as I do answers about church growth.
During the next few months, we are going to look at a variety of principles and techniques that may help you grow a church. However, I want to emphasize one point. The whole modern church growth movement is based on this reality. Church growth depends on the pastor and congregation wanting the ministry to grow. It takes both. You can have the best pastor in the world but if the congregation is not dedicated to growth, it will not happen. The same is true about the congregation. You can have a church family that is evangelist, motivated, ready to progress but if the pastor is not supporting and leading in the church growth venture, it will not happen.
An exciting aspect of being part of a dynamic, growing church is seeing God weave together people's gifts and passion to accomplish His purpose. That is part of what I hope to convey in this series of lectures.
Effective churches are healthy churches. Healthy churches are growing. They develop disciples who are passionate to proclaim the message of Jesus.
God has declared that He will fulfill his objectives in our world through his churches. Matthew 16:18 promises: "
I build my church and the gates of Hell will not overcome it. I will give you (the church) the keys of the kingdom of heaven
In Ephesians 3:20-21, is the promise that God "is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine."
Theologian A.W. Tozer stated, "God is transcendent; his true greatness always will be greater than we have the ability to think, believe or know."
It would revolutionize our lives if we replaced the doubts in our lives with actions that demonstrate that we believe God is able to do precisely what we ask. Throughout the Scripture we are told that God wants what is best for us. James 4:2 assures us, "
You do not have, because you do not ask God."
Do you believe God wants your church to be healthy? Do your actions convey the belief that God can and will do what is right? During the next
Several months we will examine what it takes to develop a healthy church.
I will look forward to your comments and input.