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Church Development

Lesson IV Three Assumptions

We can better understand the task of growing the church by examining three assumptions:

1.        The universal church is God's agent of change. The local congregation has the task of developing the kingdom in the lives of believers. We are to evangelize and disciple. This task-oriented mission builds the universal church.

2.        God desires that churches grow both qualitatively and quantitatively. This will result in the Gospel being spread to all parts of our world. The local church must fulfill the Great Commission. Healthy churches make obedient disciples and start new churches.

3.        Growth must be planned for, nurtured, worked for, monitored and exploited. However, my experience and study support the premise that it is the personal vision of a pastor and his or her ability to communicate that vision, which drive churches to grow.

The harsh reality is that we cannot worry about losing people who do not agree with the vision for the church. We must find out precisely why the have left, but the needs of the kingdom are far greater than the needs of individuals. God has other churches for those people who have a different vision. The central issue to our success is our ability to identify who we are and what God wants to accomplish. I realize this does not sound very spiritual. Those who object to this understanding of church growth remind us that we are "to be all things to all people". That is a misinterpretation of scripture.

I Corinthians 9:22 states: "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." This verse is a general statement meant to emphasis the use of freedom. Paul identified himself with others in order to develop a relationship that would lead to their accepting Christ. The Gospel cannot be preached except as the missionary takes his place beside those whom he would win. This does not mean we compromise our faith. It means we learn the culture, language and morays of those to whom we witness. This passage speaks to individualizing our witness rather than generalizing it.

No church can serve everyone. Every successful church has a unique angle, something special to offer to a particular population segment. The principle of affinity—that people will attract and be attracted by those who are culturally similar to themselves—influences what our church will look like. Your chances of success will be greatest when people who are culturally just like you comprise the largest part of your target group.

You are not going to send away those who do not fit your target audience. However, the issue is who will you structure your church to attract? If you structure your church to attract blue collars and white collars come, God bless them.

The pastor should espouse a personal vision that feeds the church's corporate vision. We need a carefully arrived at and clearly communicated vision. Many churches are not growing because they have no priority concerns, goals or action plans. They sit in a population of 1.5 million and wait for the Holy Spirit to do something. He is busy calling them to action. They turn a deaf ear. This is the reason for having a written philosophy of ministry.

Effective pastors realize that their church is a socioculturally complex society.
Some critics of church growth claim this sounds too much like secular marketing. If so, then Jesus was also guilty of marketing his message. He met people at their point of felt need. Jesus discussed water, politics, and religion with the Samaritan woman at the well. He addressed her at the point of her felt needs. His strategy was effective. She requested, "Sir, give me this water so that I won't get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water." (John 4:15). This is not watering down the Gospel. It is creating opportunities to present it. Ministry is the process of taking people from where they are and leading them to where they need to be.