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5 Things That Keep a Church Small and How to Overcome Them

3. Have a church that is spiritually attractive, put physically repulsive

Forgive my frankness, but some churches look like the building needs to be redeemed, not just the people. First Samuel 16:7 says man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. Both parts of that sentence are true, not just the latter part. God looks at the heart, but man looks at the outward appearance.

I said to a pastor, “Let’s drive by your church as non-Christians.” We did, and he saw my point. The church had a chain length fence around it to prevent burglaries. It made it look like the headquarters of a cult. They took the fence down, and the church started to grow. Another had a sign on the front of the church facing the street. It read, “It is appointed unto man once to die and after this, the judgment.” It made it appear that the two things that church specialized in were death and judgment.

The answer: Do what I encouraged my pastor friend to do. Drive past the church as a non-Christian. Would your church beckon me in or scare me away? It’s amazing what a little paint, a flowerbed, a cleanup crew and a little remodeling might do.

4. Shifting pastors every few years

Anything solid is built on consistent long-term stability. Starting over in any organization every few years is seldom productive. Adjustment and readjusting takes its toll. Try doing five- or 10-year planning when the leadership may change every two or three years.

The answer: Go for long-term leaders—ones who come to stay and develop a reputation that enhances that of the church. That way the community not only becomes part of them, they become part of the community. Since they have developed a spirit of trust about them, people respond with an attitude of “Lead on, and we’ll follow.” Since they have seen him weather good and bad times, they know he’ll be there even if there are roadblocks along the way. Ask a person you hire, “Is this a stopping point or staying point?” The staying point may not be 20 years, but it ought not to be two years either.

5. No prayer, no planning

Planning without prayer doesn’t work nor does prayer without planning. An unbeatable combination is when God does His part and we do ours. Some churches stay small though because they don’t always ask God to do His part and neither do they do theirs.

The answer: Pray as you plan and plan as you pray. For the sake of the lost, ask God to help the church to grow. Pray that He will help you see the essentiality of evangelism. “As we grow, there may be a lot of people we don’t know” is not honoring the Lord. It’s more important that others know Him than that others know you. Then plan—decide how many you are going to contact with the gospel over the next week, month and year.


God is not hung up on numbers nor should we be. But God is concerned for the lost, and a church that impacts the lost grows by conversion. Numbers ought to be one indicator of His blessing. The church grows when God and His people are in partnership. Their focus is so on the Big Kingdom that people are asking God to increase the small kingdom. More people mean more workers, more funds and more giftedness—all things that increase the influence of a church in the community.