Does Your Church Have a Church Growth Lid?

OK, I know the term “church growth” is out of style, and it really bothers some people in Christian leadership circles. (I find the ire it raises in church leaders is often directly proportional to the growth or lack of growth of the churches they have led.) 

I also know that for some, church growth has become all about numbers and dollars and making the pastor a star. You can call it church growth, or you can say it is the church doing the mission, or being the church, or call it the missional church. The point is to get more people to become disciples of Jesus Christ. Just as healthy, normal human bodies grow, healthy, normal churches grow. 

If the church is a group that truly cares about each other and worries that friends and neighbors are headed for hell, it will grow. In fact, I think if a church lives up to Jesus’ purpose for it, it can’t help but grow. Strip it all down to the most basic terms and you find our assignment is to do the Great Commandments of loving God and loving others, and to fulfill the Great Commission to make disciples. If a group is doing that, people will want to be a part of the fellowship.

What bugs me are the lids church people and even some church leaders put on the church. These lids keep the church from being what God designed her to be.

Here are a few of the most popular lids. You can probably add to the list:

We want to know everybody. If your church has an attendance of more than 40, you don’t know everyone. Besides if you know everyone, the church has not been reaching out.

We want to grow spiritually. It is not necessary for us to grow numerically. If you are growing spiritually, you should be learning how desperately people need the Gospel.

We need to keep traditions alive. Not if they get in the way of helping people find the love, hope and salvation Christ offers.

We might offend some people in the church. Apologize and refer them to the mission to save the lost.

We might offend some unbelievers. The Gospel often offends the people who need it the most.

I actually know of pastors who say they don’t want any more people because they don’t want to work that hard. Get another job. Check your calling. Maybe you shouldn’t be leading a church.

If we grow we will need to expand our building, and that is expensive. First of all, there are alternatives. Second, get over your fear and trust God to provide.

We might get new people who are not like us. Expand your horizon. It was tough for the early Jewish Christians to accept Gentile believers. Grow up.

The pastor won’t be able to give me as much attention. Grow up and let other members of the body minister to you.

If we grow someone might come to church that sings better than I do and he will get all the solos (or play piano, guitar, etc.) Listen to yourself. When did the church become about you?

If we grow there will be new people in leadership and I won’t have as much control. Jesus should be in control anyway. Why do you need to be in control? Whose church is this? Is it yours because you give a lot, or Jesus’ church because He paid for it with His blood? If a church is going to grow, or become truly missional, or truly be the church, it will have to face up to these lids and find ways of removing them.

Hopefully, that means the people will have a change of heart and realize it is more important for their neighbor to find Jesus than it is for them to have things their own way. Unfortunately, too often the only ways those lids are removed is for certain people to leave in a huff. Many church plants are started because the pastor discovered it was easier to start a church from scratch than to remove lids at an established church.

All of us … from the church leader, to the seminary professor, to Joe and Mary pewsitter … need to look at ourselves. Am I a lid? Is my talk or my attitude keeping the church from building God’s Kingdom? What scares me about the growth of my church, and why? How does God want me to work to help other people become followers of Christ?   

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Ray Houser
A veteran pastor, Ray now is the administrator of Tina Houser Ministries, coaches pastors and consults churches. He is excited about helping churches that are plateaued get going again and seeing declining churches rebound. Ray believes there is hope for these churches, if they want to become agents of God’s love, hope and forgiveness in their communities. Visit his blog at, and e-mail him at [email protected] for more information.

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