Why We All Need to Do a Motive Check on Church Growth

check on church growth

So you want your church to grow. Wonderful. Check on church growth when it comes to your motives.

Here’s a challenging question: Why?

Your motivation for wanting your church to grow is pivotal for a number of significant reasons.

First, if you’re a church leader, it’s not your church, it’s God’s. And one day you’ll give an account to God for what you did with what he entrusted to you and why you did it.

Second, ultimately, I think people can tell what your motivation really is. Eventually, people can sense whether you care about the mission, whether you care about them or whether you’re just using them.

Third, your motivation is an integrity issue. And integrity ultimately determines whether what you build stands, in the same way that a house with structural integrity will stand for a century when a poorly built home won’t.

Wanting your church to grow isn’t a bad thing at all. A passion for the mission inevitably means a passion for reaching more people, which in turn implies growth. The purest motive in leadership will be simply that you want people to come to know the love, forgiveness and fullness of life in Jesus Christ.

Yet not everyone wants their church to grow for the right reasons.

And the question becomes: Whether you’re intrigued with church growth or not, how do you know where you stand?

To some extent, I believe we ALL need to do a motive check on church growth, whether you love seeing growth or whether you criticize church leaders who do.

In the name of making this an all-skate, I’ll share five motivations all of us who think about church growth, are working toward it or are experiencing it, need to check.

Then I’ll share three motive checks that might be helpful for the critics of growing churches and those who even dislike the idea of church growth.

Just because you struggle with bad motives doesn’t mean you’ll succumb to them. But if you recognize them for what they are, you can identify them, confess them and kill them before they ruin a good thing.

First let’s tackle those of us who talk about church growth (a lot), like me and those of us who are part of growing churches.

Here are some wrong motives for church growth we have to continually check ourselves against.

Check on Church Growth For People Who Love Growing Churches

So what do people who lead growing churches need to check? Let’s start with pride.

1. Pride

So…is pride driving your desire to see your church grow? That can be tough to answer accurately.

Pride is like greed; it rarely shows itself in the mirror.

How would you know if pride is driving your desire to grow? Just watch what happens when you grow or don’t grow. As Tim Keller says, if growth has become an idol to you, success will go to your head and failure will go to your heart.

Proud leaders do great as long as everything is moving up and to the right, but if things turn, they almost can’t stand the outcome because it crushes them.

A humble leader can lead in time of failure, stagnation and success.

Humility separates what you do from who you are. Pride never does.

2. Competition

Some leaders want their church to grow because they need to be the best—to be the brightest, fastest or on top.

There’s a world of difference between wanting to do your best and wanting to be the best.

Competition is an inferior motive for growth not just because it’s linked to pride, but because it diminishes the contribution of all others as ‘inferior.’ Leaders who always want to be first usually take delight in the fact that others are second.

And that stinks. Especially for a Christian.

Competitive leaders feel they have to be the best.

Healthy leaders simply want to do their best. (Sometimes, that even lands them at Number One.)

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Carey Nieuwhof
Speaker and podcaster Carey Nieuwhof is a former lawyer and founding pastor of Connexus Church, one of the largest and most influential churches in Canada. With over 6 million downloads, The Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast features today's top leaders and cultural influencers. His most recent book is “Didn’t See It Coming: Overcoming the 7 Greatest Challenges That No One Expects and Everyone Experiences.” Carey and his wife, Toni, reside near Barrie, Ontario and have two children.

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