There are a million metrics we use to gauge church growth. You can find countless speakers, sermons, websites, or books telling us how to grow churches.
They’ll give you plenty of tips and tricks to see all kinds of stats skyrocket.
On top of that, any random person in a pew on Sunday has their own opinions about how their church should grow.
- Longer sermons, shorter sermons.
- Louder music.
- More lights.
- Quieter music.
- More humor in the messages.
- More relevant sermons.
- Better kids’ ministries.
Better this, better that. More of this, less of that.
It leaves us with an interesting list of stats/metrics by which to measure our churches:
- Number of members and attendees
- Percentage of involvement in small groups
- The frequency of small groups, Bible studies, and Sunday School classes
- The quantity of outreach activities
- The production quality of Sunday morning
- Size of the new building
- Expansion of the budget
There’s no shortage of metrics to measure.
The reality is most of the stats of church growth get bogged down in standards that don’t ultimately mean anything in regards to health.
There are plenty of unhealthy churches with exciting Sunday morning music and engaging pastors.
There are also numerous unhealthy churches with thousands of attendees—and millions in their budgets.
In the shuffle of the list above, we can forget about one vital, reliable measuring stick of church growth and health: the growth of new mature leaders.
The Primacy Of Local Churches
Local churches are one of the primary means that God uses to spread the good news of Jesus through the world. Churches exist to make disciples.
We don’t merely tell people about Jesus though, we are called to teach them to obey all that God has commanded (Matthew 28:19-20).
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
What’s The Goal?
Making disciples is our calling. Discipleship is the goal. Multiplying disciples is the way to pursue church growth. This means that God uses us as he creates followers of Jesus that exhibit the fruit of a follower in their lives.
Churches who are not trying to make disciples are ignoring the primary calling God gave them.
One of the best ways to evaluate our success in making disciples is the growth of new leaders—after all, a good leader is just a very mature disciple. Conversely, our churches are not healthy if we aren’t seeing new leaders grow.
I’m not merely speaking of pastors or elders, but deacons, ministry leaders, small group leaders, and more. If people are truly growing in their maturity, then we should see them becoming leaders that can lead other people into the maturity that they are experiencing.
If our church isn’t growing more men to become elders, more people to become deacons, more people able to teach others the good news of Jesus, then there is something wrong with our church.
We need to ask ourselves, “What roadblocks are getting in the way of people growing in maturity and love for Jesus?” Do our people need more accountability, more one-on-one discipleship, more knowledge of the Bible, more opportunity to serve?
Many churches look healthy but ultimately are emaciated because the leaders of the church either refuse to invest in the discipleship their people truly need or they simply never give people responsibility to serve. Everything ultimately remains on the shoulders of one, or a few, key leaders. This is a recipe for failure, burnout, and dysfunction.
Church Growth That Lasts
This pattern is taken from the New Testament itself. We see a regular focus on the appointing and growing of elders and leaders in the missions of the apostle Paul.
“And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”
“This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you”
These verses, among others, remind us of the importance of mature disciples that can function as servant leaders to those less mature in their church. In some cases, we may not have any leaders ready to be appointed right now. If we find ourselves without leaders to appoint, then we need to get serious about discipleship.
Our church numbers might be growing, our budgets might be expanding, our professions of faith may grow; however, without strong discipleship culminating in strong leaders, our churches will not be growing for long.
Our goal is to, “Equip the saints for the work of ministry.” If we are equipping them well, they will be ready to go out and do the work of ministry.
Healthy churches are more than bigger budgets and membership totals. They are even more than the number of people at services or the number of people baptized. Healthy churches are the ones making disciples. They are the ones potentially losing members, but getting more faithful at growing people in the word of God. Let’s invest our churches in church growth that means real, lasting health.