So, you want your church to grow. I get it.
Especially after COVID’s decimation, many church leaders are doing whatever they can to get people back in the building.
I’ve met very few church leaders who want to reach fewer people. For many, growth and a desire to see people come to faith can be a God-given impulse.
But that’s the catch. Not all growth is healthy growth.
I was talking to my friend Jeff Brodie recently, who pointed out three growth strategies that are working now but, ultimately, are terrible ideas.
Here’s the challenge. All three strategies could grow your numbers, but they erode the integrity of your mission. Not to mention your soul.
1. Tearing Down Megachurch Pastors You’ve Never Met
Ah, the temptation of a punching bag.
Let’s be real—despite some spectacular and disappointing falls, megachurch pastors are still often seen as the epitome of “successful” church leadership.
Yet, megachurch pastors are also the easiest targets for critique. We all love an underdog, and it’s tempting to position yourself as the David to their Goliath.
However, the dangers of this approach are threefold.
- You’re engaging in an armchair critique, not constructive dialogue. You haven’t sat where they sit and you don’t face their daily challenges. You’re essentially discrediting someone you’ve never met based on the 0.1% you see online or hear from others.
- Christians should be lifting each other up, not tearing each other down. When one part of the body is attacked, the entire body suffers.
- Usually, what’s lurking underneath public attacks are jealousy and insecurity. And if it’s not jealousy (because you despise mega-church pastors), then perhaps it’s pride. Either wishing you were them or thinking you’re better than them are both problems.
Remember this, too. New members who come in because they agree with your critique will probably leave when they find something disagreeable about you.
Is that the kind of church you want to see? Tearing down megachurch pastors you’ve never met is a terrible church growth strategy.Tearing down megachurch pastors you've never met is a terrible church growth strategy. Click To Tweet
2. Telling People to Be Afraid of the Culture Instead of Equipping Them to Reach the Culture
Fear is a powerful motivator but a lousy disciple-maker.
Too often, church leaders preach a fear of the “outside world” to keep their congregations close. It’s an us-versus-them paradigm, and it’s not only unbiblical, but it’s also counterproductive.Fear is a powerful motivator but a lousy disciple-maker. Click To Tweet
First, the Great Commission instructs us to go out and make disciples of all nations. How are you going to do that if your flock is too scared to engage with their neighbors? What about if they’re too afraid even to introduce themselves? Or alternatively, what if they know their neighbors and co-workers but hate them?
Secondly, growth built on fear rarely lasts. Your members become isolated rather than equipped and defensive rather than expansive.
The surge you experienced for a year (or a few) will eventually whittle into a rump of ‘true believers’ like every other cult or faction.
A further challenge is that if you’re not engaging the culture, you become irrelevant to it. The most dynamic churches don’t hide from the culture. They engage it and transform it with truth.If you're not engaging the culture, you become irrelevant to it. The most dynamic churches don't hide from the culture. They engage it and transform it with truth. Click To Tweet
3. Being More Extreme in Your Political Commentary Than the Church Next Door
Look, I get it. Politics is a hot-button issue. It’s also a great… and deadly… way to go viral.
More than a few churches have grown by becoming anti-woke rather than pro-grace.
But the moment your political commentary overshadows your biblical teaching, you’ve derailed. And the moment your political tone becomes partisan, you lose the biblical plot.The moment your political commentary overshadows your biblical teaching, you've derailed. And the moment your political tone becomes partisan, you lose the biblical plot. Click To Tweet
Politics is a divisive field by nature. You will alienate about 50% of your community if you take political stances. You’ll alienate 80%-90 of our community if you start spouting partisan political extremes, even if the <10% who love extremes flood your church with new growth.
(Here’s more on the math of partisan extremes and the tiny minority of people who fuel it and love it.)
Growth through extreme political commentary might attract a crowd, but it won’t cultivate a healthy, diverse church body.
The church should be a place where people of differing views can unite to worship the God who transcends it all. And if the church can’t be that, then what can be?
Note: Younger generations aren’t looking for an echo of the culture. They’re looking for an alternative to it.
If any of this is hitting close to home, it’s probably time to start having better conversations about politics.The church should be a place where people of differing views can unite to worship the God who transcends it all. Younger generations aren't looking for an echo of the culture. They're looking for an alternative to it. Click To Tweet
So What Do You Do?
Growth is inherent in the mission of the church, but it needs to be healthy (and sustainable) growth fueled by love and the desire to reach the world with Christ’s reconciling message.
Compromised shortcuts that lead to quick spikes in numbers can also lead you to sacrifice your integrity on the altar of growth (and to long-term damage).
Filling the pews should be a by-product of fulfilling the Great Commission.
Ultimately, your approach to growth might be the difference between leading people toward Christ or leading people away from Him.The difference in your approach to growth might be the difference between leading people toward Christ, or leading people away from Him. Click To Tweet
Read the post.
2. Take the course.
Your job is not just to help people know what Jesus commands; it’s to teach them how to observe what Jesus is calling them to do. So, how do you do that at a time when Christians are tearing down other Christians, when divisiveness is at an all-time high, and when it seems like non-Christians are more skeptical than ever before?
If you’re looking for practical steps toward healthy growth, The Art of Reaching has actionable ways to expand your church’s reach, attract more visitors, and foster meaningful connections with your community.
In Sessions 1-4 of the course, that is exactly what Mark Clark and I equip you to do—reach more people and make disciples in the reality of our culture.
If you want actionable steps today, you can learn more and get instant access to The Art of Reaching here.
3. Join the conversation.
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The best part? It’s 100% troll-free. We have no tolerance for any conduct outside of our community values, even though it’s a diverse community. Here are the values inside the Academy:
- Treat the discussion like a great dinner conversation. Differences of opinion are welcome but are shared with respect and curiosity.
- Stay curious longer. Everyone in the forum has expertise. Some of the best mentors are known as much by the quality of the questions they ask, as the answers they give.
- Choose trust. Believe the best about others, rather than assuming the worst. When in doubt, lead with the most generous explanation for someone’s behavior.
- Pursue health. Help people live in a way each day that will help them thrive tomorrow.
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