I spent much time in prayer after moving to semi-retirement from the pastorate. I kept thinking of all the seminars, convention meetings and books I read, trying to figure out how to move a church to the next level. In my effort to do this, I became completely exhausted. Then it dawned on me. I was trying to grow the church. How foolish I had been. Building the church is the work of our Lord. That is what He stated, “on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18, ESV) Who was I to think I could do it?
What made things worse was that in my efforts, rather than growing the church, this attitude of self-sufficiency was actually a barrier to church health. And, this actually hurt the church.
Now, my premise is that healthy churches, under normal circumstances should grow. Moreover, in most cases unhealthy churches will not grow. However this premise is not always true also, since there are cases where unhealthy churches will grow. For example, churches where preachers tickle the itching ears of parishioners (2 Timothy 4:3). We see mega-mega churches on TV where promises are made for wealth and health with the exclusion of the truth that hardships, trials, and persecutions will come upon the godly (John 16:33; 2 Timothy 3:12).
Therefore, I believe it is better to focus on having a healthy church than a growing church, and leave the growth to the Lord who is sovereign over this. I believe that the pastors of smaller churches, who feel beaten and discouraged because their congregations have plateaued, should refocus on the health of their congregations and gain satisfaction in this.
This is the reason, that I have begun Renewing the Heart, and have started writing a book titled, “Hurdling the Barriers.” In this book I am looking at the barriers to church health that many congregations do not even consider since they are so busy doing things. I am currently about half way through the writing. I’ll be posting some glimpses every week until it is complete.
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