Church Growth

Church Growth: The Truth about Church Growths and myths Busted!

By | Messaging

One of the most common concerns of Pastors is church-goers is church growth If a Sunday worship service is smaller than usual. Most likely the pastor will hear about it from well-meaning members. A typical pastor will already be aware and be concerned, at least if the problem has been consistent for several weeks or months. Typically, the pastor will hear a slew of reasons and excuses for why the membership is lacking. Many of them will be common among the memberships. To help Pastor recognize the fundamental cause of church growth, we’ve included a list of myths, the truth behind them and the real reasons for church growth.

CONGREGATION GROWTH IN CHURCH AREAS

This is a two-part myth. The first being that having multiple churches in the same radius affects church growth across the board equally. This is most certainly not true. Location is often not an issue for committed church members. Personally, I have known church members willing to drive half an hour to an hour to a church that they absolutely love. If people recognize your church moving, they will be willing to come. The distance and the location do not matter, what you are achieving is more significant.

The second part of the myth includes the population. It is a given, especially in the Bible Belt of America, that every county will have two-three churches at most. It’s standard in small towns and small cities to see churches on every corner. So what happens when new people join a community? They choose one of the churches. They might attend other church events and support each other, but the people will effectively choose one church to become a member of and that church might not be yours. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It may just mean the person or people aren’t a good connection for your congregation. It doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong in a church.

When you’re faced with these types of comments from your church members, politely remind them that ministering to your local population is not a guarantee that they will join your church, only that you will build a connection that may inspire them to join a church and that, in the end, is the goal.

MOST PEOPLE HAVE BEEN ATTENDING CHURCH FOR YEARS.

One-third of worshipers are new in the last five years; in fast-growing churches one-half are new. The small town of 4,000 people, Midway, North Carolina has seen three new churches established in our community in the past year and all have experienced instant growth in the past year with a younger generation taking the lead. This means people have been attending these churches for less than a year.

In fact, it is relatively standard to recognize churches undergo a period of changing memberships every year. Perhaps some older members have passed away, and new faces are helping out. Perhaps older members have left, and new members are coming in or coming back. The fact is that time changes. Faces come and go.

When faced with these comments, remind your church of the statistics that prove otherwise. Remind them that revolving memberships are expected and okay.

MOST NEW PEOPLE ARE NEW TO FAITH.

Most new people attending their congregation for five years or less have changed congregations within the same denomination (transfers: 57%). Only 7% are new first-timers to faith. A few (18%) are returnees who used to attend worship but recently have not been involved, and 18% are switchers who changed denominations.

Some are those who have had connections to the faith through being ministered to by attending an event or meeting someone who has shared the message. Some have studied the faith at a distance as a non-believer. The truth is, having someone who is completely, one hundred percent new to the faith is rare in most churches.

Again, when faced with the facts it’s okay to remind church members of statistics and that the strength of new member’s faith is not what’s most important.

MOST NEW VISITORS HAVE NEVER BEEN TO CHURCH.

This one correlates with myth number 2. As stated above, most first time visitors are typically transferring from another church. Not to mention we now live in the age of technology. The chances are that you are online. Your sermons are online and your mission statement is online. If someone is stepping through your doors, it is most likely because they have found you online and you can bet they have been interacting with your content for at least a week, perhaps even more.

Now, with the world of podcasts ever-growing, it makes it easy to experience other church environments long before you ever intend reaching them. Even typically traditional churches are finding their place online. When faced with this argument, remind your church that many people are seeking out churches regardless of whether or not they have ever been to church before.

IF YOU’RE NOT GROWING, SOMETHING’S WRONG

Remember that in the old testament, the prophets followed the commands of God. They rarely saw a growth in the church and often faced persecution due to their claims and proclamations. Perhaps, instead, this is a time of rest. Even churches need periods to regroup, relax, plan for the next steps of the mission field. Perhaps God is asking you to sit down and evaluate your mission and ministry-do the two align? Or maybe ask whether or not your congregation can hold more growth? If not, maybe this is the time to seek ways to prepare for new growth instead of creating it.

THE MORE YOU GROW, THE HEALTHIER YOU ARE.

It’s so easy to see the massive, stadium-sized churches that always seem to be able to raise enough money, complete enough missions and think “Wow! They’ve really got this Christian thing down.” However, if the book of Revelation and the entire New Testament tells us anything, it is large numbers are no more an indicator of spiritualism than wealth is an indicator of wisdom. You can still be wealthy and be a fool.

In fact, the churches of Revelation and the New Testament were growing, and large in number, but they were scolded daily because they did not follow the teachings of Biblical instructions. This tells us our constant reminder: it isn’t what you have, or how much you have on Earth, but what is in your heart that matters most. Revelation 3:15-16 says “ I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

IF YOU OPEN THE DOOR, PEOPLE WILL COME.

I have seen this with a multitude of churches. They open the doors on Sunday long enough to host a sermon and Sunday School. Maybe a meal on a special occasion. Then nothing else. If they do a ministry project, it’s from the safety of their pew, donating money or throwing donations in a box as they enter the service.

While this is fantastic and giving is recommended, you will not grow your church by having the doors open once or twice a week and nothing else. What are you doing that feeds the community? What do others see in you that inspire them to seek what you know? Have you ever seen a business that succeeded just from having its doors open? Churches operate the same way. People need to know you exist. People need to know you are alive. You care and you are available to them.

MODERNISM WILL SAVE YOUR CHURCH.

Of course, we live in the age of technology. Sermons are on television, and more recently, online. We can access modern worship music and Biblical lectures via the internet. On top of this, the war between traditional churches and modern churches has been raging since technology entered our lives. We are now seeing churches who incorporate coffee times, breakfast meals,in-church cafes, electronic Bibles and more into the church. Does this make a difference?

Not really. Modernism doesn’t make the church better, it simply makes church easier. The people make the church better. The church can have the latest and greatest music, the best band and online donations, but if the heart of the people isn’t focused on God, on love, and on honesty, people will recognize the truth and memberships will bounce like a gas tank hand on empty. People may come, but they will not stay. People who are seeking honest worship don’t need the modernistic touches in church. They are simply an added bonus to the worship service.

Some of the best worship services have been in a bland, empty room with a group of friends and a guitar.

WHAT WORKS THERE WON’T WORK HERE.

There’s a common problem among smaller churches: many don’t have large youth or children. In fact, I’ve seen churches that don’t have any children at all. What do they do? They cancel children’s services, Sunday school, and children’s events. They focus more on the people who are IN the church rather than reaching the people outside of the church.

They look at another church that’s growing and see things like special services for children. Sunday night youth services and think “Well we don’t have a youth, so that wouldn’t work.” The point here is one similar to many mentioned above, it isn’t what you don’t have. It’s how you use what you do have. Don’t look at other churches as a carbon copy of yours. Don’t have youth? Why not throw a pizza party for the local youth sports team? Sponsor local learning camps for youth outside of the church.

Look at other churches for inspiration, but don’t rely on them for blueprints. Find out how to take what they are doing and make them useful to your church.

HAVING A CHURCH BUILDING IS IMPORTANT.

Sure, having somewhere to worship is very important to a church. But remember the old saying “The church is the people”? This isn’t a lie. In fact, it’s statistically proven that most churches starting out in schools or shopping centers are likely to see growth than churches with traditional settings of a sanctuary and steeple.

Churches are also held in homes, apartments and conference rooms at colleges. The building does not determine the Holiness of a congregation, the heart and faith of people determine what and where a church exists. Barns, schoolyards, convenient stores, and old apartment buildings are made for churches, just as much as a building with a steeple bell.

CHURCH GROWTH IS THE DISCIPLE MAKING.

New members are great. Seeing an intake of new believers eager to learn about God is fantastic, but isn’t the church. The disciple making isn’t about the number of disciples you’re teaching, it’s about making sure each disciple is properly educated and motivated to continue the mission of the church. If you teach one person and inspire them to become a disciple, you will complete the mission of God. It would be more imperative to focus on the quality of your teachings, rather than the number of people you teach.

THE TRUTH ABOUT CHURCH GROWTH.

Just like with any organization, there is a lot of false doctrines when it comes to church growth. The truth is, church growth isn’t always what’s best for your church at the time or the most important factor of mission work. Instead, make sure to remind your committed church members that being small is okay. Remind them instead, to always stay focused on the ministry and making disciples. After all, some of the biggest church leaders of the Bible rarely saw church growth when they were doing things the right away.

If church growth is that important to you, take the break or lull between new members to evaluate your church's mission and how connected the church is to that mission and find ways to re-establish the connection among the community. Make sure you emphasize the things that are important to ministry-Biblical teaching, ministry, and discipleship.

Selfish Ambition

Selfish Ambition: Six Ways It Damages a Leader’s Soul

By | Messaging

God warns us of the dangers of selfish ambition throughout the Bible, yet today's world puts a high value on being better than others and getting ahead. Many of us have the desire to serve others through heart-centered businesses. It is possible to be a successful service-oriented business owner without sacrificing your soul, and true leadership demands this of us. Just as today's churches need to have a security plan, as a business owner you must have a plan to guard against the temptation to engage in negative practices that hurt you and your business.

Learn the ways that selfish ambition can damage a leader's soul and how to avoid falling into this trap.

1. You lose sight of God's desires for you and focus solely on how much money or other accolades you can receive.

God often puts the desire in our hearts to serve our neighbors through a heart-centered business. But it’s easy to forget your true purpose and fall into the trap of chasing the almighty dollar instead of your business’s true purpose, which is to serve God and carry out His will for you and everyone around you.

If you are spending more time at work than at home or church, agreeing to do jobs that require you to compromise your values, or asking yourself what’s in it for YOU as soon as you get a job offer instead of asking yourself how it can help you serve others, you may have fallen into this trap. As Jesus says in Matthew 6:24:

No man can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Simply put, the two most important aspects of your life should be God and family. It’s important to make a living and provide for the people you love as well as help your neighbors. But if you put your business too much in the forefront of your life, you will gradually drift away from God. You could also end up heartbroken and alone if your spouse gets fed up enough to leave you or your kids grow up to have no relationship with you because you put work ahead of time with them.

2. You forget that your purpose is to serve, instead of expecting your business and your customers to serve your needs.

On the face of it, it seems absurd that your customers would part with their money if they didn’t feel you were serving their needs. But as Proverbs says, a fool and his money are soon parted, and it’s easy to be seduced into believing that your customers exist to serve you rather than the other way around.

If you feel resentful of your customers’ requests of you, you may be starting to fall into this trap.

God-centered business owners are grateful for the customers God has provided them with. A difficult customer may be an angel in disguise. Perhaps God wants you to learn how to deal with a specific type of person in your life, and treating this annoying customer well will allow you to be blessed. If you turn customers away because they demand a lot of you, God will not continue to bless you with more customers. Do not be like Moses, who God barred from entering the Promised Land because he lost faith, got impatient, and acted incorrectly!

Some business owners act as if their customers “owe” them something. They get angry if a customer doesn’t want to buy from them or won’t take “no” for an answer. If you’re pressuring customers to buy what you’re selling, it likely comes from fear that God won’t provide.

Reread Matthew 6:25-27 to remind yourself that God provides for all your needs and then reread your business’ mission statement so you can reconnect with how and why you intended to serve others through your business.

3. You turn a blind eye to injustice and/or fail to speak up against it out of fear that it will damage your ability to make money or that people will disapprove.

God calls upon each of us to speak out against injustice wherever it may be found, whether that means refusing to engage in business practices that harm others, speaking out about things in the news that contradict God’s will, or responding to accusations of discrimination in your own business. But some business owners keep quiet when they should speak up out of fear that potential customers will express their disapproval by taking their business elsewhere.

If you do this, you are not only failing to trust that God will provide for you, but are reinforcing injustice by failing to speak out against it. This goes against God’s commandment to “do justice and righteousness.” Remember that Jesus’ Crucifixion occurred not only because Judas betrayed Him but because Peter denied he knew Him when he could have put an end to this by speaking up for Him. Do not be like this.

It is especially important to root out injustice in your own business. Let your practices be without reproach. If an employee comes to you with a complaint about being harassed or discriminated against on the job, do not let that complaint fall on deaf ears. Investigate it thoroughly and take needed corrective action, even if it means letting go of an employee you value and like. To do otherwise would be to reinforce injustice, and God will not reward you for that.

4. You actively harm others in the quest to get money, fame or power.

The Bible is full of stories about people who put their selfish ambition first, hurting others around them to get money, fame, or power. Those people never prosper and in some cases suffer greatly.

See, for example, the story of King David. David sent his rival into battle to get him out of the way so that he could have the romantic relationship he desired. As a result of David’s inappropriate behavior, his own infant son was killed.

The consequences for us are no less severe. Perhaps your children will not literally die, but you will suffer greatly if you harm others to get ahead. Whether you engage in unfair competition, sell products you know are harmful, or betray someone’s confidence to get an edge up on the competition, you hurt yourself in the end.

God gifted us with a conscience for a reason and yours will not leave you alone if you do these things, nor will you and your business receive God’s blessing. Instead, take the time to think about the potential consequences to other people when you are offered a lot of money or are tempted to engage in deceptive and harmful business practices.

5. You use God as a selling point, claiming yourself to be a God-centered or God-driven business, but do not truly put Him first, giving people of faith a bad name so that you can make money off of your professed faith.

One of the worst consequences of selfish behavior is that it reflects poorly not only on you, but on the God you are meant to be serving.  This is why Jesus warns us not to be like the hypocrites who pray loudly in the street to show how pious they are; when we proclaim our faith loudly but act in selfish ways, people associate that kind of hypocrisy with God and turn away from Him! Churches already have a hard time getting parishioners to worship regularly; don't be part of the problem.

As a God-centered business owner, you have special responsibilities. Your job is not just to make money in your business. You are selling not just your products and services, but also selling God! Make sure your behavior is in line with His desires for us.

That means that if you have a choice between making a big sale that helps only you or filling a smaller order that helps people in need, choose the smaller order. It also means not cutting corners to save money at the expense of your customers and not lying, cheating, or engaging in unfair business practices to get ahead. Always put God before profits and follow Jesus’ command to be the light of the world rather than bringing more darkness to it.

6. You encourage the oppression of other of God's children to score points as a leader.

God frowns upon any practice that harms other people, and He especially dislikes oppressive business practices. He commands us to welcome foreigners with open arms and Jesus takes that a step further, saying that whatever one does to the least of God’s children is done to Him.

As a business leader, you have many choices to make each day. Some of those choices include whether or not to do business with companies that actively oppress certain groups of people or whether to refuse business to customers whose choices are not in line with your religious beliefs.

Remember that God commands us to love our neighbor as ourselves and Jesus Himself says that’s the most important of God’s commandments. It can be tempting to turn a customer away because that customer is not following God’s word, but if you engage in discrimination or outright oppression of other groups because others in your church might approve, YOU are not acting in line with God’s word! Nor will you be able to save that customer if you make them feel judged rather than acting with compassion as God commands us to do.

Conclusion

Being a God-centered business owner can be challenging. The dominant culture in corporate America is a self-centered, winner-take-all culture in which business owners may feel pressured to do whatever it takes to get ahead — even trample over other people to get to the top. But that is not God’s way and if you engage in hurtful or deceitful practices, you will ultimately hurt yourself.

Every time you do something dishonest, harmful, or against God’s will, you chip away at your own soul and give the Evil One more of a foot in the door. You also turn others away from God by claiming to act in His name while doing negative things.

If you choose to go into business, make sure that God is always at the center of your business. A truly God-centered business will change the world for the better and make it a little bit more like the world God envisioned when he created it.

first fruit

What Is First Fruit? A Short Guide

By | Messaging

If you’ve been attending church for a while, you’ve likely heard the term “first fruits”. But what exactly is it? And how is it different from your tithes?

Here, we examine the biblical basis of this offering in the old testament and why it matters to us as followers of Christ in the new covenant.

What Is First Fruits?

“The best of the firstf ruits of your ground you shall bring to the house of the Lord your God.” Exodus 34:26 

To fully understand this biblical concept, we need to go back to the time of Exodus when Israel was called out of the land of Egypt so that God can usher them into the Promised Land—a land flowing with milk and honey, a land that drinks rain from heaven. In short, it was a land that’s brimming with the abundance that God prepared for His people.

But before Israel could set foot in the Promised Land, they have to observe precepts, which were laid out in detail during their journey in the wilderness. One of the stipulations of God’s old covenant with His people is that Israel should bring the first yield of the year’s harvest—the first fruits—to the house of the Lord as an offering.

In Hebrew, the first fruit is known as bikkurim, which can be translated to literally mean, “promise to come”. Thus, the first fruits offering is an acknowledgment that the harvest and abundance came because of the Lord’s promise. And if it is from Him, then it is just right that He has the first dibs on it.

In addition, giving the first fruit offering was also a matter of faith. That is, the act of giving the first fruit offering is a declaration that you are trusting God’s unwavering promise of provision.

The instruction regarding the first fruit is something particularly important to God, so much so that it was mentioned 13 times in the first five books of the Bible alone and it was referenced in the New Testament.

In fact, God placed a premium on the first fruits that He instituted it to become one of the seven most important feasts of Israel: The Feast of the First Fruit. This feast happens on the day after the Sabbath following the Feast of the Passover.

What Does it Have to Do With People Who are Under the New Covenant?

Today, most of us no longer live in an agrarian society and we are no longer under the Mosaic Law. Plus, the feasts and rituals seem outdated to modern, technologically-driven society.

So, does this mean the concept of the first fruit no longer applies to us?

To answer this question, it is vital to come to an understanding that all the precepts, instructions, feasts, and laws of the Old Testament were just but a shadow that points us to a singular Truth.

“But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Corinthians 15:20

God went through great length giving instructions and laying out the details on how to give the first fruits offering because He is giving us a glimpse of His Son, the true Bikkurim, the promise to come.

And considering that the Feast of the First Fruit happens on the Sunday right after the Passover, the illustration is quite fitting—it is a foreshadow of His resurrection. Jesus is the first fruit, whom God raised from the ground.

What’s the Difference Between Tithing and First Fruits?

When it comes to religious giving, two concepts naturally comes up: tithes and first fruit offering. To differentiate the two, it is important to understand that tithing is giving 10 percent of your income to God, the source of everything.

This practice can be traced back to the time even before the Mosaic Law was given. Abraham, without being coerced and under no compulsion, gave a tithe to Melchizedek, a type of Christ. He gave because he knew who gave him the spoils of victory. Today, we give a tenth of our income for the same reason: we acknowledge Him as the source of every provision that comes our way.

First fruits offering, on the other hand, was historically given during harvest time, usually once a year. For a modern-day Christian, first fruit offering can be given during “harvest time”. It can take the form of the first paycheck from your first job. Or a percentage of your first paycheck of the year. Or perhaps a portion of your bonus or tax refund.

Do I have to Give a First Fruit Offering Today?

“For if the first fruit is holy, the lump is also holy; and if the root is holy, so are the branches” Romans 11:16

The New Covenant brought about a paradigm shift when it comes to giving, including first fruits offering. Back in the day, this kind of offering was given to fulfill their obligation to the law of God. Today, we are called to respond from the heart.

“Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:6-7

It’s never the amount nor even about the act. Giving has always been about your heart.

Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) Therefore when He asks us to give of our treasure, He never wanted our money. He wanted our heart.

And it’s only possible to give out of a cheerful heart when we have a revelation that God will never ask for anything He Himself will not give. He gave His first fruit, His Son, the best that heaven has to offer, for us.

How to Give a First Fruit Offering?

So you’ve decided in your heart to give a first fruit offering. How do you go about it? How much should you give? Do you give every time you receive a bonus or a refund? Or should you give annually? Perhaps these are the practical questions running through your mind. To help you settle those, here are some tips:

  • Pray about it. Remember, there’s no one breathing down your neck, pressuring you to give your first fruit offering. There’s only the grace of God teaching your heart to be generous. Thus, since He’s the one who teaches you to give, it’s only right that He’s also the one to guide you on how much you should give and when you should do it. And as you ask for His guidance in prayer, listen to Him.
  • Plan for it. Once you’ve decided when you’re going to give and how much, it’s time to be a responsible steward to the money God has given you. Prepare your budget. Even the process of appropriating money can be an act of worship when God is the Lord of your finances too.
  • Give. Where should you give your offering? Perhaps you want to contribute to your church building fund. Or a cause or nonprofit that God compels you to give to. Traditionally, tithes are automatically given to your local church. With first fruit offering, you can use it to bless your church or another organization that God wants you to sow into.

In the Old Testament days, the bikkurim was a constant reminder for the children of Israel of the “promise to come”. Today, the promised One has come. And first fruit offering should be nothing less than a response to God’s extreme generosity—for He gave no less than His Son.

20 QUESTIONS YOU MUST ASK TO KNOW YOUR CHURCH'S HEALTH 
IS YOUR CHURCH "SICK"? FIND OUT IN 2 MINUTES.

WAY TO GO!

YOUR CHECKLIST IS ON THE WAY

} }); });