By Dr. Francis Akin-John
1The short answer is, you can’t. You can faithfully scatter the seed of the Word, but only God can make it grow (I Corinthians 3:6).
- You can faithfully call people to turn from their sin and trust in Christ, but only God grants faith and repentance (Philippians 1:29; Acts 11:18).
- You can alert people to the danger of their state, but only God can raise them from spiritual death (Ephesians 2:1-5).
- That’s not to say that your efforts to faithfully preach and pray and lead don’t matter. It’s just to say that you cannot create any spiritual fruit. You cannot convert a sinner. You cannot cause a Christian to overcome a sin. You cannot cause your church to grow in the ways that matter most. That all finally depends on God’s sover-eign and omnipotent grace alone.
- Numerical growth is not always equal to, or the best indicator of, spiritual growth. The bare fact that more people show up on Sun-day morning does not mean a church is growing spiritually.
- Therefore, any strategy for growing a church that promises success based on what you do, without taking into account that only God can bring genuine spirit-ual fruit, is fundamentally mis-guided because it is aiming at numerical growth to the exclus-ion of genuine spiritual growth.
- On the other hand, if you’re a pastor, you have the responsibility to faithfully preach the Word, pray, shepherd the people, live a holy life, and trust that God will bring fruit in His own time. Not only that, but as you faithfully preach, pray, and lead, you should expect God to bless his appointed means for saving sinners and sanctifying saints. You should expect your church to grow, both numerically and spiritually. So preach, pray, lead, and expect God to bless your efforts.
Growth is synonymous with the Kingdom of God. Jesus used many analogies for the growth of the kingdom of God. He likened it to a mustard seed, a tree that grows so great and big.
However, there is a world of difference between Kingdom growth and church growth. While some form of church growth is kingdom growth, many others are beside the point. In true church growth studies, there are three types of growth, namely;
- Biological growth – this is children born in the church to Christian parents. They grow up in the church, but will later leave the church after their teens. Churches that focus only on biological growth are not really increasing His kingdom.
- Transferred growth – this is populating your church with Christians from other churches. For one reason or the other, Christians from other churches transferred their membership to our church. This is not kingdom growth, but sheep exchange. I know churches that have 90 per cent transferred membership, yet they claim they are growing!
- Kingdom growth – this is getting people converted, turning them from darkness to light, from kingdom of Satan to kingdom of God through genuine repentance and forgiveness of sins. It is getting people transformed through personal encounter with The Lord Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is when people are being changed, being genuinely saved from sin and corruptions of this world and discipling them for God that we are really experien-cing Kingdom growth in our mini-stries and churches.
Every minister must pursue kingdom growth in our ministrat-ions and leadership. Without it, am afraid for our church.
Marks of a healthy local church
Every local church has a place in God’s plan to affect her community and the world for Christ. The local church is the chief agent of God in transforming people and society for Christ. Headquarters, Regional, Prov-incial, District, Area, zonal churches are simply administr-ative convenience to monitor the local churches. The real power of resurrection is in the local church to change the world for Christ.
The size of the local church doesn’t matter when it comes to health. Small, middle-size and large churches must all strive to be healthy, taking these factors very seriously and working them out into the root and fabrics of each local assembly of the saints.