bits from bob....

Four Dimensions of Church Growth

by Robert J. Young
©, 2003, Robert J. Young
[permission is given to reprint with credit noted]

When one looks at this church family over the past several months, one sees one thing--GROWTH! Consider how the church can grow.

This church can grow in number. Less than 1/4 of the churches of Christ nationwide are growing. Less than 6% of our congregations have over 300 in regular attendance. This church has exceptional opportunities. We have exceptional potential. We must rise up and answer God's challenge. We must find increase in the membership of the local church.
Numerical growth comes with more births than deaths, more transfers in than out, more conversions than dropouts. We must continue to welcome new members and help them find a place. We must be more active in reaching out with the gospel, whether in obviously evangelistic efforts, small groups studies, special ministries, or inviting more of our friends to share what we share in Christ.

This church can grow in maturity. New ministry opportunities surface continually, new roles develop, new programs, new teachers, new activities. Involvement is increasing. We are accepting the challenge and encouragement to grow in the maturity of our faith, to deepen spiritual roots, to broaden our imaginations for Christ. Our ministers and elders seek to serve as facilitators for the ministry of the members. This is the biblical model (Eph. 4:12-13).

This church can grow in service. When we understand clearly what we are doing together(collective ministry), how we are accomplishing it (individual ministries), where God is allowing us work (our context, both community and global), and who we are (our identity), God blesses our efforts. These four dynamics give us our starting place, encourage ministries which match our members' abilities and interests, and touch our world at points of need where the gospel message can enter and heal hurts.

The church can grow incarnationally. This word, most often applied to Jesus, is one way students of church growth describe a church which looks more and more like Jesus. We represent Jesus in our world. We are his hands, his mouth, his feet. We are like him; we are his. Incarnational growth means we are building a local outpost that looks like Jesus, a place where people can find God and be found of God, a community in which God's word is studied and lived, a community in which people find nurture, healing, and spiritual nourishment. Incarnational growth also means we are sending Jesus' word into our world. From this church, we each go out as feet, hands, and brains which grapple with the world's inconsistencies, attempt to make a difference, and engage the world. We often cannot know which of our efforts are successful and which are unsuccessful, but the better we become at getting outside our walls with the presence of Jesus, the more we grow to be like him.

Many churches seek numerical growth first, not realizing that growth in numbers comes from growing to be like Jesus--maturing and ministering. We need more pioneering work in these areas. We must explore methods consistent with our culture while maintaining our commitment to the message. A whole generation, nurtured in the secular world and living with nonreligious institutions, needs formation and education into the life of faith and its implications for society. Our faith must respond to community and world needs. Each local congregation must become more of what God is uniquely calling it to be.

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Last updated November 5, 2003.