Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Article #5 - Rural Church Growth

You Win When You Lose – Understanding the Risk and Sacrifice Involved in Change.

My purpose in writing on rural church growth is to help rural churches identify and solve the main issues they must address for the church to grow again. I believe that many churches talk about wanting to grow, but most are unwilling to pay the cost to grow. I want to be completely honest about what it takes to grow. Ask any woman about giving birth and they will tell you about the pain of birthing. Church grow is a lot like giving birth because church growth is a result of the pastor and church members enduring growth pains in order to birth a movement of God.

The core members of your church must understand that they are expected to stay engaged and sacrifice on their part will be involved as the church seeks to grow. Every rural church has core members. That core must be engaged in the process of change or don’t change. If you lose the support of the core members, your church is sunk. If your core is willing to follow, here is the sacrifice they will need to endure.

The first sacrifice is the style of the church. In my past articles I have written in detail about this subject. There must come a point where the core members see themselves as missionaries. They are to view their community as a foreign country. They must study their community and develop their evangelism and discipleship programs around the needs of the community. The style is to change from being focused on the core to focusing on the needs and style of the community. Most churches aren’t willing to sacrifice the style of the church in order to reach their community. My comfort and your comfort have to be sacrificed in order for us to connect with our community. This means “our Church” becomes “their church”.

The second sacrifice is the members of the church. Church members are use to being the focus of the church. If and when that changes, church members are tempted to find a church that will focus on them. Why should church members stay engaged in a church that has changed it’s focus from church members to the community? The reason is every church member must realize that they are a minister or missionary. A missionary never seeks to build a church that focuses on the missionary, but on the community they are trying to reach. A church must decide, will we seek those going to Heaven or will we seek those going to Hell. Members will leave, but the right type of members will stay. The members that understand their mission and want to be apart of building God’s Kingdom will stay engaged in the church.

The third sacrifice is the money of the church. Every pastor has been told by the church treasure, “We don’t want to lose Mr. and Mrs. So and So, because they tithe lots of money, so keep them happy.” Churches need to view their finances as a tool for doing ministry, not as a shackle from doing ministry. I believe the more a church emphasizes the mission of their church, the more money for doing that mission will be tithed. It will be tithed by different members, members who have been waiting to get involved. So be prepared to lose some money up front, but gaining money as you stand on the mission.

The last sacrifice is the time and energy of the church. To successfully change a church, there is a sacrifice of time and energy that must be made by each member. Changing a church is hard work and it doesn’t happen over night. There are additional meetings, small groups, worship services, parties, and community functions that take up time from our members, but to change a church it is needed.

In closing, I want to challenge you with one thing that never changes. The spreading of the message of God’s Word is the reason a church exists. Never change God’s Word, just communicate it more effectively. What is the result of all this sacrifice and pain? To use the birthing example again, after the pain, you expect life. We sacrifice not for change alone, but for the ability to bring our community into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. In order to bring people to God, Christ sacrificed His life, what will you sacrifice?

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