Church Growth for Dummies
In the world of church planting there are so many approaches available from which to choose. So many strategies exist that promise that people will come if you only do this one thing. Or if you just follow these seven simple steps your pews will be jam packed with people. Even to me (the dummy) many of those theories are downright ridiculous and yet some of them are helpful, at least to some extent. And of course, growth is one thing and being truly built is another. But when it comes down to it we don't have the right much less the responsibility to come up with a strategy or even a vision for church growth unless we submit that plan to the word of God. And scripture tells us what Jesus had in mind for how the church will be built.
Matthew 16:13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
The plan presented here, we will notice, begins with a question. Basically Jesus is asking who people think that he is. Then He turns to the disciples and asks their opinion. Of course the correct response that Peter gives sums up the idea that Jesus is the Messiah promised long ago to save Israel, and as such he is not only fully human but also fully God in the flesh. In the person of Jesus Christ is the absolute manifestation of God in the actual form of a human being. He was quite literally “God with us”.
The next thing we should notice is Jesus' absolute declaration that the answer is a supernatural revelation. It is not a conclusion that a person can naturally come to on their own, It transcends mere intelligence or rational thought. This is a comforting thought for those trying to plant a church. Ultimately, it does not depend on all of the practical and often necessary things that we do outside of the message that we preach; Christ. Not as a good person or a prophet, but as the redeemer-God in flesh.
The third thing that is vital to this church growth strategy are the things that are either bound or loosed. Jesus says “whatever” not “whoever”. It is our job to open the door, not to actually push people through it. That is quite decidedly the work of God as he reveals that correct answer to Jesus' question. Preaching the power of Christ through the gospel of Christ concerning the work of Christ is what Jesus means by the “keys of the Kingdom”. Preaching Christ is how we open the door of the Kingdom so that people may enter.
One more very important truth in this plan to build the church is the promise concerning the gates of hell. Since gates are either designed to keep someone either in or out we need to figure out who these people are. The gates in question clearly belong to hell so we can safely assume that someone would like to keep people in that place. It's not Jesus and should not be us. In short, even though each and every human being is destined for eternity in hell because of sin, preaching Christ to those people is the key that opens the gate and lets them out. Those gates of eternal damnation, as powerful as they may be are absolutely powerless against the message that Christ Jesus, the son of God, has come in the flesh to redeem mankind from it's sin. Praise him! What a simple plan. May the Lord by his grace grant that we never diverge from his plan and may he choose to bless Light City Bible Church by using the message of Christ to allow many to escape the justice of God and eternity in hell. Won't you join us in this gate unlocking adventure?