Five Ingredients of Growing Churches
He would want me to remind you…
In the early 1970s Adrian Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis, Tennessee, and Edwin Young, pastor of Second Baptist Church, Houston, Texas, independently of each other and unknown to each other, conducted a study of the twenty-five fastest growing churches in America to determine whether there were common ingredients in each. Some churches were in the north; some were in the south. Some were black churches, some, were white. Some were charismatic; most were not. Some had marvelous new facilities; many were very old. But each had these five factors in common.
- They were strongly pastorally led. Boards, presbyters, deacons, elders, and committees abounded. There was a large variance in ecclesiastical structure. But in each case, they reported, "It didn't take long, analyzing the inside workings of the church, until it became obvious where the power was." But it is imperative that you understand: Leadership is not demanded; it is deserved. Pastoral leadership is taught in Scripture, granted by the people, and must be earned by the pastor. When you have to start telling them "I'm the pastor," you no longer are. God's people are better led than driven. Remember, a wise man will seek counsel and work with his leaders while humbly assuming the position of leadership with which God has entrusted him.
- They were strong Bible churches. Each pastor believed the Bible to be inerrant and infallible, the unflawed, perfect Word of God—not just a record of God's Word, but God's Word itself. These men were not attempting to be apologists. They were not defending the Bible, debating it, or trying to prove it. They were preaching it, explaining it, applying it, and illustrating it. Once, asked why he didn't spend more time defending the Bible, Billy Graham responded: The Bible is like a lion. When you have a lion, you don't have to defend him. Just turn him loose; he'll defend himself.
- They were good-time churches. This is not to say the Sunday service was a hootenanny or the atmosphere of a carnival. They were happy churches with bright, warm, friendly atmospheres. The people felt the freedom to laugh, to cry, and to respond. Remember, you can't hatch eggs in a refrigerator. A warm, fluid service that allows for the freedom and spontaneity of the Spirit allows the tender response of the Spirit to God. Often such services are considered to be only emotional, and decisions made therein naturally shallow. Consider this: emotion is fully one-third of human personhood. Jesus said we are to love the Lord our God with all our mind, heart, and soul. The mind is the seat of the intellect, the place where we know. The heart is the seat of the emotions, the place where we feel. The soul is the seat of the will, the place where we resolve and commit. The person who is stimulated in his mind and stirred in his heart will commit in his soul. We thwart the work of the Lord among us when we stifle the freedom of the Spirit with stilted, overly formal services. "Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty." This is not, of course, to suggest that we do not plan. An order of service can be directed by the Holy Spirit and still be printed in advance, but the freedom, warmth, and ease with which it should be carried out can and must be allowed. There are two final ingredients we’ll consider next week.
He would want me to remind you. Think about it. Amen.