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Getting Your Church Unstuck From Growth Hindrances

Burn Your Church Up

It’s too bad that so many pastors approach ministry with an Old Testament concept of anointing (by the way, that’s an over-used, under-understood expression in church today). In the old days, Elisha hoped to get Elijah’s sole ministry mantle—and it was a bit iffy that he would get it. In the new days since Pentecost, the mantle has been divided up into countless spiritual flames, distributed innumerably upon church people everywhere. That’s the beauty of fire; it can be divided again and again without losing any of its original significance.

Image: Vierdrie

If we’re going to burn the hell out of our world, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have a few bigger bonfires. But there’s a lot to be said for firing the flames of even the smallest campfire, so that it will jump outside whatever presently rings it in. The kingdom principles has always been multiplication. We find our spiritual significance not through collecting people, but in gathering them for the purpose of sending them out to replicate their experience with us.

Raising more people to their full kingdom potential is a higher calling than simply building a larger sanctuary. And frankly, churches of every size struggle equally with the tension between gathering and releasing people.

Greater Growth

The underlying rationale for all these suggestions is found in Ephesians 4:11-16, which is the New Testament’s most obvious discussion about church growth. Remember what we’re supposed to be growing—congregants not congregations. For some amazing reason, Jesus did not chose to bequeath to His church a special potion to be poured on pews to attract people like bees come to honey. He didn’t give us a franchise-church-in-a-box, or limitless sources of money to erect impressive buildings.

Instead, He gave the church people-gifts (prophets, mercy-showers, exhorters, etc.) and a prayer focus (more laborers). Hmmm…

Paul puts it all together when he says, “the proper working of each individual part causes the growth of the body” (Ephesians 4:16). The more that we develop people in their unique ministry gifting, and empower them with training, permission and opportunity to act meaningfully, the more they (and our churches) will grow. The key is the work supplied by each member.

So, whether a church has big or small numbers, God’s interest is the same. And even more to the point, that interest is a sobering reality check for us pastors, regardless of how big or small our congregations may be. The true question is not How can I get a bigger church? but How can I empower more of my church in ministry that really matters?


Originally from Used with permission of the author.

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Category: Ministry, Winter 2016

About the Author: Daniel A. Brown, PhD, planted The Coastlands, a church near Santa Cruz, California, serving as Senior Pastor for 22 years. Daniel has authored four books and numerous articles, but he is best-known for the sorts of resources that help local church leaders excel in their spiritual assignment. For more about Daniel Brown, see his ministry resources website: CTW. Facebook. Twitter.

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