Monday, June 30, 2014

Can Free Will Baptist Churches Grow? p. 2

“So how do we do it?”  I gave a few reasons why SOME Free Will Baptist churches cannot grow in the previous blog.  To keep from being characterized as a “negative-ninny,” here are a few things to remember about church growth:

1.  This isn’t about you.  Paul explained this principle to the Corinthians, when he said, “I planted, Apollos watered, but GOD giveth the increase.”  While trials and difficulties certainly threaten our progress, ego and success are the greatest dangers we face. Stop taking credit for what God has allowed you to do.  You are working in HIS vineyard. Just because you have learned a few techniques (from others, I might add) that have afforded you more opportunities than others, doesn’t mean that you are somehow “the cause” of growth.  Quit focusing on promoting yourself.  It isn’t attractive.

2.  God blesses the things that honor Him.  Can we all agree that growth-by-goldfish-swallowing isn't Biblical?  I mean, come on??  What are some of the things God blesses?  He blesses humility.  He blesses obedience.  He blesses unity.  He blesses prayer.  He blesses Biblical preaching.  He blesses our love for Him and each other. AND He blesses a church focused on fulfilling the Great Commission.

3. Think critically.  There IS a difference between being critical and thinking critically.  Study your church.  Go deep into the records (if they have any).  Chart and identify patterns in attendance. Observe the seasons of success they’ve enjoyed and figure out why they are where they are now. From the street to the pew, think about everything your church does - from how your facilities look, to how visitors are treated. Think about your nursery and staff; even think about your bathrooms.  Why DOES your church do the things it does?  If your church sings “happy birthday” to members or takes up an offering for the orphanage, look at everything you do through the lens of a guest.  Some of the things your church does you need to STOP doing.  Pray for grace and wisdom about those things.  Others you need to improve.  Set goals for your church and for yourself - “We have 20 things we need to do, but we can only reasonably do 3 right now.” Don’t send the message that you don’t like your church.  Help them see that your motive is love.

4.  Shorten your sermons.  People have been conditioned by modern media to listen in 20 to 25 minute segments.  Saying less has more power.  Example?  If you walk into a crowded theater and shout “FIRE!” you will get an immediate response!  But if you share a 3,000 word, finely constructed message on the dangers of fire, you will be shouted down.  Yes, a ridiculous analogy, but you get the point.  Learn to say what needs to be said with less words.  This will discipline you to weed out unnecessary material that detracts from the message.  You will see better results because people will stay with you (instead of mentally checking out).  Have a point to your sermons. Your point shouldn’t be sharing information - but transformation.  Your people should leave your services saying “I get it!  I know what God wants me to do…”

Next time I will share a couple of tips for starting a visitation ministry and how to go about training workers and acquiring contacts…

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Can Free Will Baptist Churches Grow? p. 1

As a denomination, Free Will Baptists are blessed with several growing congregations.  If you were to study those churches, it would be difficult to determine why some are growing and others are not.  Not all growing churches are blessed with a great location, superior facilities, or an uber-talented staff.  Some are traditional.  Most are VERY conservative. Why do SOME grow and others do not??

1.  Some Free Will Baptist Churches will never grow because they are unwilling to do what is necessary to grow.  Growth takes work.  It requires vision and strategy.  But more than anything, it requires a congregation to take ownership of the calling of God upon His people to evangelize.  Most of our churches are convinced that they are "one home-run-hire away" from growth - "one building away" - "one program away" from catching aflame.  They have no idea that growth comes at great personal cost.  A church must WANT to grow enough to get involved in the process.  As in Nehemiah's day, the work was accomplished in record time because "the people had a mind to work." (Nehemiah 4:6)

2.  Some Free Will Baptist Churches will never grow because they are spiritually withered and have no desire to grow.  It would surprise us to know just how many of our churches have absolutely no desire to be anything other than what they are.  In fact, a lack of growth has become a spiritual badge of honor they flash whenever someone questions their health and lack of fruitfulness. They unfairly characterize growing churches as 'liberal' or 'modern' and say 'bless God WE are still true!'  How on earth can we think God is EVER happy with mediocrity or lukewarmness?  What spiritual gymnastics must we perform to convince ourselves that God isn't interested in growth?  Why do we automatically conclude that growth requires compromise or worldliness?  Saying "We are too conservative to grow" is a cop-out.

3.  Some Free Will Baptist Churches will never grow because they are staffed by men more interested in personal comfort and job security than they are dying to self and hard work.  It's always easier to blame everyone else for our lack of growth - to rationalize "they don't pay me enough..." or "if they only showed a little more respect..."  Face it fellas, while some of us don't know HOW to grow, most of us don't want to be troubled with additional work.  As long as we can safely point to enough churches that aren't growing, we can justify our own poor performance.  It is hypocritical for us to wax eloquently on "why YOU PEOPLE need to invite your friends!" all the while we do very little personal evangelism of our own.  Preaching the Gospel should not be the extent of your evangelistic efforts.

Churches that grow are intentional.  They have an articulated strategy for growth.  They find gifted and faithful people to pull into their leadership circle.  They focus on doing two or three things with excellence instead of always hitching their wagon to the latest fad or striving to be like BIG COMMUNITY FELLOWSHIP down the street.  Growing churches focus on the task instead of obstacles... they speak positively... pray specifically... work systematically.

Can Free Will Baptist churches grow?  To borrow a worn-out campaign-slogan - YES WE CAN!