Too often we ask the wrong question when it comes to our churches. We ask, “What will make our church grow?” That is the wrong question. The right question is, “What is keeping our church from growing?” In other words why do we exist? What is our purpose as a church? What has God got for us to do in this generation and in this community?
The Bible says the church is a body. It is a living organism. It is a body, not a business. It’s an organism, not an organisation. Therefore, it is alive and because it is alive, it’s natural for churches to grow. It is unnatural for them not to grow. The question we need to be asking is, “What are the barriers preventing growth in our church?” When a church is healthy, it automatically grows. So instead of asking “What will make our church grow?” the better question is, “What brings health?” And the answer is, “Balance.” Balance brings health.
In your body there are five different systems. You have a circulatory system, a respiratory system, a central nervous system, a skeletal system, a digestive system. When these five systems are all in balance that is called “health”. Any time any of those systems in your body get out of balance, that’s called disease. Doctors bring the body back into balance and once it’s balanced, it’s healthy and once it’s healthy, it grows.
In the same way, there are systems in the body of Christ, the church. There is a worship system, an evangelism system, a fellowship system, a discipleship system, a ministry system. When these are in balance, it produces health and growth. If any of these get out of balance, the church does not grow.
In Matthew 16:18 (NIV) Jesus said, “…I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it!” Notice the church is something that must be built. Whose church is it? Jesus’. And who does the building? Jesus. It’s His church and He does the building. But the Bible also says that God works through people. Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” If you want to build something that lasts, you must build it on purpose. Churches that last are not built on programmes. They’re not built on personalities. They’re not built on events. Churches that last, that are healthy and grow, are built on purpose.
Growing churches have a clear-cut identity. They’re precise in their purpose. They have an understanding of the reason they exist. They know exactly what God has called them to do. The foundation for healthy balanced growth is a clearly defined purpose, a clearly defined mission statement. Why is a clearly defined mission statement important?
1. It builds morale
1 Corinthians 1:10 says: “Let there be real harmony so there won’t be any splits in the church…Be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.”(LB) God wants us united in thought and purpose.
2. It reduces frustration
This church does not have time to do everything. The good news is, not everything is worth doing in the first place. Even better, God doesn’t expect us to do everything. A mission statement not only defines what we do, it defines what our church doesn’t do. James 1:8 says, “The double-minded man can never keep a steady course.” (NEB)
3. It keeps us on track
In Philippians 3:13 Paul says, “I am bringing all my energies to bear on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” (LB) Having a clear mission statement keeps our priorities straight. It keeps us from “majoring on minors”. Most churches waste energy on trivial issues. It’s like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It all looks efficient and organised but the ship is sinking. You can be efficient without being effective. Efficiency is: “Doing things right” Lots of churches do that. But Effectiveness is: “Doing the right things” That’s what makes a difference.
4. It Attracts Co-operation
People want to join a church that knows where it’s going. It’s easier to get on board when people know the destination. Would you get on a plane or a bus if you didn’t know where it was going? People will join our church to a greater degree if they know where the church is going in advance. The people told Ezra, in Ezra 10:4, “Tell us how to proceed in setting things straight, and we will fully cooperate.” (LB)