Thursday, May 19, 2011

Guiding Principles For Growing Your Christian Church

by Sam Crowley

Are you a church leader that is struggling to maintain numbers? Or have you sensed the call of God to build your church and have hit a brick wall?

Perhaps you have been led to start a small group and have trouble finding the right people to contribute within the group.

If so, you're not alone. There are many Christian men and women who are asking themselves, "How am I supposed to do this?"

The short answer that they receive from their friends and colleagues is "trust God" and "let Him show you the way."

While this is theologically correct and we should rely totally on God's strength, we need to be prepared to spend all our own efforts to see the vision come to pass.

Sadly, most pastors and church leaders get disappointed when no-one can answer their questions, and their eager desire to fulfill the call of God results in termination of the project.

Ultimately they move on. Or worse, they stay with the congregation bearing the shame of this unresolved project knowing that they are being looked down upon.

Is there hope to take up the call that you've heard from the Lord? Here are seven basic principles of Christian church growth:

Seven Steps to a Healthy Church

1. What is your call? 

Most pastors and church leaders don't have a firm conviction or idea about what they are to do. Ironically their congregations are looking for them for direction and spiritual input, but they lack the vision and wisdom to know what to do.

2. What are your convictions? 

Once you clarify your call, are you prepared to see it through? You will need to be very clear about what is acceptable, and what is not acceptable. Know what you will be fighting to achieve, and what is best left. That is, avoid distractions.

3. Who shares your vision? 

Are you the only person with this call and conviction? If so, you will need to seek out other pastors and ministers who can verify whether the call and conviction are from God. The community of believers will be able to testify with you and provide you extra direction if you need it. Use them.

If there are already people in your congregation that share your vision and convictions, set aside time for prayer and direction and get them actively involved with the project. Listen to them.

This will help you avoid the pitfalls of the "lone ranger" mentality.

4. Prepare your plan. 

Plans alone won't bring about the call. You will need to rely and trust God for the power to accomplish the task that He has given you. However this is a practical step concerned with implementation.

Here is an exercise to do with those that share the call with you. It is best that you pray and ask God for ideas prior to this exercise so that He can reveal more about the project whilst you work.

Draw a mind map. Start with your call as the main topic in a large sheet of paper and draw a circle around it. From there, let your ideas become major topics spreading out from the main topic, and draw circles around them too. This will form the basis of your major concerns or activities about the project.

Further, you will need to draw more lines from these major topics that provide extra details. These deal with:

a) Is this a problem? 

b) What can be done about it? 
c) Is there a historical precedent set? 
d) Will this impact other churches? 
e) What can be done about it?
f) What funds are required? etc.

5. Pray. 

Yes, pray. This is fundamental to the whole process. Leave your plans on the table for a week or so, and ask God to speak more clearly about the project. Rely on him to show you the things that you need to change, remove or reconsider.

More-so, you will need to learn how to listen to God. Most people have never learnt the art of silence and meditation. When you quiet your spirit you are able to hear God more clearly, above the noise of everyday life. Read the Bible and ask God, "Is there anything else You can tell me?"

6. An Outward Focus. 

Most projects fail because the people involved become self-focused. All of a sudden it's no longer God's project, but a project that is going to bring glory to some men or women in a church. As a result, the project typically splits churches, and damages relationships.

The most successful projects are those that have the support of the entire congregation and all share the mission to make the call successful. The leaders are the biggest servants to lead and motivate.

When we aim to help others and look beyond our own circumstances, there is energy and motivation that is created that supersedes the focus that exists when we focus inwardly. That is, on ourselves. The first step to church decline is focusing on "maintaining our numbers".

As a leader, you will need to ensure that everyone maintains an outward focus to achieve the project.

7. Launch. 

After careful planning, prayer, support and focusing on the task at hand, you need to ask God, "Is this the right time?"

You will sense that the time is right when there is a strong and level headed sense of direction among the group. Does the launch have support systems in place to care for those doing the work? How many people will be doing the work? What will you do when things go wrong? Have you got funds in place to cover expenses?

Since every call is different you will need to ensure that the planning phase covers most of the work that you intend to do.

It is better to delay launch until the problems you identified are resolved, rather than to launch early.

One of the major de-motivating factors occurs when people launch a project in anticipation of the results, and then the results never eventuate. This is careless planning, and should be avoided.

Be careful with the call you have been given. You may only get one real chance to do it properly.

Now you have the seven steps to assist you to build your church. Remember that you can't do it alone. You must work 100% with God's direction using 100% of your effort to bring this about.

Sam Crowley is a best-selling co-author and motivational speaker. Sam left his corporate job in May 2005 to spend more time with his family. You can view Sam's home business

NOTE: Referral to Web sites not produced by Rev Albert and his ministry is for informational purposes only, and does not necessarily constitute an endorsement of the sites and their contents.

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