This week I spent a day in Lakeland at a Church by Size seminar. This was actually a one day session that was a follow up to the three day session I attended earlier this year. Basically what this seminar is intended to do is help us understand a few “best practices” for strengthening a congregation. They have divided these into sessions for large to mega sized churches, middle sized churches, and small family style churches.
At our first session earlier this year, there were a whole multitude of practices taught, discussed, analyzed, and conveyed. We talked about laity and pastoral involvement, the inherent dynamics of each size of church, the importance of discipling, tips on how to conduct meetings and design agendas, and whole host of other topics. I learned a great deal from this first seminar and came back home energized and excited for what we can accomplish.
This time it was simply an opportunity to come back, six months later, and share what we have tried, talk about challenges we faced, and get encouragement from each other. We went around the room and came up with about eight questions that were the most pressing for the group and that is how we spent our day. We discussed those eight questions and spent time, talking, sharing, analyzing, and finding resources to help us.
However, with all of this great information I learned, there was one statement that stood out to me. Our presenter explained that “church growth is not about getting bigger, but about being faithful.” How many times have you heard the word church growth and immediately thought about more people? I always did. Growth means more, at least it did to me.
But the more I think about it, the more this idea of faithfulness being tied to growth makes perfect sense. For us, this means that we need to make sure everything we do as the body of Christ, reflects our mission statement as United Methodists: To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. This mission statement is not just something that some “higher-ups” came up with. You may recognize it from Matthew’s Gospel, where our risen Christ made it clear: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (28:19-20). When we have a meeting, when we begin a ministry, when go out into the community, we must ask ourselves, 'will this act help to make another person a disciple of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world'. Now each action we do will not make a disciple, but it needs to at least be a step on the path.
For me personally, this means that everything I do, needs to be reflective of my personal desire to make disciples for Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. If that is my personal mission statement, if that is your personal mission statement, if that is our church mission statement, and if we all adhere to that mission statement...hold on! When you get any group all moving in the same direction, at the same time, for the same goal, incredible things happen.
I encourage you to join me in shifting our paradigm, in looking for ways to be faithful in what we say and do, not just on Sundays, but every day, in every way. Growth is not only a numerical attribute, but an internal one as well.
Have a great week and I will see you Sunday!