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Creating a Growth Climate in Your District

Creating A Growth Climate In Your District
By E. L. Holley

That a growth climate now exists is an accepted fact. For this we are thankful; first, to God; and to our leadership. Brother Urshan has, in addition to a multitude of other duties, inspired and promoted the revival that is in our midst. We know that such a growth climate didn’t “just happen.” We have been led of God!

In such a season, a local assembly, a section, or a district can either take advantage of the conducive environment or let it slip by. Once lost, it isn’t always easy to recapture. In the same sense that a pastor must be sensitive to such an opportunity, a District Board must also.

Furthermore, I am convinced that the District Board is the key to developing a growth climate at a district level. No department can do it. Only the District Board can ignite fires of growth on the district level.

I cannot discuss your district. But, I can relate some developments in the Texas District which resulted in growth. These developments are especially pertinent to you because they involve a project undertaken by our District Board.


From 1977 to 1980, our district was beset with problems—serious problems—time-consuming problems. You name it—we had it! We were in danger of becoming problem-oriented reactionaries.

To avoid this, we assigned as much time as possible into our board meeting agendas to goal-setting, planning, and dreaming. We had spiritual “brain pumping” sessions where we refused to talk about “reasons we can’t” or “things that won’t work.” Clearly, we wanted to “build a few fires” instead of waiting to “put ’em out.”

Birth of a plan

At one of our board meetings in 1980, an intense hunger began to rumble through our hearts. Each member expressed the same desires. It was spontaneous and infectious. God was stirring our hearts. It was time to act on a district-wide basis.

I appointed a very unusual Evangelism Commission. It was more of a Growth Commission. I asked for, and received, constructive criticism. There were no sacred cows. We wanted input-suggestions, ideas for improvement. No area was exempt.

The men on this committee understood that they were not expected to formulate a detailed “plan” or “program.” They would report and the District Board would work from their suggestions. This they did.

I held pastoral councils. Six or eight pastors would meet with me in their section. After prayer I would ask them to talk to me. I took copious notes. The meeting never deteriorated to a gripe session. The response was purposeful and profitable.

I met with every departmental committee in the district. We talked development, improvement, and growth. Each meeting made invaluable contributions. We corrected “bottlenecks.” We eliminated unnecessary routines that had out-lived their usefulness. We opened communication lines.

There emerged a “plan,” and we called it that with all the evidence against it! District growth would call for new churches. This meant preachers-able ministers-would be needed. Further, they would need training and assistance. We would need all the help available from our pastors and churches.

The “PLAN” formulated

A newspaper article regarding a state-wide study of population trends caught my attention. I asked Brother Ken Gurley, our Administrative Aide, to contact the firm who made the study in an effort to obtain the data. To our pleasant surprise; they responded without charge.

We developed charts and comparative data lists. We learned that the 145 counties of Texas District had undergone quite a change between 1940 and 1980. More importantly, we found that the projected population trends for the next twenty years would further alter our District.

For instance, in 1940, 65% of the population lived in rural areas. But, by 1980, only 20% of the population still lived in rural areas. This means that more than 80% of our people live in metropolitan areas. Yet, 80% of our existing churches are in rural areas.

Clearly, we had built our churches during the past 40 years where the people were at that time. But now, we only have 20% of our churches where 80% of people live today! In fact, we learned that 2 out of 3 people in the District lived in three metropolitan areas:

HOUSTON . . . . . . . . . . . .17 churches { 1980 } 10% of our churches
DALLAS/FT. WORTH. . .12 churches { FIGURES } were in most densely
SAN ANTONIO . . . . . . . . 3 churches populated areas.

We presented this to our District Board in 1983 along with the Evangelism Commission’s report. Fifty-one (51) counties had no United Pentecostal Church. Metropolitan areas such as Corpus Christi and Austin were virtually untouched. The Rio Grande Valley was projected to be a hot growth area. Laredo had 90,000 souls and no church.

And, we had almost 300 uninvolved preachers somewhere in Texas! (We learned later there weren’t quite that many!)

A loosely structured strategy for action was adopted. The District Board divided the district in to 4 zones-A, B, C, and D. Each zone was comprised of 3 or 4 sections. The presbyters, along with their respective Home Missions representatives, became zone committees. Each committee elected a chairman—one of the presbyters.

The District Superintendent, District Secretary, and District Home Missions Director became the Executive Committee. They would coordinate the effort. Each zone would operate as it felt best. Information would be fed back to the Executive Committee.

The “PLAN” implemented

The growth areas were targeted. While each zone was gearing up for action, we devised a recruitment program. Brother Ken Gurley assisted Brother Vernon Neely in conducting “Launch Your Ministry” seminars over the district. Volunteers were carefully screened and we began in January, 1984, to invade the targeted zone and establish “beachheads.” Invasion Communiqués were mailed to every minister and church in the District. The “Strike Zones” established war chests to help in the effort.

The “Launch Your Ministry” seminars were kept to less than ten participants. These were ministers who had their pastors’ approval, and they were invited to pray and consider the need in the light of their call. After showing them slides and answering questions regarding the high growth areas, they were asked to make a trip to the city of their concern and talk to God about it. Then, upon return, report their feelings. If they decided to go, they were then turned over to the Home Missions process. If they were undecided, we urged them to return to their pastor and make loyal members of the church. We also contacted the pastors in the target zones to secure their cooperation. We assured them there would be no churches started off of their flocks. We have backed up our assurances with positive action and there is little tension over the matter now.

Pastors across the district are supporting the effort in various ways. Some are going to new works to hold revival meetings. Others are providing Home Bible Studies. One pastor took a van load of good witnesses to a city and spent 3 days and nights with our Home Missionary there. They passed out tracts, prayed people through, and did some excellent public relations work in the area.

There are so many facets to the effort which became known as Evangelistic Invasion ’84 that I cannot relate them all. In fact, I’m not even acquainted with them all! One thing is certain: Our District Board became the catalyst of the effort, and I’m grateful to them. They are responsible for the attitude that prevails in our district.

What are the results?

1. We have adhered to one guiding principle. The entire plan was to remain flexible and involve everyone. It has been modified so many times we hesitate to call it a “plan.”

2. In November, 1984, we reached our goal for the year. We had promised God a “tithe” of our churches and in the last board meeting of the year we approved the starting of our 33rd new work in Rockford, Texas.

3. Our Home Missions offerings increased in every category during 1984. Undesignated offerings were up! Designated offerings were up! And, Christmas For Christ broke our record, becoming #1 in the nation.

4. Section 11—part of the targeted zone—doubles in the number of churches in 1984! Section 12—the other half of the targeted zone—is also greatly increased in number.

5. Though we have a late start in 1985, our Home Missions Director and our District Secretary are conducting “Launch Your Ministry” seminars over the district. The momentum is still present!

6. The greatest blessing and benefit from this growth climate is a beautiful unity throughout the district! For this we are exceedingly thankful.

Article “Creating A Growth Climate In Your District” written by E. L. Holley is taken from an unknown source.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”

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The Keys to Church Growth

The Keys to Church Growth
By Chip Arn

Between you and your father, Win, you’ve studied church growth and helped churches to accomplish it for 35 years. Our culture has changed a lot in that time. Are there some things that used to be true of church growth that we now need to unlearn?

It’s important to understand that there’s a difference between church growth principles and church growth methods. The methods change, but the principles are really timeless. One of the most important of them is as true today as it was in the New Testament: the social networking principle. In the hundreds of times I’ve surveyed congregations—a total of at least 50,000 people or more—and asked why each person became a Christian, there’s a list of eight things that are always mentioned.

1. A special need arose in my life, such as a death or catastrophe. That’s 1 percent to 2 percent.
2. A spontaneous walk-in—I just decided to go to church one Sunday. That’s 2 percent to 3 percent.
3. I had a relationship with a pastor or someone else on church staff. That varies from 1 percent to 6 percent.
4. I was visited; somebody just knocked on my door. That’s 1 percent to 2 percent and continually dropping.
5. I participated in Sunday school or some other Christian education. That’s 4 percent to 5 percent.
6. Participation in evangelistic crusades, television, and radio ministries is less than 1 percent.
7. Church programs, such as special events or other advertised activities, drew 2 percent to 3 percent of those surveyed. If you’ve been following the numbers, the percentages are still very low and there’s only one item left to list.
8. A friend or relative talked to me about Jesus. Of all the tens of thousands of people we surveyed, 75 to 90 percent of them said they’re Christians because a friend or relative talked to them about Christ. That’s not just a U.S. thing, that holds true from my visits to Korea and India as well.

The word that comes up often in the New Testament is oikos, frequently translated as household or house. In the first century that really meant a lot of people, such as extended family, servants, and servants’ families. There’s some indication that it might even have included work associates. So the timeless principle is that we need to be intentional about identifying and utilizing existing social networks.

It’s amazing that the percentage is that high. How do you effectively utilize social networks?

That question really leads to another timeless principle: the principle of receptivity. When Jesus sent his disciples out, he told them to go to the towns and villages that will listen to you and shake the dust off your feet in the places that won’t. Paul stayed much longer in places like Ephesus that were receptive, and less time in places like Athens that were resistant. So good church growth strategy says within your community there are different groupings of people, some of whom will be more receptive than others. And some people will be receptive to one church and not another, so you can’t expect everyone to respond to your style. Look for receptive people and work there.

Another principle is to make evangelism a priority. It’s a fascinating dynamic to observe the life cycle of churches. The general observation is that the longer a church exists, the more the people in leadership become concerned with self-preservation and self-service, and less concerned with their original goal of reaching people. Growing churches continue to focus on outreach.

Presumably the final principle is related to our conversation on assimilation, so that once those friends do come to church they keep coming.

Exactly. Welcoming new believers into the fold and building community with them is a universal principle. It’s not a natural thing for outsiders to be automatically welcomed into a new group. Effective growing churches will intentionally develop systems and strategies to build a consciousness in the congregation to welcome newcomers.

Chip Arn is president and CEO of Church Growth Incorporated.

This article “The Key To Church Growth” By Chip Arn is excerpted from the Church Growth Inc. Newsletter. September 2008.

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Why Smaller Congregations Have an Edge

Why Smaller Congregations Have An Edge
Dan Kimball

If the people in your small church are loving and kind to others, you already have what so many are longing for.

We can talk a lot about the numbers of people who are part of our church, how many services, campuses or video venues we have, and how big we are growing. But I believe most church leaders would admit that generally the most important aspects of spiritual formation occur in some sort of smaller setting.

At Vintage Faith Church, we put a lot of effort into our three Sunday worship gatherings that have preaching and music. We hope they are as big as possible, and we are praying right now about adding another one. But when I listen to stories during baptisms of people who have become Christians or people who made major life decisions, they speak about the small meetings and relationships formed in them. My life also was changed eternally in a small church. As a local church body, we dream of seeing hundreds more become part of Vintage Faith, but we know that the “small” is where God really does deeper things and decisions are made.

Finding Community
It may sound strange, but big churches should strive to be “small” churches. I believe this resonates with emerging generations. I am in enough conversations with young adults to hear that “big” is not always better. They define “community” as much more intense, open and vulnerable than their counterparts in generations past. Emerging generations also generally are suspicious of church leaders. The smaller the church, the easier it can be to build deeper relationships and gain trust. However, the good news is that even megachurches can achieve this “small” feeling and experience, if they place a value on it and design things accordingly to see people get into small communities within the whole. A church of 10,000 can feel like a church of 100 if it emphasizes the “small” in addition to the “big.”

Growing the Kingdom
For small churches today, this desire for “small” is something to celebrate. If the people in your small church are loving and kind to others, you already have what so many are longing for. But while we fully celebrate being small, we can never lose the vision of becoming big. I don’t mean wanting to become a megachurch. I simply mean “big” in terms of the passionate prayer and hope of seeing someone come to know who Jesus is and put faith in Him that never fades. We can take pride in being small like the house churches of the early church, but it can’t be at the expense of failing to help new people who aren’t already in our small church come to know Jesus. Too many small churches today are staying small because they’re content with their tight community of believers, to the detriment of the people outside their church who don’t yet know Jesus.

In big churches, we need to remember the importance of “small” for life transformation. And if small churches don’t have “big” prayers and dreams about seeing someone who isn’t a Christian become one, we need to remember the truth that church is about mission, which includes taking action to see the Gospel proclaimed to people outside our small churches.

Having all kinds of churches of all sizes is wonderful. But no matter the size, may we be concerned with those following Jesus experiencing life transformation in community and those who don’t know Jesus coming to know Him. May our size never interfere with seeing people find and experience new life.

Dan Kimball serves on the staff at Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, Calif., and is professor of missional leadership at George Fox University. His new book, Adventures in Churchland (Zondervan) is slated for release spring 2012.

The above article is from web site and the July/August 2011 issue of Outreach Magazine.

The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study and research purposes.

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Winning On Your Home Court

Winning On Your Home Court
By Carlton L. Coon, Sr.

When a team plays at home… it sits in the chairs is selects, the home team’s band plays and the fight songs are those of the home team. Everything possible is done to make it a winning environment. Some of what I share is more relevant to those beyond Home Missions status, but the principles are applicable to virtually any church setting.

Create A Warm Atmosphere

There is something about the mood in the home of a true hostess. It is more than the décor… I’ve been where the decor was exceptional, but it was cold. People are like moths, they gravitate to light and warmth. Creating that atmosphere begins with understanding the significance of certain people.

Prioritize The Right People

In training ushers and greeters, John Maxwell identified the ten most important people on Sunday morning in your church. It is important to note the one Maxwell denotes as number one.

1. A Visitor Any visitor is a “VIP.” Their attendance has been motivated by a friend or deep need. He brings his hurts, questions, and apprehensions. A visitor looks for warmth, acceptance, and smiles. If he finds these, he will return.

2. The Usher Ushers are important because they are usually the ones who have the first contact with people. They help people with directions. They are the ones who represent the church to newcomers.

3. Nursery Workers As soon as space makes it possible, a nursery should be added. Young parents seeking a church will initially select that church more on the nursery care than on the doctrinal statement of the congregation. Nursery workers are frontline warriors in the work of growing a church. Training will give them confidence. Well-trained nursery workers give assurance to the parents that their child will be cared for.

4. Greeters welcome people with a smile and a handshake. They personally escort visitors to the appropriate rooms. Greeters watch for people who appear lost or hunting for the right place. These people also look for the newcomers at next week’s service. In the early stages, your usher and greeter might to be the same person.

5. The One Who Sits Beside A New Person Church people can be distant toward the guest sitting in the chair beside them. Train four people to reach out to new people. It creates a warm atmosphere when they smile and introduce themselves. Simple things like helping them locate a song, handing them a welcome card, sharing a Bible means a lot.

6. The Service Leader makes or breaks this warm environment. This person must relax and draw people into an atmosphere of praise and worship. Spend a few moments greeting people at the beginning or during the service. A service leader must be warm, personable, positive, and real. If the pastor leads the service use the time to build a rapport in preparation of preaching to the congregation.

7. The Worship Leader must be friendly and have the ability to put people at ease.

8. The People Who Sing must smile and look as if they enjoy what is going on.

9. The Pastor must convey warmth and a sincere interest in people. Notice that many impressions are made before the pastor gets a chance to make his. If those already attending are not equipped to welcome a visitor… then a warm and sincere pastor will not be effective.

10. A Follow-Up Person must show appreciation for the newcomer’s visit and extend them a gracious invitation to return.

Action Items

* Evaluate each of these ten key people at your church. This Sunday, look at things with a “Visitor’s Eye.” Rate things on a scale of 1-10. Would it feel good to be there? What needs to be worked on?

* Consider ordering a training program like Ushers And Greeters by John C. Maxwell, (INJOY Ministries, 1991)

Things A Pastor Or Service Leader Does To Create Warmth

1. Pause during the service to have people greet someone they do not know well.
Let music play in the background.

2. Pastor, get off the platform and out from behind the podium. Become real to the people who are there. The ivory-tower preacher, who descends twice a week to deliver an oracle and then retreats into his sanctuary, may have great scholarship and homiletical excellence; but he will not have warmth and a personal touch, It may well be as mysterious as the “sea of glass” not “mingled with fire.” A while back I was in Madison, Mississippi. It was interesting to see Pastor Jerry Dillon get off the platform to touch visitors. He shook hands and hugged the jail inmates who were there; he kissed babies and got acquainted with those visiting. All, while the worship service was going on. Pastor Dillon is an outstanding preacher, but in my estimation his approach to connecting with people is as much a key to his effectiveness as is his energetic preaching.

3. For some who visits, our Pentecostal praise is a mystery. It makes them extremely uncomfortable. Take time to explain what is happening. Use the Bible to validate what things that are happening: You can say, “I realize that this might be new to some of you. Let me take a moment and validate all this through the scripture. The Bible speaks of…

Kneeling in worship (Phil 2:9-10)
Bowing heads (Micah 6:6-8)
Raising heads (Psalm 3:3-4; Heb 4:16)
Lifting hands (Lam 3:40-41; Ps 63:3-4)

Waving hands in praise (Lev 9:21)
Dancing with joy before the Lord (Ps 30:11)
Clapping your hands (Psalm 47:1)
Shouting to the Lord (Psalm 47:1)
You don’t have to praise just like someone beside you… but take time to praise the Lord.” A short explanation demystifies all of this for the visitor. In a few minutes, you will see them start trying some of those things.

Action Items

* Last Sunday, while church was going on… did you get off the platform to go get acquainted with people? Would you try it… just this one Sunday? You might even take the opportunity to invite the visitor to go to diner with you.

* Develop a pattern you will use for explaining Pentecostal praise in two minutes or less. Use that pattern often. Eventually you will have it memorized. This is not aimed at your saints, but at visitors.

I’ve spent much time focusing attention on practical things we can do to connect to those who visit our home court. However, there is something else to consider. This moves into the realm of the spiritual. We must also:

Be Conductive To The Spirit

Jerusalem was never a major banking center or a world-class city of commerce. Her claim to fame was her beauty and joy. In those days if you told a travel agency you wanted to do worship, they’d send you up to Jerusalem. Their joyful praise and worship of Yahweh, their feasts and celebrations captured the attention of the pagan world. An Ethiopian traveled to Jerusalem, “…for to worship.” What are you known for?

Psalms informs that “…God dwells in the praise of Israel.” Other translations say, “He is enthroned in the praise of His people.” A Japanese translation expresses it, “Where people praise, God brings His big chair and sits down.” Praise celebrates what
Jesus Christ has done for us. A by-product of praise is to create an atmosphere where the Lord Jesus is warmly welcomed.

In Genesis, God created environment before he created the creature that would exist within the environment. We humans are gifted at creating the environment in which we exist. It is our responsibility to create an atmosphere conducive to the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer Before

Train your people to gather for prayer before church. If you really want them to do it – be there yourself. Visit Alexandria, Louisiana on Sunday evening and at 5:30 Pastor Anthony Mangun is in the prayer room with his men. Visit Calgary on Sunday evening and Pastor Johnny King is in the prayer room with his people. By the way, both prayer rooms are full… both churches are vibrantly alive with worship and praise. Prayer before church should be a non-negotiable for you, the musicians and leaders.

Seek To Worship But Begin With Praise

Worship is the deepest expression of relationship with God. It is what every gathering should pursue. In reality, real worship – that attitude of inner prostration at the presence of God – is rarely attained. It is hard to go from the business of the welding shop or the accounting office directly into worship. It is a process. How do we get there?

Begin with leading people into praise. Praise simply celebrates what the Lord Jesus Christ has done in their life over the past few days. Praise can be done through song or a testimony. It can be a prayer-time victory report. Praise can flow from the simple reading of scripture. Psalm 136’s repeated, “…his mercy endureth forever” in each verse, is excellent for responsive praise. Have people to read a verse of scripture that expresses their personal praise is low risk. Ralph Herring in The Cycle of Prayer is that praise is simply the “making of glory.” One writer said the posture of praise is constant motion. Standing, clapping, lifting the hands are all postures consistent with spirit of praise. To sit still, looking dour, is clearly inappropriate for praise. Praise begins with the pastor. You cannot lead a church to be a praising church if all they see you do is stand about looking somewhat miserable.

Article “Winning On Your Home Court” written by Carlton L. Coon, Sr. it taken from Director’s Communiqué the May/June 2006 edition.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”

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Breaking the Church Growth Barriers

Breaking the Church Growth Barriers
Randy Bezet

Planting a church and serving as lead pastor is the single most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I started Bayside Community Church in the spring of 2002 with 20 core leaders that I called the “Dream Team.” We launched our first service that September with 220 people; by December that number had dropped to 87. I remember looking at other church models and asking myself, Why were these churches moving so much faster and making it appear so easy? I wish I had known about the barriers to growing a church before I began this journey.

Was I discouraged with 87 people? You bet! Was I concerned? You bet! Was I done? No way! You see, I had decided that if God was going to deliver only 87 people for me to pastor, then I was going to be the best pastor ever to those 87 members. I refused to allow my vision to be clouded by our circumstances, nor would I let my leadership team alter its course. I knew we needed to stay focused on winning people to Christ.

Today, Bayside Community Church has a weekly attendance of nearly 4,000 people. We were the 12th fastest-growing church in America in 2009/2010 according to Outreach magazine. We just needed to breakthrough some common church-growth barriers to enlarge our vision, grow our leadership and improve the quality of our services.

Enlarging Your Vision

Vision barriers. The initial barrier is the fight against the status quo. There will be those in your congregation who impede the vision of being a big church. This barrier can block the growth of your church if you allow the vision to give priority to systems, policies, procedures and projects over people.

I believe that Jesus’ biggest argument with the Pharisees was their complacency – their desire to put programs and preferences ahead of people. In Matthew 12:11-12, Jesus said to them, “What man is there among you who has one sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not lay hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value then is a man than a sheep?” Jesus’ greatest concern was the fact that they had put more emphasis on the systems and their own personal lives than they had for people.

This is still a barrier in today’s churches. There will be people in your church who will constantly challenge whether or not the church should grow. They will want to do what feels good for them inside their comfort zone. Often people in the church are more concerned about serving themselves than reaching out to serve the lost.

Vision breakthroughs. Placing a value for people into the vision of your leaders is key to breaking the vision barrier. In 2 Timothy 1:6-7, Paul writes, “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Believe that you’re called to reach your city, and share that vision with your leaders. Although your vision will constantly be tested, during the testing time you must remain true to God’s calling and continue to enlarge the vision for His kingdom.

Growing Your Leadership

Leadership barriers. Choices in leadership are going to determine the capacity of your church. The leadership team and I meet regularly to identify our leadership barriers. We ask: How much more can the church grow while we continue doing things the way we’re doing them? With the current systems and strategies in place, are we planning for continued growth? How much more capacity do we have to move this church forward?

When others are available to serve, we may hesitate due to our unwillingness to “give away” leadership. This mentality will block the ability for our leadership to increase capacity to meet our church needs. I remind our leaders that we have to take ownership for the responsibilities that we have, but we cannot be possessive of those areas. A possessive attitude is a barrier that inhibits a ministry area from growing. Why would God give you more, if you are not doing a good job of what He has already given you?

Consider Matthew 25:29: “For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.” It’s time to break the leadership barrier of possessiveness and move forward toward healthy leadership growth.

Leadership breakthroughs. We instill in our leaders the thought that God just might bring someone who can do the job more effectively, and we must be willing to let them take it to the next level. At Bayside, we strive to make serving simple. We have a philosophy of getting people connected and involved early in serving.

Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Ga., spoke at a conference recently on the importance of making it easier for others to serve. It is important to keep the bottom rungs low on the “get involved” ladder of our church, making it easy for others to step into serving. We strive to help those serve in their areas of passion, not just in our identified areas of need. New leaders are grown one “rung” at a time.

Improving Quality

Quality barriers. The quality of your weekend services and how they are conducted can affect the reaction of a new Christ follower. At a former church, prior to Bayside, my weekly golf game allowed me to reach out and build relationships with lost people and try to win them to Christ. After witnessing to the golf course superintendent for months, he confided in me concerning some issues he was struggling with and wanted to give his life to Christ.

I was pumped—until he said, “I would like to come to your church this weekend.” My immediate thought was, I didn’t want you to come to church; I just wanted you to become a Christian. My concern was that the quality of the weekend services of this church wouldn’t appeal to him. He visited but didn’t return.

We must work diligently to ensure the quality of our services doesn’t become a barrier to reaching the lost. The church blames America for having lost the desire for God. But there are times when we have no one but ourselves to blame for not being relevant and more inviting.

Quality breakthroughs. My staff and I hold high standards in our expectations for quality and excellence. Churches need to be relevant and inviting, and we must determine whom we are trying to reach and create environments that appeal to them. Our goal is for people to want to return, so churches should be places where members feel welcomed and valued.

Is it time for you to have a breakthrough in your church growth? You can, if you enlarge in others your vision for the lost, offer opportunities for growth through leadership and improve the quality of your service by creating a relevant environment. Employing these strategies will get you started on the way to a healthy, thriving church.

—By Randy Bezet, pastor of Bayside Community Church in Bradenton, Fla., which he launched with a team of 20 people in 2002. Today, with an average attendance of 3,600.

This article “Breaking the Church-Growth Barriers” by Randy Bezet was excerpted from: web site. November 2010. It may be used for study & research purposes only.

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The Real Secret to Church Growth Success

The Real Secret to Church Growth Success
Tim Massengale

You can build a successful church! The secret is not in programs or methods, but in the vision that burns in your heart and your refusal to give up when opposition and trials come your way.

The following powerful story is based on real life events and is meant to help you overcome your fears and succeed in whatever objectives you have in life. And if your objective is to build a church, take this simple story by Dick Kazan to heart and refuse to quit.

Overcoming Fear and Failure

“Oh God,” Benny cried out. “I’m ruined! My business can’t pay its bills and I’m broke. I borrowed against everything I own to start it and now I’ve got to close it. I’ll lose my home, my car and my self-respect. People already thought I was insane to risk so much and now they’ll laugh at me for being such a fool.”

With tears in his eyes, Benny locked his business’s plate glass front door behind him and stepped on to the sidewalk. Staring at his shoe tops, he hung his head and began walking down the busy street, unaware of all the traffic noise or of the people walking by him.

When his legs could carry him no further, he found himself in front of a small old Jewish Temple and wandered in to sit down and rest. As he sat on a brown folding chair, he buried his head in his hands and began to weep.

“What is the matter,” asked an 85ish silver haired man who witnessed this scene, and sat down next to him.

“I’m ruined,” Benny said, his tears trickling down his cheeks. “There’s no future for me,” he added as he told this man about his failed business.

“Let me tell you a story,” the older man replied. “And then we’ll see if you’re ruined.”

“In 1939, my family and I were living in a lovely home in Poland, when the Nazis invaded, their troops killing everyone who resisted them. Poland surrendered and in our city, the Nazis set-up a Jewish ghetto and ordered all the Jews into it.

“By the thousands Jews were packed tight into a few blocks, in a barbed wired prison, where they were hardly fed, many of them dropping dead from hunger or disease, while the Nazis planned to ship the survivors off to death camps.
“But my family was among the Jews who refused to go, and we hid in the basement of our home as some other families hid in their basements or attics. We all knew this couldn’t last for long and one day we heard the roar of engines and smelled diesel exhaust and as we heard orders being barked in German, we knew the storm troopers were coming for us.

My parents were ready and had sewn gold pieces into my clothing and that of my little 10 year old brother. As we heard the troopers yelling and kicking in doors, their attack dogs barking, people screaming and shots being fired, my father said with a quiver in his voice, ‘Quickly you must run! Go through the forest and join our family in Hungary. We’ll join you later.’ “

“But poppa,” I cried, “I’m just 14,” and I pleaded not to go. “But they shoved us out the door, and the last thing I recall is my mother sobbing, her eyes reddened from all her tears. We never saw them again.

“We ran for the forest and it took us four frightening days to get to Hungary and sneak across the border. All we had to eat was the food our parents had hastily packed and our only possessions were the clothes on our backs, with the little gold pieces sewn in.

“We reached the family home in Hungary. But with the looming threat of a Nazi invasion, they got my brother and me to the Jewish underground and they shipped us to Palestine. It was a rugged experience but we had survived! There were so many kids like us that youth hostels were started and we slept on cots. We helped to grow our own food, and schools were set-up for us.

“As my brother and I grew up, he settled in what became Israel and he built a good life there.

“But that was not for me. I came to America in search of work and a college education. But I was broke and took whatever job I could find. Sometimes I couldn’t find work and I went hungry. Often however, I got janitorial work and that kept a roof over my head and usually I got enough to eat.

“After awhile, I decided to start my own janitorial company. I thought it would be a great success but it failed miserably because I didn’t know how to sell my services.”

“Didn’t that discourage you from ever trying again,” Benny asked. “Not at all,” came the reply. The failed company had taught me a lot about business, and when I worked again for others, I learned how to sell my services. It is as simple as taking a sincere interest in your customers and listening to what they want and figuring out how to provide it at a profit.”

“But when your business failed,” said Benny, What about all the criticism from others?” “I wasn’t concerned about what they thought,” the older man replied.
“Those who care about you are supportive, and those who criticize haven’t had the courage to do what you did, so they mock you for trying. I didn’t have time to listen to the critics.

“All of that aside, once you’ve been confronted by death and destruction, you realize thoughts of a failed business mean nothing. Soon I was back in business and this time, built a giant janitorial firm and it made me a very wealthy man.

“But I’m a humble man. I come here to pray for my parents and for all the people who perished from the blood stained hands of the Nazis, and to thank God for sparing people like my brother and me. I also pray for the well-being of all mankind.

“Where do I go from here,” asked Benny. “I’m broke!” “No you’re not,” boomed the older man’s voice. “You’re a young man with most of your life ahead of you. You had the courage to start a business once and you’ll find the courage to do it again, this time wiser from the experience.

“In the meantime, go get a job and rebuild your savings.” “What about my debts,” asked Benny? “Talk to your creditors, the older man answered. “They don’t want to seize what you have, they just want to know when they’ll get paid and some of them will work out a payment schedule with you, a car being a fine example because it doesn’t hold value well.

“But in the worst case, you’ll downsize at least for awhile,” the older man continued. “That’s what many a great entrepreneur has done, and they came back stronger than ever.”

Benny rose from the chair, standing taller than he had in a very long time. “Thank you for taking the time sir,” he said, looking the older man squarely in the eyes. “I will take your advice, for you have lit an entrepreneurial fire and I am determined to become successful in business.

“Good,” said the older man while shaking Benny’s hand. “You are never defeated as long as you believe in yourself and you find the courage to commit yourself again. When you do, I’m confident you will succeed.”

How To Apply This Story

If fear or frustration has stopped you from pursuing your dream of building a church, then use this story as a call to action. The worst that can happen is but a brief set-back on your road to success. The keys to church growth success are:

Build a ministry team. You will be hard-pressed to build a great church on your own. Use the pattern that Christ gave us. He spent His entire ministry building a ministry team. Even though they failed him often, he continued to teach, train, develop and encourage. When one turned into a devil and tried to destroy him, he turned adversity into victory for all mankind. Build a ministry team to labor with you to see your church grow. Key ministry positions are: Sunday School, Home Bible Study, Visitor Follow-up, New Convert Care, Outreach, Promotions, Bus Ministry, Music, Youth, and Ladies Ministry.

Market your church and the Gospel. This is the fundamental message of evangelism: “Buy the truth and sell it not!” Like a mighty force of salesmen, we go out into the world and present the saving message of Jesus Christ. Focus on the most successful methods of evangelism: church visitors, effective visitor follow-up, home Bible study, personal witnessing, bus ministry, and new convert care.

Invite visitors to hear the preached Word of God. 100% of your new converts will come from your visitors. Do as much as you can to attract visitors to your church. Preach the Word! Have a move of God in every service! Train your saints to work in the altars! Make your church the friendliest and most exciting church in town.

Follow-up on your visitors. 96% of all who receive the Holy Ghost come three to five times before they receive it. You must get your visitors to return or you will have few receive the Holy Ghost! Telephone them, send a letter, put them on a mailing list and send them invitations regularly. BUT MOST IMPORTANT: visit them at their home! Nothing else will work as effectively to get them back. Set up a visitor follow-up ministry and train people to make home visits. Churches that do home follow-up visits have triple the number of return visits as churches that don’t. They also have triple the number of converts!

Train Home Bible Study (HBS) teachers. Make HBS a major ministry in your church. How? Appoint a HBS director. Promote HBS in church often and creatively. Train HBS teachers several times a year, especially your new converts. Harvest HBS’s from many areas of outreach: the altar, visitor follow-up, bus ministry, door-to-door surveys, family Bible give-a-way’s, HBS contests, the ‘Open-Your-Home-To-A-HBS’ method, and dozens more. Never doubt that Home Bible Study works!

Train your saints why and how to witness. At least once a year teach a soul winning seminar series on Bible study night. Motivate and encourage your saints to witness and invite regularly by using Constant Contact Consciousness (CCC). Set up door-knocking teams. What? You don’t think door knocking works? Then pray tell me why the two fastest growing denominations in the USA in 2009 were the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. Door knocking still works if it is done correctly. Try it and see!

Start a bus, van or car ministry. Reach for the souls of children. God will pour out revival on any church that carries a burden for ‘the least of these,’ for such is the Kingdom of God. Do not focus on numbers; focus on evangelism. Those bus children must to receive the Holy Ghost. You must also evangelize the home using the concepts of Parent-Reach. Bus ministry will bring you new saved families every year if you will reach aggressively for the hearts of both the children and the parents.
Make new convert care a top priority. Appoint a New Convert Care director. Follow-up on every baptism and Holy Ghost recipient with a home visit to do New Life Counseling. Enroll every convert in a home Bible study. Stress the importance of your Sunday morning New Life Class. Give them a new convert’s booklet, a Bible if they lack one, and a CD of the pastor teaching a lesson entitled, “The Successful Christian Life.” Focus on the three basic needs of all converts: instruction, fellowship and involvement (Acts 2:42-46). Take roll on every convert in every service. Assign every convert a ‘Care Partner.’ Make a commitment to God that you are going to do everything possible to keep every convert that He gives you in 2010.

On the plains of hesitation,
Lie the bleached bones of thousands,
Who, on the very threshold of victory,
Sat down and rested,
And while resting, died.
–Author unknown

If you would like a detailed explanation of each of these key steps, call the Apostolic Information Service at 1-800-800-0247 and ask to purchase the Total Church Growth materials.

The above article, “The Real Secret to Church Growth,” is written by Tim Massengale. The article is extracted from Total Church Growth books, which is also written by Tim Massengale.

The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study and research purposes.

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David K. Bernard

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient (James 5:7-8).

But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (II Timothy 4:5).

James explained that we must wait patiently for the coming of the Lord, just as the farmer waits patiently for the harvest. The farmer is totally dependent upon the blessings of God—the sunshine, the rain, and the miracle of life in the seed. He cannot force growth to take place but must allow it to develop and unfold naturally. Yet he does not sit by idly and wait for God to work. He cannot do what God must do, but God will not do what he can do. Therefore, the farmer works diligently and at the same time waits patiently. The combination of diligent effort and patience is persistence.

The Christian life requires persistence. Jesus taught the need for it: “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (Luke 18:1). Paul’s life was characterized by persistence: “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

Christian ministry also requires persistence. Despite persecution, the apostles continued to preach and teach daily in the Temple and from house to house (Acts 5:40-42). To establish the church in Ephesus, Paul held discussions in the school of Tyrannus every day for two years (Acts 19:9-10). As the New Testament repeatedly records, the apostles persevered in their ministry despite intense opposition and hardship.

Paul described the circumstances in which he and other apostles ministered: “To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the off-scouring of all things until now” (I Corinthians 4:1113). “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (II Corinthians 4:8-9).

Paul exhorted Timothy to work hard to fulfill his ministry—continually being watchful, enduring afflictions, and reaching for the lost (II Timothy 4:5). He compared the preacher’s responsibilities to those of a soldier, an athlete, a farmer, a workman, a vessel, and a servant (II Timothy 2).

A Realistic View of Church Growth

In short, growing a church is hard work! It takes effort, time, patience, and persistence. When we hear reports of great revival and church growth, we should rejoice, but we should not think that there are shortcuts to growth. Instead, we should realize two important truths.

First, someone generally has labored diligently for a long time to lay the foundation for growth. If a minister seemingly builds a quick work, he is probably benefiting from the efforts of others over many years. In my own case, I am deeply indebted to the training I have received from my father and mother, to the many advantages afforded by the United Pentecostal Church International, and to the apostolic ministry of many people over the years. In our congregation are people who first heard the gospel on a foreign mission field. I am reaping a harvest from the labor of home and foreign missionaries, fellow pastors, and even ministers who have retired or deceased.

Second, even when there is quick growth, significant effort is still required to ensure long-term results. For instance, if many people quickly and easily come into the church, then it will likely take quite a battle to retain and establish them solidly in truth and holiness. On the other hand, if there is slow but steady growth, then much of the work of discipleship will already have been accomplished during the conversion process. Either way, a significant amount of work will be involved. The point is not that we should prefer one type of growth over the other, but to recognize that however growth takes place, it will require hard work, patience, and persistence to see lasting results.

Some ministers continually search for a pathway to rapid success. This approach often results in disillusionment or deception.

Disillusionment comes about when they identify a success formula and operate accordingly but the predicted results do not materialize. One minister was convinced that the key to planting a church was prayer and fasting. He went to a major metropolitan area, adopted a strict routine of extensive prayer and fasting, and began services. Unfortunately, he was never able to establish a work, and he became quite disillusioned because it seemed that God had failed him. In reality, while a personal relationship with God—developed through prayer and fasting—is indeed an important component of church planting and growth, no single method is the infallible key to success, nor can we earn spiritual results by doing good works.

Deception can take place when ministers seek rapid growth and revival without taking into account the need for persistence. In some cases, they identify a certain doctrine or practice as the key to growth even though they cannot demonstrate this point from Scripture. Consequently, they abandon sound biblical principles, and this approach leads them further into error. Typically, the key that they have identified does not in fact lead to the results they expect, so they drift farther and farther away from their biblical foundation. In many cases, they eventually redefine success by compromising apostolic doctrine, apostolic lifestyle, or both, so that they can finally claim the success they seek.

Some ministers achieve significant church growth but then promote a favorite idea as the key to growth, even though their own story of success involved a number of factors. They may neglect to mention hard work and persistence, and those who seek to learn from them do not think about this factor either. The reason is that most people desire more glamorous and exciting answers. All too often, the followers employ the recommended plan only to find that they do not achieve the same results. In many cases, they need persistence more than they need a particular method.

Commitment of Time

If a pastor really wants his church to grow, he must make a significant commitment of time—both in hours per day and in years. In this respect, he must think like an entrepreneur or a professional. An entrepreneur expects to work long, hard hours and to spend several years establishing his business. Similarly, after a lawyer spends seven years earning his law degree, he still expects to work for several years to become a partner in his law firm or to start his own practice. And during those years, he will work much more than forty hours per week. A doctor also spends years in school, internship, and specialization, working long hours.

Likewise, a minister should expect to spend several years in preparation for effective ministry, whether by schooling, on-the-job training, or both. Then it will probably take him three to five years as pastor before he really establishes the type of relationships within the church and community that are necessary for lasting growth. And it will take long hours of hard work to accomplish his job.

I spent seven years in college and eleven years in full-time ministry before I started a church. In my pastoral work, I have benefited greatly from these years of study and experience. I have been able to work much more efficiently and effectively than if I had started a church in my early ministry. This is not to say that no minister should become a pastor in his early ministry, but simply that he needs to have realistic expectations about his work. If God has called him to pastor a church, then he should do his best, recognizing that if he is diligent and persistent he can expect his effectiveness to increase over time.

A growth-minded pastor should plan to work at least forty hours per week, not counting service times. (After all, that is what lay members have to do.) And that is just to see average results. If he wants to see greater results, he will probably need to work fifty to sixty hours per week and sometimes more. Here is a typical week for me:

* Monday is my day off. However, I will probably spend one or two hours taking care of urgent matters or making calls in the evening.
* Tuesday through Friday, I usually work in the office from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, working through lunch or using lunch as a meeting time. (My goal is to arrive around 8:00 AM but to reserve the first hour for prayer, Bible reading, and study.) On most of these evenings, I will spend two or three hours in midweek service, special church functions, counseling, telephone calls, visits, or outreach. Then, late at night is my best time for reading, writing, and study—after the children are in bed and it is too late for telephone calls.
* Saturday is a busy day with calls, visits, counseling, meetings, special events, outreach, and study. While this is a good day to make appointments with people who are not available during the week, I keep my schedule flexible, for I need time for family and also to prepare for Sunday.
* Sunday is usually spent at church from 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM, with preparation, services, classes, meetings, and informal, on-the-spot counseling. When our church was smaller, I would take several hours for dinner and for relaxation at home, and occasionally I still do, but we now schedule many Sunday dinner functions at church—fundraisers, potlucks for new people, and departmental meetings. On the remaining Sundays, dinner is often provided for our family by members of the church. This plan was initiated by our care groups to accomplish three goals: (1) show appreciation to the pastor, (2) provide an opportunity for different families to eat with and visit with the pastor, and (3) help the pastor make efficient use of his time on this hectic day.

With this schedule, it is not unusual for me to work ten to fourteen hours per day. Sixty hours per week is typical, and it is not uncommon for me to work more. While I enjoy my work, I also enjoy family and personal time. As much as possible, I try to schedule recreational activities such as reading, swimming, racquetball, chess, the symphony, vacation, and so on. The point is not to become a workaholic but to keep up with the necessary work of the church. We must learn to delegate responsibilities, as chapter 7 discusses, and to manage time wisely, but the fact remains that growing a church is hard work and consumes a lot of time.

Persevering In the Work

Since we are seeking long-term, lasting results, we must be willing to work over a long period of time to obtain those results. A pastor may work for years with seemingly average results, but as long as he continues to feel confirmation from God, he should be faithful to his post of duty. God does not measure success as humans often do; He is more interested in our character and our faithfulness than in statistical results. If God has called us to do a work, we need to persist in that work until He releases us.

Sometimes we may question why we do not see greater results. It is appropriate to examine our attitude, motives, principles, and methods to see if any of them are hindering growth. If we find problems or inadequacies, we need to work on them. But many times we are doing our best, by God’s grace, and we simply need to persevere. When we do not know what else to do, we need to keep on doing what we know to do. Sometimes the answer we seek only comes by persistence.
When my wife and I came to Austin in 1992 to start a church, we did not quite know what to expect. In our first service, held in our home, we had eleven people—our immediate family of four at the time; my wife’s parents; my wife’s maternal grandparents, who lived an hour away but wanted to help us get started; one lady who moved from out of town; and two ladies who had been friends of our family for many years. We began contacting unchurched friends and acquaintances, and some of them visited for a while, but most did not come faithfully. Nevertheless, in ways that we had not foreseen, we soon gathered a few families and single adults who had a Pentecostal or charismatic background—some had recently moved to town, some were having meetings in their home, some had dropped out of church, and some were looking for a church home.

In three months, we were averaging thirty-three in service. Some people had been renewed to church, some were interested inquirers, and some were in home Bible studies, but we did not have one brand-new person whom we had baptized in Jesus’ name and who had received the Holy Spirit under our ministry. In fact, we did not win our first convert until six months had passed. While many exciting things were happening, this was a frustrating time for me, because it seemed that we were having a difficult time winning new people to the Lord. I had to learn that God was bringing people who needed our ministry and doing it in His way and His time.

On a typical Sunday, I would teach the adult Sunday school lesson, and my wife would teach the children. Then we would gather together for worship; I would emcee and lead singing, and my wife would play the keyboard. My two boys, ages six and three, took the offering. Then I would preach and give the altar call. When people would come to pray, I would pray with them while my wife played music. Soon, however, I would rush to the door to catch people as they left, meet first-time visitors, and make sure they had filled out a visitor card. In the meantime, the seekers would stop praying. As I said, it was frustrating.

One Sunday, we had a special speaker. A lady who was in a Bible study attended that day, and she was deeply stirred. The next night she came to our house for prayer, counsel, and study. She repented in our den, we baptized her in a swimming pool, and as she came out of the water she received the Holy Spirit. We had victory at last! Now we were ready for great revival.

In the next six months, however, we saw only one additional person—a backslider—filled with the Spirit. After our first anniversary, though, the pace began to pick up. That month we saw three receive the Holy Ghost—a backslider with a background in the Assemblies of God, a teenage boy, and an elderly, invalid Hispanic lady who responded to an advertisement in the newspaper. My wife taught a Bible study in her house, I baptized her in her bathtub, and she received the Holy Ghost at home a few days later.

What was the secret to this victory? We simply kept doing what we were doing. Over time, people from various backgrounds began to meld together as a body. After about a year, there was noticeable development in unity, worship, and prayer. Finally, we were enjoying an atmosphere that was conducive to faith and that was not solely dependent on my wife and me.

At this time a real breakthrough came. After fifteen months, we had special services with a pastor from a nearby city. He brought some of his congregation, and the worship was tremendous. At the end of the service, four people received the Holy Ghost!

In this second year, we had an average of one person per month to receive the Holy Ghost. The pace still seemed slow—but it was certainly better than one per year! The next year, the average was two per month, and the fourth year was much the same. Over the years we have seen a steady increase, so that in 2000, after eight years, we averaged well over two per week being filled with the Spirit. We are now believing God for an average of one per day, and indeed, in January 2001 we saw twenty-eight people receive the Holy Ghost in thirty-one days. That was more than our first two years combined.

Here is a graph that displays the number of people per year who have received the Holy Spirit in our assembly (excluding our jail services). The number for 2001 is a projection based on the first quarter. The graph illustrates the results of being persistent.

This experience has confirmed to me that when we are doing the will of God, we simply need to keep on keeping on. God will bring revival in due time if we will be persistent and faithful.

Persistence with individuals has also paid off. We try to follow up on everyone who has been referred to our church and everyone who visits. (See chapter 6.) In a number of instances, people did not respond to our initial contact, but six months or a year later they did. We also try to stay in touch with people who have stopped coming regularly. We have been able to help some of them get back on track. In both situations, repeated contacts over a period of time—fliers, calls, cards, letters, and visits—have often made the difference. While we try not to be pushy or annoying, we want to show concern and interest over a period of time. Some churches tend to write off visitors or dropouts if they do not return within a relatively short time, but we seek to maintain some form of contact if possible. As a result, a number of people are in our church today because of a persistent pursuit of their souls.


Several years after starting the church in Austin, I was teaching a doctrinal seminar in the country of Belarus, which was a new mission field for the United Pentecostal Church International. At that time, our pioneer missionary had only two Spirit-filled converts, both of whom had received the Holy Ghost privately in their homes. After a year or more of services, with about forty in regular attendance, no one had received the Holy Ghost publicly.

The missionary asked me for advice on what might be wrong. I told him that he seemed to be doing all the right things. He had fostered a positive, faith-building, friendly atmosphere with good prayer, worship, preaching, teaching, and fellowship. I concluded that he simply needed to persevere and that God would give the increase.

Sure enough, that Sunday three people received the Holy Ghost, including a first-time visitor. Today Belarus is aflame with apostolic revival. Even at that early stage, everything was already in place; the key to success in that situation was persistent faith.

Of course, hard work and persistence alone do not guarantee success. We can plant and water, but ultimately only God can give the increase (I Corinthians 3:6-7). Moreover, our labor must be in accordance with scriptural principles, and our persistence must be in a spiritual direction. Persistence in a worthy effort is commendable tenacity, but persistence in a misguided course of action is unreasonable stubbornness—and we cannot expect a reward merely for being stubborn.

We must learn to work smarter, not simply harder. When we apply this truth spiritually, we find that the foremost work of a pastor that will ensure both the qualitative and quantitative growth of a church is preaching and teaching.

The above article, “Persistence” was written by David K. Bernard. The article was excerpted from chapter three in Bernard’s book, Growing a Church.

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.

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Overcoming Invisible Growth Barriers

Overcoming Invisible Growth Barriers
David Bowman

Several years ago I heard Bill Hybels say that we will never lock eyes with anyone who is not going to spend eternity either in heaven or hell.  That brought home to me in a fresh way the importance of evangelism. Many churches say “God loves everyone and so do we.”  That’s good stuff.  However, churches often place unnecessary and unintended barriers between God and the people he loves.

Let’s say a man has children who attend Vacation Bible School at your church.  He likes what they say about the church and what they are learning.  He remembers attending church as a child and how, in retrospect, it wasn’t all that bad.  He can’t remember all the reasons his family stopped attending.  He decides the whole family will go to church together this Sunday.

Dad visits the church website and knows what time Bible study and worship begin.  The family climbs into the car together and arrives at church in time for Sunday school.  They walk into the main entrance and find the welcome desk.  No one is around except for some other visitors.  They all wait for several minutes and no one shows up at the welcome desk. Dad is, in turn, embarrassed and then angry.  He gathers his family and leaves the building never to return.

I saw this play out a few months ago during one of our Church Service Investigations (CSI) visits.  Obviously, this could have been avoided.  So, too, what happened next. The CSI team sat in that entry area next to the welcome desk for fifteen minutes.  A few minutes after that young family left, a man returned to the welcome desk and greeted us as he passed by.  He began arranging papers on the desk but did not offer any assistance to us.  The pastor and his wife, friends of ours for many years, happened to walk by and directed us to our Bible study classes.

Every church erects invisible barriers that even they cannot see.  The fresh eyes of outsiders recognize these barriers clearly and each outsider has to determine for himself or herself if it is worth the effort to climb over those barriers.What invisible barriers are there at your church? Think about your website.  Is it simple enough that guests can find the information they need about where your church is located and what time it meets?  Is it content-rich enough that guests can understand why the church exists, why you do things the way you do, and where they can enter into the life and ministry of the church?  Can they determine where the church is headed?

What do your facilities communicate? How well are the grounds kept? Is the grass mowed? Are shrubs and flowers well-maintained? Is grass growing in your parking lot?  Is guest parking convenient to the main entrance with clear signs? Are the buildings warm and inviting? How do you welcome guests? Do you have people with friendly smiles and good breath who greet newcomers?  Are your greeters knowledgeable about who meets where and when?

Have you trained your members how to talk to people they don’t know?  Do you make it easy for guests to find the connection information they need in your worship folder?  How do you gather information from guests?  How and when do you follow up with your guests?

Guest worshipers can help open your eyes to things you don’t even think about any more.  Consider hiring a consultant to help you overcome your own barriers and find the best solutions for your unique situation.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”

This article “Overcoming Invisible Growth Barriers” by David Bowman was excerpted from: web site. May 2010. It may be used for study & research purposes only.

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Growth Comes Before Greatness





(1) SIR ISAAC NEWTON, said, “For every ACTION, there is and EQUAL and OPPOSITE REACTION”. It is like a large BALANCING SCALE with huge bowls hanging on each side. One bowl is marked, SERVICE, the other marked, REWARDS. Each time we put something in the bowl marked SERVICE, the world puts something in the bowl marked REWARDS” 2 COR. 9:6.

(2) Our REWARDS will be in the EXACT proportion to our SERVICE. SERVICE is performed by our THINKING, TALKING and WORKING. If we are DISCONTENTED with what we are getting OUT of LIFE, we need to EXAMINE what we are PUTTING INTO life:


(1) The TANGIBLE REWARDS we can receive are more INCOME, a better HOME, a new CAR, CLOTHING and anything that we can SEE.

(2) The INTANGIBLE REWARDS include the I way we FEEL(HAPPINESS ETC.), our ENJOYMENT of life, PEACE of MIND, inner SATISFACTION, things we CANNOT SEE.


(1) One man foolishly sat in front of a COLDWOOD STOVE and said: “GIVE ME SOME HEAT, AND THEN I WILL GIVE YOU SOME WOOD!! Some people are like that! They think that REWARDS should come their way whether they DO anything or not:

(2) DETERMINE what it is YOU WANT, and I then SEEK ways in which you can INCREASE your SERVICE and EARN what you SEEK. If a PAPER BOY wanted more and better TIPS from his customers, all he has to do is INCREASE his SERVICE: Just place that paper right by the DOOR instead of leaving it on the SIDEWALK.

(3) Think of your JOB as a PLOT of GROUND. It depends on HOW MUCH SEED(SERVICE) you PLANT as to the HARVEST(REWARDS) you REAP. The beauty of your LAWN will depend on the AMOUNT of TIME and MONEY you are WILLING to SPEND: We must not only PLANT SEED but we must CARE for it

(4) A PREACHER drove past a beautiful FARM and saw the WELL CULTIVATED FIELDS, the GROWING CROPS. He saw the strong FENCES, the HOUSE painted so pretty, the BARNS so big and CLEAN. Two rows of TREES lined the drive and FLOWER BEDS surrounded the house.

When the PREACHER drove up the FARMER was just climbing down from a day in the fields on the TRACTOR.

The preacher greeted him and said, “GOD has BLESSED you with a BEAUTIFUL FARM”. The farmer stopped and thought a moment, and replied, “YES, HE HAS, AND I’M GRATEFUL. BUT YOU SHOULD HAVE SEEN IT WHEN HE HAD IT ALL BY HIMSELF”!

The farmer knew that he had been blessed with a farm with GREAT POTENTIAL, but he also knew that he had to do HIS PART in LABOR and PLANNING to cause it to REALIZE it’s POTENTIAL. Each of us is given a PLOT of ground to WORK. The LAND itself may NOT look so GREAT in the beginning. But with a strong VISION, IMAGINATION and careful PLANNING wecan PRODUCE a GREAT FIELD of ACCOMPLISHMENT: We can BE what we want to BE, and HAVE what we WANT to HAVE!

4. WHAT DOES OUR FULFILLMENT AS INDIVIDUALS DEPEND UPON? It depends upon our REACTION to what we have been GIVEN: We have been given a POWERFUL MIND, and we MUST use it. We have been given certain TALENTS that we can DEVELOP and USE. We have been given a LIFETIME to USE or WASTE.

(1) THINK of ways of INCREASING your SERVICE. Read books on your line of WORK, or the JOB position you would like to DEVELOP into being QUALIFIED for. Go to NIGHT COLLAGE classes. Take a CORRESPONDENCE course. Increase your JOB POTENTIAL by increasing your JOB KNOWLEDGE!


(3) Don’t WORRY about your LACK of INCOME or your FUTURE, look only at how you can INCREASE YOUR SERVICE and DEVELOP your POTENTIAL where you ARE! If you INCREASE your VALUE to your COMPANY, you will AUTOMATICALLY INCREASE your future INCOME. The HIGHEST PAID persons in the world are the ones who have become of GREAT VALUE to their COMPANIES!!!

GOALS? We must continually strive to develop NEW ENTHUSIASM, NEW IDEAS,
and expend NEW EFFORT to be of GREATER SERVICE to our generation.

(1) WILLIAM JAMES wrote, “Compared to what we ought to be we are only HALF AWAKE. We are only making use of a SMALL PART of our possible MENTAL and PHYSICAL RESOURCES. Every person GOD has created POSSESSES certain GREAT POWERS that he habitually fails to use.

(2) We need to DEVELOP fresh EXCITEMENT and INSPIRATION by periodically reassessing our GOALS and coming up with NEW IDEAS about HOW we can reach them.

(3) Let your GOAL represent the EXCITEMENT and your IDEAS and EFFORTS will create the SERVICE necessary to REAP the REWARDS you are DESIRING.


1. WHAT IS THE SEED POR ACHIEVEMENT? The SEED for ACHIEVEMENT is TRUTH! If we are TRUE to our OWN SELVES then we will be TRUE to ALL MEN. Weare all OBLIGATED to this INNER TRUTH. We can only ACCOMPLISH great things as individuals, after we have managed to CONQUER the INNER SPACE of our HEARTS. JOHN 8:32; 44-47.

(1) To be TRUE to ourselves we MUST make the BEST USE of the TALENTS and
ABILITIES that GOD has given to EACH of us! MATT. 25:14-30.

(2) God has given to each of us some GREAT POSSESSIONS. We have our POWERFUL MINDS and our SPECIAL GOD given TALENTS. We have an ENORMOUS WEALTH. And it is up to US as to how MUCH of our WEALTH we INVEST. This INVESTMENT will in turn determine our INTEREST RATE! Our RETURNS! Our REWARDS!

(3) If we INVEST our GOD-GIVEN WEALTH with INTELLIGENCE and PURPOSE, we will be BLESSED all of the day of our LIFE! It all depends on HOW weSPEND our TIME, EFFORTS and ENERGIES!!!

(4) Remember, YOU are the ONLY one who can ROB YOURSELF of your FUTURE POTENTIAL in LIFE and in the KINGDOM OF GOD! YOU must make the BEST USE of WHAT you HAVE, in the TIME GOD gives you to USE IT.


(1) SUCCESS has NOTHING to do with the SIZE of the BRAIN! The LARGEST BRAIN on record is the BRAIN of an IDIOT. The SMALLEST on record is the BRAIN of ANATOLE FRANCE, winner of a NOBEL PRIZE!

(2) All SUCCESSFUL people have one thing in COMMON: they UNDERSTAND the LAW of CAUSE and EFFECT! YOU REAP ONLY WHAT YOU SOW!!! GAL. 6:7. For EVERY ACTION there is an OPPOSITE REACTION!!!

(3) Remember, living SUCCESSFULLY is a matter of DEVELOPING the RIGHT HABITS. One of those HABITS must be to put TRUTH to work for us. We must PERFORM at our BEST on the JOB and EVERYWHERE to be a TRUE TESTIMONY for our LORD.

(4) If we are NOT PERFORMING at our BEST we are not being TRUE to OURSELVES or our GOD!!! We will be UNHAPPY and UNPRODUCTIVE. But if we GIVE OUR BEST at ALL TIMES, we will be HAPPY and ENJOY LIFE!


(1) YOU have a POWERFUL MIND that GOD has given to YOU for a PURPOSE. YOU have far MORE ABILITIES that you have ever USED! YOU have MORE TALENT than you can IMAGINE!! And YOU have the MOST VALUABLE COMMODITY on earth, TIME!!! USE the TIME you have to the very BEST of your ABILITY, to DEVELOP yourself to your UTMOST POTENTIAL for the GLORY of GOD!!! GOD wants to USE you in a GREATER MEASURE!!! I TIM. 4:14; II TIM. 1:6.

(2) DEAN BRIGGS is quoted as saying: “Do your WORK, not just YOUR WORK and no more, but a LITTLE MORE for your FUTURE’S SAKE. Put your heartinto it and out of it will come the SUPREME JOY of LIFE”. It’s the person who makes the EXTRA EFFORT that is going to reap the EXTRA BLESSINGS!

(3) PURPOSE in your HEART that you are NEVER going to be GUILTY of living in MEDIOCRITY. You are going to give every aspect of your life YOUR BEST. It is the WILL OF GOD that you SUCCEED in being OUTSTANDING in this world and the WORLD TO COME!!!

(4) ALWAYS remember that YOU are one of the KING’S KIDS: You are ROYALTY; awaiting the day of your CORONATION! Do you think GOD wants us to LIVE FAR BELOW our OPPORTUNITIES? Do you think HE wants us to be FAILURES in this world? NO, a THOUSAND TIMES NO, HE “CAME THAT WE MIGHT


1. What law is it that is a basis for Success? List Points and Script..
2. What are the two ways we can receive rewards?
3. How can we earn the rewards we want? List the Points.
4. What does our fulfillment and individuals depend upon. List points.
5. How can we retain inspiration? List the points.
6. What is the seed for achievement? List scriptures and points.
7. What is one of the principles of successful people? List points.
8. What is the greatest joy a person can know? List points.
9. In your own words write down what this course is doing for you.
10. List ONE of your MAJOR GOALS and what you are DOING to reach your GOAL.

(The original source and/or publisher of the above material is unknown.)

Christian Information Network

Posted in AIS File Library, GG - General Church Growth -0 Comments

A Biblical Standard of Success


Before becoming a pastor I was actively involved in the sales field. Numerous items were entrusted to me which I was to sell to the public. Once it was stereos. Another time it was vacuum cleaners. At one store I sold lawn mowers, baby furniture, pot-n-pans, and fireplace screens. It seemed I could always create in others the desire for the product I sold. Often people would say to me, “You’re a born salesman.” Actually I wasn’t. But I was motivated. In each job I knew the standard of success by which I would be measured, and I worked hard to achieve it. The standard varied from dollars received to quantities sold. Yet, there was always a clear standard against which I could measure my efforts to determine whether I was successful.

In my move to the pastorate I found myself floundering. At times I thought I was successful. But then, as I looked around, I was not matching the fantastic ministries of those men who received pages of publicity and were models for my ministry. It became difficult for me to know if I was pleasing God or not, or if our church was reflecting God’s desire. I began searching for an acceptable standard by which I could measure my ministry. It didn’t take long to find out that the perceived definitions of “biblical” success were as varied as the pastors I asked. There really seemed to be no commonly accepted standard by which pastors measured their ministries. But without a standard one cannot be either a failure or a success. Perhaps that’s the “hidden agenda” behind such non-measurable thinking.

Yet, if such a standard could be found and commonly accepted, Ibelieve it would do two important things:

It would free pastors of improper comparison. Accepted standard or not, pastors are going to compare their ministry with something. Usually it is with another pastor or another church. What pastor has not left a ministers’ meeting frustrated that his ministry is not as productive as another’s? What pastor has not wished for church growth and then criticized those who see it happening? What pastor has not read about a “church growth success story” and felt a measure of desperation? Certainly a few may have escaped the fear and insecurity caused by undue comparison, but not many. Certainly not me. What is needed is a biblical standard that invites growth in our ministries instead of critical comparison.

It would give pastors proper motivation. Business executives know people need standards to be productive. There is an innate desire in all of us to achieve, to reach, to strive for accomplishment. The business world has developed a whole system of rewards to identify those who have been successful. . . vacations in the Bahamas, million mile clubs, plaques . . . all symbols of reaching a certain measure of success, and all tangible motivation-creating devices. What creates motivation in the pastorate? Based on 1 Corinthians 13 most would likely say “love.” I agree. Love ought to be our motive. Yet in practice what often seems to motivate us is the desperateness of our situation.

Our church must be bigger and better than another’s. Our sanctuaries must be full. Our budgets met. An understanding of God’s standard for success would move us much closer to pleasing God by reaching His standard.

I believe God has revealed a standard of success that relieves comparison and develops proper motivation. The problem is we have been operating too long on a misunderstanding of what God wants.

“God doesn’t want you to be successful; He wants you to be faithful.” That phrase adequately states the foundation for much false thinking going on today. For many pastors has fostered the attitude that they can be unproductive and still be faithful. It has opened the way for pastors to be faithful failures.

What did Paul mean when he said. “Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful” ( 1 Corinthians 4:2)? He was speaking against the allegiance of people to other people. He was simply stating that he, and Apollos, and Cephas were stewards of the mysteries of God. As stewards they were entrusted with God’s truth and were to be faithful in their handling of it.

In being faithful with God’s truth, what did Paul actually do? He went out from Antioch faithfully preaching the word of God, expecting people to respond. He expected to establish churches. He even returned to Antioch to report his results. As far as Paul was concerned faithfulness meant seeing results. Paul could never have accepted the concept of plugging away “faithfully” without ever seeing results. In fact he spent very little time in Athens, a city he perceived as quite unreceptive, and went on to Corinth where he stayed a year and a half, “for I have much people in this city.” (Acts 18:8-11) His was not a theology of failure, but of success.

The modern church growth movement has caused a shifting in many pastors’ theological seats in this regard. It is no longer easy to be faithful and unproductive. We have been forced to ask serious questions about our ministries. Do we dislike “numbers” for biblical reasons, or because they reveal our ineptitude? Are we actually in favor of small churches or against large ones because we are not in a large church? Is it faithful to maintain a church for ten years without any new people becoming disciples? Is that faithfulness . . . or is it stagnation? Is that faithfulness or is it complacency?

In the past we have often embraced a theology of failure which has, as a result, generated little motivation for growth and implanted criticism for our fellow pastors. Our understanding of faithfulness needs ripening in a proper understanding of God’s standard of success.


Success is reaching the Master’s goals with the resources he has given us. Such a statement may seem a bit general at first, but I believe it adequately states the principles involved in God’s criteria for a successful ministry. The basic principles are found in the Parable of the Talents, in Matthew 25:14-30.

Servants have various resources. In the beginning of the parable the master is seen giving various possessions to his servants. The possessions, called talents, were large sums of silver or gold. Their responsibility, as faithful stewards, was to protect and invest their master’s money. While both of these responsibilities were important (protecting and investing), the close of the parable indicates that investment was the chief concern of the master.

What is also important to notice is that they did not have the same resources with which to begin their service. One had five talents, one had two, the last had one.

Similarly, pastors and churches have been given varying resources by our Master. Our resources fall into two areas. First is our people. Peter makes it clear in I Peter 5 that pastors are to shepherd the flock of God “among” them. Again he says we have been “allotted” a people (v. 2-3 ).

Naturally the people a pastor has to work with is a determining factor in the possibilities for growth. One of the axioms of church growth is that the people must want the church to grow and be willing to pay the price. The resources pastors have in their people is one of the most important resources they will ever have. I distinctly remember pastoring a church which owned a beautiful building, had a park-like landscape , and a nice five bedroom parsonage. But, while the building seated 225 people, there were only twenty-eight in the congregation. I learned quickly that people are far more important than adequate facilities. God has given all pastors a portion of His worldwide flock and we are to faithfully steward it and invest it until His return.

Second, we have been given resources within ourselves. All our natural abilities and the spiritual gifts granted to us by the Holy Spirit are resources from which we are to shepherd God’s flock among us. All pastors are not gifted teachers or administrators or evangelists. God has gifted us individually. Therefore we are to serve Him with our personal abilities and gifts.

I was once talking with a denominational leader about the people in my congregation. His response to my lamenting about the problems I faced was, “You’ve got to work with the people you’ve got.” That tells the story for all pastors. It makes no use wishing we were in a different place or had different gifts. God has given us His allotted charge and gifted us as He deemed suitable. Now it is our responsibility to reach His goals with these resources. We’ve got to use what we’ve got.

Servants have the same goal. The service of the servants in the Parable of the Talents involved more than simple protection of the master’s money. As indicated by the master’s actions at his return, he definitely expected them to multiply (or at least try to multiply) what he had given them. The two servants who demonstrated an increase were rewarded, while the third, who merely protected his money, was scorned. In fact, the master indicated he would have been happy with the smallest amount of increase (bank interest) if the servant would have at least tried (Matt. 25:27). Since the servant didn’t even think increase was important he lost his reward.

Pastors have several areas they are accountable for in shepherding their flock. They are 1) protecting, 2) leading, and 3) feeding. These three ideas come out in Paul’s last words to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28. He tells them to be on guard for the flock (protect), that they are to shepherd the flock (feed), and that they are to oversee the flock (lead). God expects pastors to feed and protect His flock. The pastor who fails in these areas certainly is a hireling, not a shepherd. Equally important, however, is the area of leading the flock. It is the nature of shepherding to lead the flock somewhere. It is God’s goal that His flock be led to increase. What is going to be Christ’s response to the pastor who has esteemed growth of the church as unimportant? Does it make Christ happy when we simply maintain what He has given us without so much as an honest attempt to increase it? I don’t believe so. Christ expects pastors to lead His church forward in growth. It is the pastor who strives for the goal of growth who will be called faithful.

Servants have similar reward. The servants began their stewardship with various resources. It is of no surprise, therefore, that they had differing results. The one with five talents doubled to ten. The one with two doubled to four. It would have been illogical for the one with four to have been envious of the one with ten. Likewise it would have been wrong for the one with ten to be critical of the smaller results of the one with four. As shown by the reaction of the master, the fact that results were achieved was more important than the exact amount of increase.

Each of the servants who increased his master’s holdings was granted a reward. Surprisingly it was the same reward: “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” It made little difference that their outward increase had been different. The master spoke the same words to both. Note the word “faithful.” The faithful servants were the ones who demonstrated growth of their allotted trusts. The servant who had made no effort at growth was the unfaithful one. Faithfulness is directly related to growth in what God has entrusted to us.

As pastors, we must realize that to maintain our churches by guarding them and feeding them, while neglecting to lead them forward in growth is not pleasing to our Lord. Faithful leadership has the goal of growth for the Body of Christ.

Our ministry may never be as large as another’s, but it should be a growing, thriving, increasing ministry. God wants His church to grow. The local church is His possession that He has entrusted to us. And, like the master in Christ’s parable, He expects an increase.

So . . . what if God’s standard of success is reaching His goals with the resources He has given us? How can we measure ourselves against that?

God’s goals are measurable. Effective goals are always measurable. There are three strategic areas we need to check ourselves against. First, our ministry is successful if we are making disciples. Discipling surely indicates we have people with whom we are currently working. Normally we have understood discipling to be a process directed toward believers. A careful look at Matthew 28:19 reveals that discipling is primarily directed toward nonbelievers. “Disciple the nations” is the basic idea. If we are successful we should be able to identify-by name-the people we are presently discipling. Recently I evaluated my ministry and found I had no nonbelievers that I was discipling. Lately I have made a determined effort to pull around me persons whom I am presently seeking to win to Christ. Now I know who my people are. I can name them. Who are the people you are discipling today? Can you name them?

Second, our ministry is successful if we are folding people into our church. Simply put, this means our church is growing, especially through the addition of new believers. A rapidly growing church should be able to see a 50 percent increase of new people in the church every five years, or every seven years if in a rural area. Certainly a minimum percentage increase would be 5 percent more new people than we lose in a normal year. How many new people have come into your local church since you have been there?

Third, our ministry is successful if we are teaching others to move into ministry and disciple-making. Paul told us to teach the things of the Word to faithful men who, in turn, would teach others (II Timothy 2:2). I know of one church in Oregon that can trace eight “spiritual generations” of people who have been discipled and in turn discipled another. How many of us even have one “Timothy” we are teaching?

As pastors we are truly successful if we are seeing 1) nonbelievers discipled, 2) people folded into our churches, and 3) our efforts multiplied in others. All of this done through the resources God has given to us as His stewards.

Success is teaching the Master’s goals with the resources He has given us. How are we doing?

Posted in AIS File Library, GG - General Church Growth -0 Comments

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