Creating the Climate
Carlton L. Coon, Sr.
A church at optimum effectiveness is found in Acts 2:47—And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. That idea of “daily addition” challenges us all. How does daily addition happen? There is no magic formula. No one person can cause a local church to grow, but a right environment can be created for growth.
One cannot change the weather, but one can alter the atmosphere of a church.
I have heard my share of formulas for church growth and revival. The stories we seem to hear most often are those of sudden success. Such instances of “growth” tend to occur as a result of one of several things:
* Swelling as a result of transfers from some other church facing difficult times. There is a difference between swelling and growth.
* A pastor being confused between a crowd and a church. They are not the same. A church is a body of called out believers, while a crowd can be attracted by entertainment or a free meal. A crowd is nice but at some point the crowd has to become a church.
The only long-term growth I ever experienced was gradual and not the least bit gaudy. This type of growth is rarely written in books, though it is the sort of growth that is available to every church in every location. It is Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper.
How does such growth happen?
More than anything, growth results from creating the right “climate.” In his presentation, Superintendent Mwanza arrived at seven necessary conditions to create a growth climate.
1. Positive Atmosphere
Emphasize what God can do rather than what we cannot do! What is best in people is celebrated, rather than what is worst. Believe in and trust people. Where there is a positive atmosphere, appreciation of what people do is the norm. In such a setting, people’s abilities and spiritual skills are developed. Rather than focusing on the entire congregation, a pastor quietly applies the concept that Jesus had a core group. Focus is given to training key people. Through such people, the work of God is multiplied. It is positive!
In a negative atmosphere, we spend time fighting one another instead of reaching the lost. The focus in a positive church environment is on winning and discipling people to maturity. A positive atmosphere is non-negotiable for growth.
2. Training is Ongoing
Jesus trained for three and a half years — how much more should we follow His example? One of my most dog-eared books is Bruce’s The Training of the Twelve. The four Gospels frequently portray Jesus training key people. 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus are Paul’s efforts to train the “arriving generation” for effective ministry.
When is leadership training conducted? It should be ongoing! What about teacher training? Home Bible Study training? Discipleship classes? Training on effective prayer? These should be ongoing as well! Spiritual leaders are not born. They must be trained.
Teach, teach, teach — train, train, train; great churches are a result of teaching and training!
Trust cannot be demanded; it must be earned. No person or position is exempt from earning such trust. As I step into the role of pastoring people who do not know me, I again have to earn trust. The need to earn trust exists though I’ve been a preacher for over 40 years and have served in several capacities. Trust has to be earned yet again, and it can be easily lost. Examples:
·Funds raised to support the outreach program MUST not be used to buy sound equipment. Misusing money is the easiest way to break trust.
·The tithe is not the pastor’s; it is the Lord’s money to be managed by the pastor. There is a difference between owning and overseeing. Transparency in handling church finances is important in the area of trust. I have always told people, “If you ever have a question about the church’s accounts — ask. You can look at the church check-book at any time.”
The church should be a trustworthy “safe place” where people are not threatened by abuse, misuse, or broken confidences. In a safe place, any question is welcomed, and life’s struggles are understood to be part of the process. People need to trust that the church’s dirty laundry will not be hung out for new people to see. When there is no trust or a sense of safety, it is practically impossible to have the correct climate for church growth.
4. Devoted to Excellence
Excellence involves each one doing their best with the resources and limitations they have. A one-talent servant is not expected to produce a five-talent return on investment. Regardless of ability, don’t make peace with mediocrity because people are not drawn to mediocrity. Do fewer things, but do them well. TripAdvisor never gives a high recommendation to a mediocre restaurant! If there were an “app” known as ChurchAdvisor would it recommend your church?
This emphasis on excellence is nothing more than being consistent with glorifying God (1 Corinthians 10:31). God deserves our best: the building having curb appeal, the inside looking as nice as possible, the appearance of our monthly calendar, the way songs are sung and sermons are preached. The lost deserve our best because God gave them His best! If we want revival, we cannot give God and community the leftovers.
Excellence is not a destination; it is an attitude and a lifelong process. Everything, including our words, actions, and appearance, MUST reflect excellence.
5. Oriented to Evangelism
Ingrown will never equal growing. An anti-growth climate happens when we allow the focus to be on the needs of those who are already saved. The mentality of a growing church is one of continually reaching out to others. Even the personal spiritual development of those who are already in the church will be seen in light of increasing their ability to genuinely care about others and minister to them.
Focusing a church’s efforts on serving others instead of satisfying themselves creates a growth climate. A pastor’s job is to equip the saints to serve, to do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12). Training leaders, Home Bible Study teachers, and Sunday school workers prepares them to be more effective in reaching the lost. Putting such training on the calendar and getting people alongside who can help is easier said than done. Each step taken to evangelize those outside the church forces us past our own comfort zone.
Nothing is so good that it never needs changing. Continuous improvement is essential. As a pastor who is not a product of the digital age, it is work for me to try to understand this “arriving generation.” I think my taking a personal interest in their life will be impacting, but I’ve got to understand them before I can gain an audience with them. It takes thinking of ways to reach them where they are. A 30-year-old program is unlikely to work —communication and access to information has changed. The principles of caring for people will remain, but the methods will change.
* If a structure is not working, change the structure.
* If a schedule is not working effectively, change the schedule.
We all resist change, but there are times when one must step back and do an honest assessment. Are our efforts helping to: (1) Reach the lost? (2) Disciple the new convert? (3) Develop leaders and ministries?
If not, tweak what is being done in an effort to improve things. When a growth climate exists, experimenting with change is encouraged, and risks are allowed, sensitivity and flexibility to the changing culture is developed.
7. A Serving Spirit
In a sense, the spirit of a servant is a defining trait of a growth climate in the Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper church. When people truly desire to serve and minister, they will be positive, trainable, trustworthy, devoted to excellence, oriented to outreach, and flexible. The most oft asked question of those who serve is, “What can I do to help?” As a church gets older, it takes a conscious effort to serve rather than be served. Unfortunately, some people view all of life in light of, “What’s in it for me? “On one occasion, Simon Peter fell into that category: “Then answered Peter and said unto him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? (Matthew 19:27). Jesus’ reply implied that Peter’s gain would be in Heaven. Some are not satisfied with Jesus’ answer because they are more focused on the material than the spiritual. This is simply unacceptable. The number one goal MUST be to seek His Kingdom: But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you (Matthew 6:33).
When people get busy with the priorities of self-satisfaction, the growth climate will suffer. Wrap it up
Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper starts with an attitude rather than an action. The path your Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper takes will always include a setting that is positive, flexible, provides training, establishes trust, is devoted to excellence, oriented to outreach, and committed to service.
The above article, “Creating the Climate” was written by Carlton Coon, Sr. The article was excerpted from Director’s Communique.
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.
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.”