Today as I was walking and praying the Lord spoke to me about some of the articles I have read recently. Titles like Best Practices to Build Your Church and Church Growth by the Numbers. You have seen the type of articles I am talking about. Articles with tips and advice on growing your weekly attendance or increasing your tithes and offerings. There are even articles about the best way to conduct a capital campaign to build a bigger building. I believe the Holy Spirit stirred in my heart today and I am feeling compelled to share with you.
For years as Kelly and I were youth pastors, staff pastors, and senior pastors in mainline denominational churches, we attended seminars, cohorts, and read books about church growth. We had staff meetings about reaching out and bringing more people in and what needed to be done to increase the weekly giving and raise more funds.
Kelly and I attended conferences for years and often the first question in conversation was, “What’s your average Sunday morning attendance? How big is your church?” Some even talk about the monthly mortgage payment on their latest building expansion.
I do understand the spirit these questions are asked. But, these types of questions lead us down the wrong path. This path makes our church size and success more of a statistic and pride point than glory for the Lord and this does not point to Jesus or give Him glory. The more this happened, the more a knot formed in my stomach. I believe the Holy Spirit started to show me the machine that the modern church has become and how far it has departed from the Church Jesus instituted 2000 years ago. The question that I felt that God was asking me to ask you is, “Mine or Thine?”
Jesus is recorded in Matthew 16:18 saying,
“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
Jesus is the one to build the Church; and it is His Church, not ours. The Church is the body of Christ. It is the entire body of believers around the world. We are one Church. We are to be building the body of Christ. Building the Church is where our focus should be, not on our own group or building.
We should be helping other groups in our towns and cities reach out and meet the needs of someone or some group because that is being the Church. We can promote something going on with another group because this can help you focus on being the Church. Building the Church means we are all in this together. Regardless of where or how we worship, we can come together and rejoice, pray, and celebrate being members of the family of God and co-heirs with Christ.
I urge you, brothers and sisters, to cast aside man’s perspective of success and growth. Take your focus off of yourself and put it on Jesus and His plan. Let go of the ownership of your local church group and building and give it back to God. Let God, the Master Gardener and Master Builder, grow the Church where he sees best. Local church groups have a life cycle and don’t last forever; their buildings are just buildings, not the Temple of God. The Church Jesus is building will live forever. Stop comparing yourself with the church group next door or the mega-church everyone is talking about; it leads to jealousy and envy. Focus on Jesus and pointing people to Him.
I urge you to encourage others to follow Jesus and draw close to Him. Keep your message and ministry encouraging and extolling the virtue of a life following Christ and lived in the Holy Spirit. Avoid what divides the Body and celebrate what the Lord is doing in people everywhere.
Nowadays, Kelly and I are often asked how big our church is. We smile and happily say, “We have no idea.” You see, it is not really our concern. We are merely the servants God has tasked with leading this ministry that God is growing as a part of the Church. It isn’t our church; it is His Church. People around the world connect online with our videos and we stay in contact with them and mentor them, but it is Jesus’ ministry. Jesus is the one doing the growing, pruning, and cultivating. We are just obedient servants ministering to people and praying with them every day wherever we find ourselves.
Our local church groups are not ours; they are His. The Church is not ours to build; it is His.