The Church Growth Conference Jesus Taught
By Tom Brown
or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his
house until you leave” (Matt 10:11). Luke adds something additional to
what Jesus said, “Do not move around from house to house” (Luke
The instruction is
clear: “Stay at his house. Do not move around from house to house.”
The first century Christians did not have temples to worship in; they began
with houses. The house was the place of worship. The principle we gleam from
Jesus statement is: we should show stability to the community by staying
put. There is nothing that shows instability than constantly moving.
This is especially true for a new church without a denomination.
Jesus said, “Upon
this rock I will build my church.” Rocks are hard to move. A rock shows
solidness. There is nothing better that shows the community that a church
will be there for generations to come than a building that is recognized as
a pillar in the community.
Our society is
changing so fast; people are moving, businesses are folding up, and
institutions that people relied upon are not there anymore. This is when the
church can fill the vacuum in a wobbly world. We should be a tower of
strength to the community.
There is nothing
wrong with moving from a smaller church building to a larger one. That is
understandable, but I find it disheartening for churches to constantly move
because rent is cheaper over there instead of here. Make up your mind!
Decide where your church is going to meet and stay there until you need to
move to a larger, permanent location.
There is an
additional advice I would like to give: in today’s world, people are
uncomfortable attending a public meeting in a house. A house in today’s
culture is a private place, unlike in biblical times. While it may be
appropriate to start a church in a house, it is not wise to be there too
long. I have never witnessed a church accomplish great things while
remaining in a house. People want to see a church in a church building.
It is part of our culture. You will draw far more people to a public church
house than in a residential house. Besides in most cities they have zoning
requirements that forbid houses from being used as a public meeting place.
We must follow the law.
5. Get rid of time wasters.
Focus on people who are open to the gospel.
“If anyone will
not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when
you leave that home or town” (Matt 10:14).
One of the most
difficult things to do is to stop ministering to a person you have attempted
to help. You can’t help everyone. There will always be people who will
monopolize your time. You can’t let them do this.
There is an old
western song by Kenny Rogers that says, “You got to know when to hold them;
know when to fold them.” This is so true with ministry. Jesus describes
people like soil. He points out that not all soil produces the same results.
Not everyone is prepared right now to receive the Word. Some people are not
ready now, but they may be ready later. It is a waste of your time to try
and plant seed in soil that is hard.
In harsh language,
Jesus said, “Shake the dust off your feet.” This is a disrespectful
practice in the Middle East. I think Jesus was using hyperbole to emphasize
the absolute important of forgetting the past and moving forward. Yet we are
very inclined to show too much respect for those who are disrespectful of
the gospel. There are “enemies of the cross” (Phil 3:18).
You will not find
the apostles trying to get along with enemies of the cross. They knew to
defend the faith against those types of individuals. There is a time whereby
we must “defend” the gospel against those who would try to attack it. We
defend the gospel for the sake of those who believe in the gospel. We must
know who the true believers are and those that are false.
There is also
another great truth found in these brief words of Christ: not only are
some people not ready for the gospel, but some towns are not ready for the
gospel. At least they are not ready to receive the gospel from you.
Many pastors have
written me about the struggle they have encountered in their cities, “Pastor
Tom, I have tried and tried to build a great church in this city, but the
people seem resistant to what I am trying to do. What should I do?”
Some pastors are
not ready for my advice, “You should consider changing jobs or changing
cities.” Jesus did not advise the apostles to pray harder and longer for
those stubborn towns, but He told them to “shake the dust” and move
on to another city.
there is an old adage when buying property: “There are three things you must
look for: Location, location, location.” This adage applies to
ministry as well. Just because you have not succeeded in one city, does not
mean you won’t succeed at another one.
Pastors want to
know how long they should give the church time to grow. Well only the Lord
knows everything, but there is a parable that may give some insight into
three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and
haven't found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?'
' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it
and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it
Three years is plenty
of time to show some growth in a church. Most mega churches saw success
within the first three years. Very few successful churches struggled for
more than three years. If you can’t succeed at the church in three years it
is doubtful that more years will be helpful. But if you really have it in
your heart to stay there, then do everything you can for one more year—“dig
around it and fertilize it”—and maybe God will give you success.
However, if the hard efforts you put in do not show fruit, then move on. You
are wasting your talents and gifts in a place you are not called to; it’s
better to use your abilities elsewhere.
A pastor friend of
mind had a small church in one part of the city. Then he went through a sad
divorce. I thought his ministry was over; yet he moved from the struggling
part of town to a more prosperous area. He remarried and now his church is
much larger than it was in the other area. He had everything working against
his success, but the right location brought him success in ministry. I am
not suggesting getting a new wife, but a new location.
6. Be shrewd in dealing with
“I am sending
you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as
innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16).
Ministers think it
is wrong to be shrewd. But Jesus encourages it. Shrewdness is a “worldly”
wisdom. Some ministers are so “spiritual” that they have no practical wisdom
in dealing with the world. Overly spiritual pastors have criticized churches
that use multimedia presentation or coffee shops to bring in the yuppies.
But these pastors should have been shrewd in trying to grow their churches,
instead of being critical.
I will be the
first one to admit: coffee shops are not spiritual. Multi-media is not
spiritual. Elaborate productions are not spiritual. Playgrounds for children
are not spiritual. Car shows at church are not spiritual. Yet we have all
these things, because they attract and keep people. They may seem
unspiritual—which they are—but they are not sinful. There is a difference
between something that is unspiritual and something that is sinful. Sin
leads people away from God. Unspiritual things are neutral, neither bringing
people near God nor driving them away from God.
There are numerous
people in my church which told me that the minute they walked into our
church building and saw our indoor playground, they knew this was their
church. Their kids got so excited when they saw our huge playground. The
playground has netted some good members. You can be judgmental toward my
approach all you want, but I am glad I built a playground for our kids.
McDonalds builds playgrounds to sell food. Playgrounds are not their
business—food is. But to sell the food, they built the playgrounds to
attract parents with kids to the restaurant. Our church business is giving
the “food from heaven” but the playground was a shrewd way to draw families
to our church. I do not apologize for my tactic. McDonalds will not outsmart
Another mistake I
have seen from pastors is a legalistic approach to ministry. They expect a
certain dress style and hair cuts for their members. They have
extra-biblical requirements to be a full member in the church. They require
no drinking of alcohol, any watching movies or dancing. This is plain
stupid. You will never build a great church until you understand the culture
in which you live in.
Jesus indicts the church for
being super-spiritual, “For the people of this
world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of
the light” (Luke 16:8). This is not a compliment but a criticism. He is
encouraging us to be better in dealing with the world. We cannot let being
the light keep us from ministering successfully to those in the dark. We
must use every means to reach people. The “means” will never look spiritual,
but use them anyway to reach people.
misunderstand me: we do not compromise morality, but I am convinced that
some rules are not really biblically sound; but just fear based. If you try
to leave the culture around you by trying to look so different from them,
you will not be able to reach them.
encourages us to be “innocent as doves.” It is very easy to get
callous as a minster. You see all the hypocrisy. You witness the members of
your church fighting each other. You counsel the couples in their marital
distress. They do not look their best in marriage counseling. As a minister
you will see the dark side of people. If you are not careful, seeing the
worse in Christians can make you cold. It can make you skeptical of the
power of God. You cannot let the human frailties of people discourage your
faith in God. You must have the child-like trust in God. Learn to see the
best in people, even when you often see the worse in them.
callousness happens with police officers. They see so much cruelty, theft,
abuse, and murder that they often give up on humanity. They are sour on the
human race. This is what Jesus is warning us. He does not want us to lose
our innocence in ministry. No one wants to hear from a burnt-out minister.
They want to hear from a happy, fulfilled, trusting preacher. The people
coming to church are hurting, and they don’t need another hurting minister
preaching angrily at them. They need an innocent pastor showing the
simplicity of the gospel.
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