Wednesday, October 29, 2008

It Takes Skill to Grow a Healthy Church

Allow Me to Vent Please…

I can’t afford therapy, so let me vent a little bit today. This blog is my therapy. So, here goes:

"Hi, My name is Ronnie… and I’m a pastor. I am hopelessly addicted to the Great Commission...."

I was talking to a guy once. He told me our church should not plan initiatives to reach the lost, set goals, develop strategies, or devise methods to carry out those initiatives. It was plastic and pre-packaged to do so, he said. Rather, we should do nothing, pray, and leave the results to God. This was one of the most asinine comments I have ever heard in my life! And this was coming from someone who called himself a pastor. Perhaps this explains why he does not pastor a growing church, but rather a declining Sunday school class. His theories are giving him exactly what they are designed to give – not much.

Let me state it for the record - it takes more than dedication to grow a healthy church - it takes skill. The reason the apostle Paul was so effective in planting and building churches was because he was skilled at it. He admits this in I Corinthians 3:10, "By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an EXPERT BUILDER" (KJV says “wise master builder”). Not only was he dedicated, spiritual, and a praying man, he was SKILLED at using the right tools and doing the right things. The man knew how to plan and do work.

People sometimes offer simplistic solutions for reaching the lost and those solutions are couched in pious terms that make it difficult for anyone to challenge them without seeming unspiritual. But somebody needs to state the obvious: prayer & dedication ALONE will NOT grow a healthy church.
  • Some of the greatest prayer warriors I know are members in dying churches
  • Some of the most dedicated people I know attend churches that are struggling to stay alive

  • Some of the greatest pastors I know are leading churches that are plateaued or declining

  • Some of the greatest sermons you can hear are being preached in churches of less than 45 people

To have a growing healthy church not only requires prayer and dedication, it also requires a Biblical structure. It takes a Biblical mission and a devised plan to carry out that mission. Strategies need to be formed, and then implemented. Staff members and church leaders must establish goals, plan initiatives, and develop methods of ministry. This is called skilled leadership. If for nothing else, it is the framework upon which us mere mortals work and are able to measure our progress.

Of course, prayer is essential. Everything should be bathed in prayer. A prayer-less ministry is a powerless ministry. Of course it takes the power of the Holy Spirit to produce true spiritual fruit. After all, it is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to draw people to Christ. The supernatural aspect belongs to God.

But it still takes SKILL on the part of church leaders to get the work done effectively. Too illustrate: One time God told Joshua to STOP PRAYING about his failure and GET UP and CORRECT THE CAUSE of it instead! (Joshua 7). There is a time to pray, and there is a time to act responsibly.

This is exactly what Paul meant when he referred to himself as a wise master builder….He not only prayed, but he had a plan, a strategy, and certain skills he relied upon to carry out the work.

Planning has gotten a bad rap. Without it we continue to re-invent the wheel week-after-week, month-after-month, and year-after-year. Or we just run laps every Sunday without ever making any real progress. But a well thought out plan will help us become more faithful and fruitful in every area of ministry.

We have a praying church, praying people, and a staff that prays. Prayer keeps our hearts softened, expresses our dependence on God, and puts us in the right frame of mind to be effective servants for God. But I’m also very thankful that our people understand the concept of work, and working skillfully. The modus operandi for servants at PCC is to “plan your work, and then work your plan.”

Of course, I tried to explain all of this to the guy I was talking with. But he was unable to grasp the concept - it was above his pay grade.