Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Five Things We Got Right From the Beginning

PCC will celebrate its 17th year in five months.  Most churches make it or break it in the first five years of their existence.  I don’t understand all of this in terms of the work of the Holy Spirit and how much human skill is needed.  However, I do know that Paul recognized the need for wisdom and skill (on a human level) when he called himself a “wise master builder” when it came to church planting.  I wrote about this in 2008 here 

So, recognizing that nothing can be accomplished without a sovereign move of God, there are some things that we did get right in our formative years, that, I believe contributed to our longevity.

Here are five of the most decisive:

1.  In terms of programming/activities, we focused on two main things:  the weekend services and children's ministry.  Not small groups, mid-week services, choirs, cantatas, extra programs, foreign missions, or any thing else that may have broadened our ministry but blunted our impact..  We were decidedly simple because we were building from the ground up, and these two became the foundation for everything.

2.  We waited to build a building, using rented facilities as long as possible (about 8 ½ years).  We didn't wait to buy land, purchasing 25 acres after only three years of existence.  This is the crucial interplay.  Get your land as quickly as possible, and postpone building a building as long as possible.  The biggest mistake that new churches make is building too soon.  When a congregation of 75 people votes to build, they will build what 75 people can afford (which is small building and a long mortgage).  Now the shoe is telling the foot how big it is allowed to get.

3.  We put most of our resources and effort into outreach.  Lot’s of churches say they do this, but then they build their paid staff quick and large (instead of training volunteers and laymen), have super nice office space in the executive park, and, well, you get my point.

For the first 5-6 years the church offices were in my home.  Yep, my home phone was the church’s phone.  I worked as a bi-vocational pastor for the first 8 ½ years.  When we added two staff members, they too were bi-vocational.  My point is that we funneled what little money we had into things that would reach people – not serve us.  Still do.

4.  I had a bulldog tenacity in keeping the main thing the main thing.  By that I mean holding to the mission of the church and not allowing mission drift to set in.  We toed the line and made all of our decisions in light of our mission, vision, and values.  We lost a lot of people as a result (i.e., people who wanted to take us in another direction), but God has blessed this church with many more people.  The lesson I learned is this:  Churches grow by subtraction as much as by addition.

5.  Finally, we had a growth bias.  I know that sounds crass and it might invite all kinds of comments about the value of small churches, but let me make my point.  The NT demonstrates numerical growth, physical growth, and spiritual growth.  The book of Acts shows the early church grew by the thousands, and the very reason we know the numbers is because someone counted!

Consider these statistics:
  • There are more than 400,000 churches in America and 50% (200,000) of them run less that 75 people in attendance
  • 25% of all churches (100,000) run less than 35 in attendance
  • And 95% of all churches (380,000) have less than 300 people in attendance.
That means when PCC hit the 75 attendance mark we were as large as half the churches in America, and when we crossed the 300 attendance threshold we were in the upper five percent of all churches in America in regards to attendance size.

One of the most important things we did in the beginning was to establish a preferred vision of the future so firmly in our minds and spirit that we acted upon it, and then made decisions based upon it.  We believed to our core that we would be something other than a small church and it almost became a self-fulfilling prophecy.  In the very least, it was a vision we worked towards.  Whatever the reason, it seemed to work for us.

Again, I don’t know why these things matter as much as they do.  I just know they do.  It isn't meant to diminish the power of prayer, Biblical teaching, reliance upon the Holy Spirit, and such.  There just seems to be a “street smart” element to the things that really count.

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