Success leaves clues. As I have studied growing churches, I find certain qualities that appear over and again. Each growing church applies them in their own way. Some are stronger in one area than others. Few churches have all of them. Yet of the following seven, the growing church will usually manifest five or six.
As I have said before: the growth of a church will rise or fall upon it’s leadership. A growing church has a growing pastor. No church will ever rise above it’s leadership. A pastor must strive to improve himself in body, mind, and spirit.
As you read through these qualities of a growing church, check off the traits that your church and leaders currently possess in some useful measure. Circle those that are lacking. Then realize, none of these are “natural” traits. Great churches, as well as great men of God are not born, they are made. Qualities such as these are purposefully developed and strengthened. The Spirit can transform a church and it’s leadership if they are willing to subject themselves to the wheel of the Master Potter. If a church will fast and pray, feed their mind and spirit with what they desire to become, the Holy Ghost will do the rest.
1. The growing church possesses great humility. They know their greatness is only the result of the hand and providence of God. In the Word of God, great men were not boasting men. They knew they were nothing in themselves and great only because of their God. David said, “Who am I, O Lord God? And what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto?” Paul said, “For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle.” Jacob said, “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies.” Solomon said, “I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in.”
2. The growing churches possess personal discipline. The leader who exercises oversight of others must first learn to supervise himself. Growing church leaders are disciplined in prayer, study, soul winning, and managing their time. They nether burn out nor coast along. They have achieved a spiritual balance in their lives. They know that they must feed the whole man – physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. They insure that each of these needs are being met.
3. The growing church is a church of vision. They are people possessed with a dream, not of their own making, but a dream given to them by God. They, like Abraham, are willing to step out into the unknown and be led by the Spirit. They know that “without a vision, the people parish,” and they apply the word ‘people’ both to their church, as well as the lost.
4. The growing church has confidence. Not simply in themselves, but also in their God. They are not afraid to walk by faith. They are confident that the path they walk is God’s will. They are confident that whatever happens, God will be with them. They are confident that they are able to accomplish the task that God has given them to do. Self-confidence is not unspiritual. Quite the contrary. The growing, revival church has an honest belief in the gifts and talents given to them by God.
5. The growing church is a church of great zeal. They posses an inner fire. They burn with spiritual passion. Like the prophet said of Jesus, “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” They push themselves to the limit. They get angry, but angry at the right things – like sin, injustice, incompetence (especially in themselves), and Satan’s devices. They will drive out the money changer from the temple, denounce hypocrisy, and proclaim righteousness and truth without fear of retribution. Like Paul, they can “be angry, but sin not.”
6. The growing church is led by men of great integrity. Their word can be counted on. They treat others as they wish to be treated, regardless of how they were treated by others. The leaders in this church possess high ministerial ethics. They are not “sheep stealers,” but will always follow the guidelines agreed upon by their fellow brethren. They do not return evil for evil. They do not gossip about other churches (as the country saying goes, “when you throw dirt, you lose ground”). They will not listen to any accusations against an elder without two or three witnesses. They will not cheat others by word nor deeds.
7. The growing church is a church of great courage. They are willing to take a measured risk. They will step out by faith, for they know God’s promise to Joshua applies to them also: “Be strong and of good courage. . . I will not fail you nor forsake you.”
The Bible is full of examples of courage. Daniel’s courage caused him to stand by his convictions. Moses displayed great courage by going before Pharaoh in spite of personal fear. Abraham’s courage led him to journey into unknown territory at the age of seventy-five. But perhaps the greatest example of courage is that of Jesus our Lord:
- He confronted the religious leaders of His day, mincing no words (very risky).
- He claimed to be God (which ultimately cost Him His life).
- He spent time talking to tax collectors, prostitutes, lepers, disabled, Samaritans, and others that most shunned (bring attacks upon His character).
- He was furious when the House of God was turned into a noisy market place (tampered with temple economics).
- He had the audacity to reach out and heal on the Sabbath (tampering with sacred tradition).
- He chose to love those who persecuted Him, mocked Him, and exposed Him to every indignity imaginable (definitely not the norm).*
How about your church? Are you willing to follow the Spirits leading, even in the face of ridicule? Are you willing to preach the truth and stand for holiness in spite of people’s opinions? Will you launch out into new ministries, outreach programs, and organizational plans even though some of them may not succeed? (But remember, if the Lord tells you to do it, you can be assured it will succeed!) Will you set goals, dream dreams, make plans even though the carnal man says sit back and take your ease? If so, this is courage. And it’s this quality, along with the other six, that separates a great church from simply the average.
*Adapted and rewritten from, The Pursuit of Excellence by Ted W. Engstrom (Zondervan, 1982)