How Andy Stanley and a whole generation of churches are exploding with doubling groups and the power of hospitality.
I attended my nephew’s wedding the other day. At the rehearsal dinner, I was asked a question I have been asked many times over the years: how is the church doing these days? What are you seeing? People know that I travel a lot and they would like to get a sense of what is out there. I always answer the same way, talking about three kinds of churches.
Most churches are struggling. We know that about 80% of churches are plateaued or declining. About 4,000 churches close their doors each year.
A sizeable minority are doing well. I am in a lot of these churches. The churches where I speak tend to be above-average churches. They are healthy and growing and evangelistically vibrant—most of them. Many of them are rocking along at 5% – 10% growth per year and do so year after year. I call these churches normal churches. “Normal” in the sense that they are not doing anything a lot different from the 80% that are plateaued. They are just doing things better. The preaching is a little better. That is huge. The music is a little better—and nearly always a little younger-sounding. (Here is an insight: most of the churches that are reaching young people are using the music of young people.) Often, they are in a little better location. Location matters more than we give it credit for.
There are a handful of churches that are exploding in growth. These are the churches that make it onto the Outreach 100 each year. Andy Stanley’s North Point Church in Atlanta is one such church.
How are we to respond to this last group of churches? How is it that a handful of outliers are able to explode in growth where most churches decline? If everyone was plateaued or declining, we might be tempted to believe that Jesus’ words don’t apply to our setting, “the harvest is plentiful.” For many churches, the harvest seems anything but plentiful. But, for a handful of churches, they are bringing in an unprecedented harvest. How are we to think about these churches? I see four approaches…
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