Ken Hemphill:
The biggest deterrent to growth

The biggest deterrent to growth in most churches is lack of confidence in God's supernatural power to grow His church. We are obsessed with our own responsibility to find resources for growth. When our natural resources seem limited, our vision shrinks and we accept mediocrity. We can't grow the church, but God can! We don't have the resources, but He does!

A few years ago I was intrigued by the title on the back page of a Christian magazine. It read, “I never thought I would be carnal.” The author shared that she had always thought of carnal behavior as that which occurs when a Christian goes back into the world. She then realized that she could be carnal while doing her work in the church. Carnality, she noted, was the attempt to do supernatural work with natural strength. How often does carnality rear its ugly head when we are talking about how we can fulfill the Great Commission?

Before Jesus commissioned His disciples to go into all the world and make disciples, He assured them that all authority in heaven and on earth had been given to Him. After giving the Great Commission, He reminds them that He will be with them always as they work to fulfill the Commission. The problem with the average Christian and the average church is that we are working for God. The world is not impressed! If the world were to see God working through us, then they would be impressed.

The Lord Jesus gave us His assurance that He would build His church (Matt. 16:18); He promised us that He would be with us as we join Him in Great Commission work. Our resources for growth are as unlimited as God is. The greatest force in the universe is the church that is alive with the power of God. The gates of hell itself cannot stand against the church empowered by the resurrected Lord.

We will never have a Great Commission vision if we let our own resources and abilities limit the size of our vision. Jesus would not have given us a spiritual task and a world vision had He not intended to give us supernatural empowering. Trying to do spiritual work in human empowering results in the sin of carnality. The fleshly individual or church will never accomplish anything for God. Growth is stifled by our lack of biblical understanding of the nature of God and the nature and empowering of the church.

The average church is average because it operates as if Jesus had never been raised from the dead. It has forgotten His promise to send the Holy Spirit to empower disciples of every generation to do greater works than He did (John 14:12). A vision based in the Great Commission begins with promised supernatural empowering. This promise, when understood, creates expectancy and engenders a “can-do” attitude. It is not the arrogant we-can-do attitude, but the assured He-can-do attitude. He can supply all our needs!2

Hemphill, Ken (1996-07-10). Revitalizing the Sunday Morning Dinosaur: A Sunday School Growth Strategy for the 21st Century (pp. 36-37). B&H Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Ken Hemphill will be speaking as part of the All Star Sunday School Training team. See