Elmer Towns: the people's price for growth

The pastor is not the only one who must be willing to pay the price of church growth. The growing church must have people who want the church to grow and are willing to pay the price. That price will involve some basic changes in their attitudes toward church life. First, they must be willing to give up that close relationship to the pastor they have in a smaller church. But because a growing church will hire staff pastors to pastor the church, they do not have to give up a close relationship to a pastor.

Also, laymen will lead classes, care groups, and other organizations where they give "pastoral care" to other laymen in the body. Even if the size of the church makes it impossible to relate socially with the senior pastor, there are others who are able to meet the needs of church members. And because these work in small groups or in specialized areas of ministry, they are probably more effective working together to meet the needs of the congregation. Also, there are other prices to be paid by the church members. They must be willing to give up that close relationship to everyone as the church grows larger. In a large church, you can't be a close friend to everyone. Still, you will be a close friend to some. Research in thisarea suggests a church member knows an average of 59.7 fellow members by name regardless of the size of his church. That means in a church of 87 or 1,000, the average person is on a personal name basis with approximately 60 people. Those who selfishly try to limit a church to their circle of friends have misunderstood the meaning of a church. A church is not primarily for koinonia fellowship, though relationships grow out of its purpose. The Great Commission is the marching orders of the church. As the church grows, everyone will have a small Sunday School class, Bible study cell, or primary group where they will know others and be known in return. A growing church will have a multitude of these smaller fellowship groups. No one should prohibit church growth by limiting his church to those he is able to call by name.

Another price the members must pay if they want their church to grow is financial giving. Growing churches are made up of giving members, but not all churches with giving members are growing.

The members must pay the price in redirected fellowship patterns. The growing church is not a crowd, but an army. It is comparatively easy to get a crowd of people to come to hear an entertaining quartet sing or for a sacred music concert. But a concert on Sunday morning is not a church, even if it is followed by a Gospel message. A church involves people teaching, giving, and serving on committees where decisions are made about the church. The church is not a church when it is just people who come to hear a sermon. A church is the body of gifted believers edifying itself (Eph. 4:11-16). As the church grows larger, everyone must redirect his fellowship relationships.

The church must open leadership circles. This is a price of growth. I get excited about the numbers in large churches, but numbers alone never are the cause. I get excited about the growing number of laymen who are involved in ministry. The lay ministry is a sleeping bear that has awakened in American churches and will have a larger influence in the future

Elmer Towns is speaking as part of the All Star Sunday School Training Team. To attend an event, or host an event. see http://allstarsundayschool.com/