Pastor Rick Warren knows a thing or two about growing churches- he’s the pastor of one of the largest, most rapidly-growing mega-churches in America: Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. Weekly church attendance at Saddleback’s nine regional campuses averages over 20,000 people. Several more campuses are planned in the next few years. So when Rick Warren writes an article about church growth, people pay attention.
This week, Warren wrote an article titled “6 Commitments for Growing a Church with Unity” over at Pastors.com. In it, he argues that a church can experience growth by really loving others, and goes on to list six different commitments churches can make in order to love others well. These commitments include:
- Building each other up
- Recognizing the value of every person
- Focusing on what’s important,
- Limiting out liberty out of love for each other
- Not forcing our opinions on others, and
- Living by faith.
If you’re a Christian, part of your job description is to build up other Christians. If you’re not doing that, you’re not fulfilling part of your job description. It is our responsibility. Jesus didn’t please Himself. If you want to be like Christ, then you need to put the needs of others ahead of your own and be a servant.
How did Christ accept us? Unconditionally. Non-judgmentally. To accept each other as Christ accepted us means to accept them in the way that Christ accepts you, which is never based on performance.
Without question, Warrens focus on unconditional acceptance and love for others is part of what has made Saddleback the influential church it is.
Conversely, Joe McKeever recently posted a blog titled “Seven Viruses That Infect the Church,” a post that touched a nerve with many of you. In his post, McKeever lists seven ideas or philosophies that can poison church members and leaders, rending their ministries and missions ineffective and driving people away. His overarching point is that we often treat church like a place of business, coming in to get what we want, complaining if the owners (i.e. leaders) aren’t giving us what we want and withholding our service when we’re not happy with what's happening at church.
These two articles effectively highlight the difference between a growing church and a dying one. A growing church is one where members are extending their arms out to others, lovingly inviting in all and embracing the fact that all people are different and come with differing opinions and ideas on how the church should function. They live by faith that God will transform them into the His likeness and that, in the spirit of Romans 14 accept others “whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.”
Dying churches, on the other hand, are full of people who think their way is the only way. They will out any leader who does anything they deem “wrong,” or else they leave a church or refuse to tithe when they don’t agree with what’s going on inside the walls. These churches have missed the whole point of what the Church is- a representation of God’s unconditional love for his people.
What do you think? What do you think makes a church grow? What makes it die? Is church growth all about numbers, or is it about something more?
For further reading, check out: You Lost Me Dissects Post-Youth Group Malaise, an article that discusses why youth are leaving the church and what we can do about it.
Kelly Givens is the Editor of iBelieve.com.