How We Grow

September 27, 2015

 You ever
think about Church Growth?  You ever
wonder about whether or not Cornerstone is growing?  Does it every cross or mind, is it even
relevant in your life?  

There are
some folks at Cornerstone who honestly never think about church growth, they
attend, they enjoy the services but whether the church is growing or in decline
never crosses their minds, until it effects them personally. 
They
arrive and can’t find a parking space, the coffee has run out or they have to
sit too close to the front.  Or if all of
a sudden we didn’t have the volunteers to greet them at the door or make their
coffee then they might wonder where folks went. 
But it’s not on their radar, if asked they might say: Not my circus, not
my monkey.
Then there
are others who are asking me all the time about how our attendance is?  Are there more folks attending now then there
were last year?    Others want to know what our plans for growth
are, will we add more services or expand the building?  
And they
want to know what Cornerstone is actually doing to grow, do we have a plan?  Because they know that in order for us to
continue to grow we need to have a plan for where people will go, or we will
end up in the same situation as the restaurant in St. Louise that Yogi Berra was speaking of when he said “Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.”
And then
there is a third group and they think that any talk of church growth is
worldly, that we should simply let God take care of growing the church and we
should focus on more spiritual issues.
But regardless of how you view church growth the
reality is the church was born to grow, just like each one of us was born to
grow and everything alive was born to grow.
Listen to some of the early descriptions
of the church Acts
2:41
Those who believed what Peter said were
baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all. Acts 2:47  all the while praising
God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to
their fellowship those who were being saved. 
Acts
4:4
 But many of the people who heard
their message believed it, so the number of believers now totaled about 5,000
men, not counting women and children.
Eventually they just stopped counting, and
so we read in Acts
5:14
Yet more and more people believed and
were brought to the Lord—crowds of both men and women. Acts 9:31  The church then had peace throughout Judea,
Galilee, and Samaria, and it became stronger as the believers lived in the fear
of the Lord. And with the encouragement of the Holy Spirit, it also grew in
numbers.
Last week
Stefan led you through “Why We Need to Grow” and he spoke about how Jesus
Commands it, the Bible Illustrates it and Reality Demands it.
But that
still leaves us with the question: how? 
How do churches grow?
Sometimes
I embarrass Angela, for various reasons. One of those times was when we went to
see “A League of their Own” with a group of friends in Australia.
Perhaps
you remember the movie.  It starred Tom
Hanks, Madonna and Genna Davis and it tells the story of the first professional
women’s baseball league which was formed during the Second World War.
And there
is a  scene where Coach Jim Dugan is
confronting Genna Davis’ character who wants to quit the team and  move home to Oregon.  So let’s pick it up with this clip.  (Clip for A League of their own.)
And I
loved that quote, and so in the dark of the movie theatre I start asking who
has a pen and paper to write it down. 
Because that is not only the reality of baseball it is the reality of
church growth, it is supposed to be hard if it was easy everybody would be
doing it, and they’re not. 
There are
only a small percentage of churches that grow on a consistent basis.  The rest? 
The best case scenario is that they hold their own.  They aren’t growing but they aren’t
declining, they have plateaued.  Sometimes
they will say they are consolidating or just stepping back so they can get a
running start at moving to the next level. 
And often it might seem like it’s a plateau but once you start looking at
it over the long term you would see that it is actually a gradual decline. 
But for
too many churches the decline isn’t gradual. 
Every year there are fewer people worshipping than there had been before.  And it wasn’t always like that, I mean before
they could stop being a church of 100 or 200 they had to become a church of 100
or 200.  There was growth somewhere in
their history.
Last week
Stefan talked about how church growth was modelled in the New Testament, our
scripture reading this morning was a letter written to a growing church by the
Apostle Paul, but not one of those churches still exist today. 
So let’s
start with the last verse of the scripture that was read earlier,  1 Corinthians 1:10
 I appeal to you, dear brothers and
sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with
each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind,
united in thought and purpose.
So we
need to begin by Preparing the Church.  Sometimes, when I talk to pastors about
church growth they seem to imply that perhaps it isn’t God’s will for their
church to grow.  And I’m not quite sure
how to respond to that.  Not God’s will
that their church should grow? 
Does that
mean that it’s not God’s will that people will be reached with the love and
grace of God?  Does that mean that while
God loved the world so much that he sent his Son to die for them that he
doesn’t want them to be reached by a particular church?  Does that mean that when Christ commanded the apostles
to go into all the world teaching them, baptizing them and discipling them that
he was only kidding?
I do
believe that there are some churches that God doesn’t want to grow, because
they are aren’t the churches they are supposed to be.   Paul
was afraid that the church in Corinth was heading down that road and he
addressed those problem in the two letters he wrote to them.
And while
I think it is God’s will that all healthy churches should see growth I also believe
that there are times in the life of a particular church that it would be
unhealthy and unhelpful for Christians or pre-Christians to become part of the
group.
And so
the church needs to be prepared for growth, no quarrelling, no divisiveness, and
no bitterness. In the book of Revelation there are letters addressed to 7
churches and in those letter Jesus addresses issues that are keeping those
churches from being all that can be. 
Issues like they had lost their first love, their love for one another
and their love for God, that they had accepted false teachings in the
church.  Teachings about doctrine and
teachings about moral behaviour. 
And so in
order for a church to be prepared for growth they need to be prepared to be the
church.
You’ve
often heard me quote Bill Hybels who says “The local church is the hope of the world.”   But that’s only a part of the quote
the full quote says  “The local church is the hope of the world.  When it’s working right.”  
But it’s
not just about the “Church” in general.
In
his second letter to Timothy Paul instructs Timothy with these words  2 Timothy 2:15  Work hard so you can present yourself to God and
receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and
who correctly explains the word of truth.
So, along
with preparing the church it’s also about Preparing
the Pastor
  I have been around the
block a couple of times and I have discovered that some pastors grow churches
and some pastors don’t grow churches. 
That is a reality that cannot be denied. 
You can
check, there are pastors out there who have never consistently pastored growing
churches.  The previous pastor might have
seen church growth and the next pastor might see church growth but they
don’t. 
That doesn’t
mean that they aren’t men and women of God, it doesn’t mean they don’t have a
great prayer life or that they don’t love Jesus,  it just means they can’t grow a church, or at
least they can’t if they continue to do what they’ve always done and continue
to act like they’ve always acted. 
One of my
favourite sayings comes from Mark Twain who said “If
you always do what you’ve done then you’ll always get what you’ve always got.”  And we all know the definition
of insanity “Doing the same things over and over
again while expecting different results.” 
And
you might be thinking it was Einstein who said that.  Probably not, it also been attributed to
Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain.
As one commentator wrote, “It’s not surprising that it has been
attributed to Einstein, since everything but the Book of Genesis has been
attributed to him at some point.”
And so
some pastors will go through their entire ministry doing the same thing year
after year without seeing consistent growth in the churches they are serving,
but they never change the way they do things, they keep doing the same things
and they keep expecting different results.
Oh they
might have a year here or there when things pick up,  but in reality the church has either plateaued
or gone into decline.
Now this
is where it get’s tricky, because there are pastors who do see growth,
consistently in whatever church they are in. 
Oh there might be a year here or there that they see a decline or things
plateau but the trend is normally one of growth.  And the scary part is that there aren’t a lot
of those pastors out there.  Right now on
our district there are probably fewer than a dozen.
Why is
that?  Why are some pastors capable of
growing a church and some aren’t?  Well I
have discovered that if you suggest that it’s because they are talented or
skilled at what they do then there are those who would say that is vain the
real reason is that  that God has chosen
to work through them. 
But
really which is more vain to say that 1) Someone has skills and abilities that allow
them to grow a church or 2) That they have God’s favour upon them? 
I’d
rather have someone tell me that they are more skilled at something than I am
rather than that God loves them more than he love me.
We all
understand that we aren’t all naturally gifted at all the same things.  I can’t sing. 
That’s not a spiritual issue that is reality, I love to sing but I’m
really horrible at it.   
Now, not
only can’t I sing but if you know me at all then you know, surprisingly, that I
am not comfortable meeting new people. 
It’s not
that I don’t like people, or I  mind
getting to know people, I’m just really uncomfortable in the process. 
I wasn’t
here last Sunday because I serve our district as director of Global Partners,
that’s our overseas work.  And I need to
represent our district occasionally at events, last week I was in Holland
Michigan for a conference.  I really
wasn’t looking forward to it because I didn’t think I would know anyone at the
event, so it was looking like a day of meeting new people. 
I can’t
do anything about the singing, I’ve tried. 
Not going to happen outside of a supernatural work of God.  And people who sing can’t understand why I
can’t sing.
And
people who love to meet new people can’t understand why I find it really
uncomfortable, not just a little uncomfortable but really uncomfortable.   
But that
is something I can do something about, so I work hard at being able to meet new
people, I’ve read books, watched videos and I go out of my way in order to
intentionally do it.  
I’m still not comfortable, still don’t enjoy doing
it but I do it.  Why?  Because it’s important for Cornerstone and
important for the Kingdom.
So the pastor
needs to prepare himself to be all that God would have him to be if the church
is going to grow.  And that may involve
stepping outside their comfort zone and maybe even changing their behaviour.
But let’s
continue, in his letter to Titus Paul tells the preacher he’s writing to in
this letter  about the behaviour that is
expected from various groups in the church and he finishes by saying:
Titus
2:10
.
. . Then they will make the teaching about God our Saviour attractive in every
way.
So now we
need to look at Preparing the Church  Now in case you are thinking that I’ve
slipped a gear I know that this was the first point.  In the first point I was speaking about
preparing the “Church” spiritually but now I want to talk about preparing the
“Church” in the practical sense. 
Might I
even say working at making the church more attractive?
What
happens at your home when you are expecting guests?  I would suspect that if you are like most of
us you tidy things up and are on your best behaviour.  I’m not talking about being phoney but simply
putting your best foot forward.
You ever
sell a house?  When you know there is
going to be a showing you do your best to make sure that everything looks the
very best it can.  You might have it
staged,  you paint where it’s needed, you
get rid of the clutter, you clean up.  You
do all the things that you’ve been putting off. 
 It would be dishonest if you
showed them somebody else’s house but you do everything you can to show your
house in the best possible light.
That is
one of the reasons we refreshed the carpet this year that’s why when I walk
back across from Tims and see garbage on the lawn I pick it up and it’s why
Tamara and the gardeners work so hard keeping the gardens looking fresh. 
And Kudos
to Ben and Kaitlyn Slauenwhite, two of the youth at Cornerstone, who adopted
the garden around the big rock by the driveway and kept it weeded and tidy this
past summer.   
And you
can make a difference, if you are walking across the parking lot and see a
piece of garbage just stop and pick it up. 
I love the fact that we can drink coffee in the worship centre, but if
you spill it, just tell one of us so we can clean it up, because fresh wet
coffee is a whole lot easier to clean up than dry coffee.  And I promise we won’t think any less of you.
And it
means being courteous to our guests, every once in a while we  have a baby who objects to being in the
service.  And folks at Cornerstone are
usually pretty good about that, they understand that can be distracting and
take the little one out, but sometimes that doesn’t happen.  Sometimes it’s a guest and they aren’t
comfortable leaving their baby with strangers.    Let me give you a hint, glaring at them
will not make the little one any quieter nor will it endear you to the parents. 
And if
you arrive and someone is sitting where you normally sit then making them feel
uncomfortable isn’t an awesome way to react.
One of
our challenges at Cornerstone is parking so how can we make sure that there are
parking spaces for our guests? 
There is
all kinds of parking off the pavement. 
Both up by the corner where I park and over on the side where the rest
of the staff parks.  It might mean
walking another 20  or 30 feet but really
in the light of eternity is that all that far? 
Some folks have started parking on Gatehouse and that is another option
especially if you are concerned about not being able to get out of the gravel
area in a timely manner. 
It might
mean moving over so there is room for others in your row, even if it means you
won’t have an extra seat between you and the person next to you, most of them
don’t bite.  The reason we spent the
extra money and put racks under the seat is so you’d have a place to put your
bible and purse.
And just
take the time to be helpful and friendly. 
For a lot of people coming to a church for the first time can be a
little intimidating. 
I
mentioned that I was away last week, I was in Holland Michigan for a
denominational function where I was representing the district, and I can be
really cheap when it comes to booking flights. 
I figure that a travel day is pretty well shot anyway so If I can save
some money by making an extra stop I figure that’s money that can be used
somewhere else. 
So I flew
from Halifax to Philadelphia and then to Chicago and then to Grand Rapids and
then I rented a mule and wagon to get to Holland.  Just kidding about the mule and wagon it was
actually a Ford, they wouldn’t upgrade me to the mule. 
When I
landed in Philadelphia my boarding pass for my next flight didn’t have a gate
number on it, so I went over to the Airline counter presented my ticket and
asked what gate my flight was leaving from. 
The lady punched some keys on her computer and without looking up handed
me back my boarding pass and said “A3”. 
“A3”? 
I didn’t
have a clue, I looked up and I was at B something, people are going every which
way.  “Excuse me” I replied “Where is
A3?”  She looked at me as if I had just
asked what colour blue was and said “It’s down to the end of the corridor and
turn left”, as if everybody would know where A3 was and really in her world
everybody did know where A3 was.  The
problem was I wan’t from her world.   
When
someone arrives at Cornerstone the first time, they don’t know where to take
their kids, where to grab a coffee or where the bathroom is and they might not
be comfortable asking, I wouldn’t be.
That’s
why we have big signs that say nursery and washrooms and children.  But if someone is looking lost, take a minute
and ask if you can help.  In a lot of
cases it’s super helpful if you say let me take you over to where you sign your
kids in or I’ll introduce you to someone in the nursery. 
You might
not want to offer to walk them to the washroom but you know what I mean. 
And if
you are on greeting or in one of the children’s ministry areas it is always
helpful to be there and to be on time. 
It’s just awkward to take a guest somewhere and the person who is supposed
to be there isn’t.
Some
folks don’t necessarily need to be talked to when they come to a church the
first time, personally I’m good with a smile and a nod.  But others are looking to connect, and you
can usually tell.  If you see someone
standing looking lost, then introducing yourself is always a good place to
start and mentioning that there is coffee available is a good icebreaker.
And it
might be outside of your comfort zone, if I was going to do what I am most
comfortable with my office would be right off the platform and I would stay in
my office and just magically show up on the platform when the service started
and then when the service was over I would disappear into my office again.
Instead I
come down early and try to find folks I don’t know that I can talk to and
following the service I greet people at the door.
When I
plan the service and write  my message I
need to remind myself all the time to be clear in my preaching, that not
everybody who comes to Cornerstone was brought up in Sunday School or learning
bible stories at their mother’s knee.
So let’s
go back to the question from last week, Why? Why Should we grow?  One of the people I did know at the
conference was Chad McCallum, Chad is director of Mobilization for Global
Partners and recently his 10 year old son Miles asked him “Dad if telling people about Jesus and them saying yes
means that they would got to heaven then why wouldn’t everybody want to tell
people about Jesus?”
Miles had
a good question, and why wouldn’t everybody want their church to grow if that
meant reaching more people so they could go to heaven?
Let’s
finish today with the words of Coach Jimmy Duggan “It’s
supposed to be hard, if it wasn’t hard everyone would do it”, and God’s
promise from Joshua
1:9
 This is my command—be strong and courageous!
Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you
go.”