Your Church Needs the Gospel
Updated: May 31
As the pastor of a church revitalization effort, I am frequently asked what strategies I’m employing to lead the church to growth. Denominational leaders offer input. Pastors recommend their favorite tactics. Members of other churches share what has worked for them. While I struggle to keep up with the sheer quantity of concepts, most of their suggestions offer valuable systems and processes that can aid the accomplishment of various ministry goals. I am incredibly thankful for all the ideas, as they frequently reveal my pastoral blind spots and broaden my ministry toolbox.
However, while such strategies can be useful, we must carefully avoid an overreliance on them. Strategies can grow an organization; they cannot grow a church on their own. More people in seats and more dollars in the offering plate do not automatically represent ministerial success. If we want to see lives changed, marriages restored, families healed, anxieties calmed, sins abandoned, communities impacted, then we need something far more powerful than an organizational strategy.
Last week, I studied the book of Joshua for a Sunday sermon. As I read the text, I couldn't help but notice the supernatural power of God on display. In Joshua 3, God dries the Jordan river so the Israelites can walk through on dry land. (Like Jesus feeding the 5,000 and the 4,000, the larger miracle of God parting the Red Sea overshadows the smaller one, but let’s not pretend that the smaller miracle is any easier to perform without the supernatural power of God). In Joshua 6, God topples the walls of Jericho. In Joshua 10, God pauses the rotation of the Sun and hurls hailstones at Israel's enemies. When God was on the side of the Israelites, they witnessed his supernatural power wielded on their behalf.
As a pastor, I do not want to be content with effective strategies. I want to see the supernatural power of God in the lives of church members, in the community, and around the world. I don’t want to see success that a for-profit CEO could explain; I want to see the Holy Spirit advancing the kingdom of God in and through the church.
How does that happen? God can certainly use our systems and processes. We are regularly updating and improving our methods as a church. But we aren’t God’s people because we employ sound biblical strategies for church growth; we are God’s people by the death and resurrection of Jesus. The means by which God moves in the lives of individuals is the gospel. The gospel provides the heart-change and the grace needed to restore broken marriages. The gospel replaces sinful desires with holy ones. The gospel heals communities and changes the world for the better.
While I’m willing to try a variety of strategies, I am committed to the gospel as the means of church growth. Preaching the gospel on Sunday mornings, teaching the gospel through small groups, applying the gospel in conversations, taking the gospel to the lost in the world—that’s my plan. That’s the only guaranteed means of supernatural power for our church.
Before we obsess over systems and processes as pastors and church members, let’s become fixated on the glorious good news of salvation in Jesus. I look forward to witnessing God’s power revolutionize our church and yours.