church leader’s guide to butts in seats :: deep and wide

July 17, 2009


Let me clarify.  This post has nothing to do with the rising obesity rate in America today.  I’m talking about church growth.

Yesterday Stephen Furtick of Elevation Church posted succinctly about the church growth strategy at Elevation Church in his blog (click here).  In a nutshell, he’s saying, “Let’s create an outstanding experience, so that people who call this church their own will invite others who will eventually call this church their own and then invite others who will… well, repeat ad infinitum.”

I have no problem with that.  I expect some of you are asking the obvious question here… “Where’s GOD in this growth strategy?”  To that I say, I give Pastor Steve the benefit of the doubt.  He wasn’t writing a nuanced dissertation.

This punchy growth strategy basically communicates how excellence will produce butts in seats.  And I’m all for “numbers.”  Because every “number” in a seat in our church equals an eternal soul hearing the truth about Jesus Christ.  I want AS MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE to fill the seats at Living Hope Church.

But let’s be honest…  Explosive numerical growth is not an end unto itself in the church business.  Jesus sent us out (ala Matthew 28:19) to “make disciples,” not just to win butts in seats.  Disciple-making takes time.  Growth must be deep, not just wide.  And here’s the real problem…

According to a study recently published by the Barna Group, most church leaders are unsure how to clearly articulate what it means to be a “disciple” – a spiritually mature follower of Jesus Christ.  Yikes.

“Make disciples…”  How?  How can we lead people to a place we can not describe?  It’s like a driver travelling cross country to an unknown destination without stopping to look at the map and chart the course.  We can probably crank up the excellence and energy and gain butts in seats, but we’ll never grow both deep and wide unless we have charted the course first.

At Living Hope Church, our leadership teams spent much time in prayer and study and conversation in order to clarify what we believe the Bible identifies as the “irreducible minimums” of a mature Christ follower.  In other words, how does God tell us to measure maturity in His Word?  Key passages (among many others) were Matthew 28:19 (The Great Commission), Matthew 22:37-40 (Love God and love people, the greatest commandments), The description of the Acts 2 church community, the selfless servanthood described in James 1:27 and Luke 10:37, and Ephesians 4:11-13 (commending leaders to equip God’s people to do His work).

When we categorized and combined similar passages, for Living Hope Church, it all boils down to FOUR MARKS of every mature disciple of Jesus Christ.  We believe that mature Christ followers ought to be continually growing in all of these areas.  Therefore, everything we do is measured against these four growth areas.  If a ministry, program, or event is not helping people grow in one of these four ways, we don’t do it:

          (1) A growing love for people not connected to God

          (2) A growing love for other believers

          (3) A growing love for serving together

          (4) A growing love for God Himself

Has your church clearly defined spiritual maturity for its people?  Is there a clearly defined plan to promote actual growth in people who attend your church?  Is your church’s growth strategy both deep -AND- wide?

Creative Commons License
“church leader’s guide to butts in seats :: deep and wide” by Joshua Skogerboe is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.


Posts Twitter Facebook Google+

Psalm 24:7 & Luke 10:42 >> Like David, and Mary, I'm in pursuit of my one thing. I'm the Pastor at St. Olaf Lutheran Church in Montgomery, IL. Pastor, teacher, writer, communicator, designer, and drummer. I definitely got the better deal in my marriage to Amy. And I couldn't be any more proud of my five amazing boys. Deeply grateful.