In your church’s journey to the next level of size and maturity, three factors will fuel or foil your attempts. Every church of every size must evaluate each one of these three variables in order to remain healthy in the present and plan for the future. All three are vital but have varying degrees of importance. In increasing importance, these variables are: (1) money, (2) leaders, and (3) Jesus.
VARIABLE #1: MONEY
Growth is expensive. More people require more accommodations, more services, more square footage, more pastoral care, and just plain more of everything. To further complicate things, new people usually don’t show up and start giving right away.
In a best-case scenario, a thousand people show up, drink the coffee, use the bathroom, fill a seat, meet Jesus, schedule a counseling appointment, and generally hang out for a few months before giving a dime. It’s a beautiful problem to have, but it does present an interesting challenge if you’re financially unprepared.
Three factors will fuel or foil your church’s journey to the next level of size and maturity.
VARIABLE #2: LEADERS
One pastor cannot take care of a church by himself. One lead pastor and one executive pastor cannot take care of a church together. The church must take care of the church. Consultant and former executive pastor David Fletcher reminds us, “The role of the pastor is to equip the people of God for ministry. Most churches do a horrendous job at that.”
No matter the size, a church needs some sort of “leadership pipeline” that can guide people through the process from first-time guest to committed member. For example:
These four categories represent a basic, biblical framework for leadership growth within the church. From brand-new Christian to mature believer, this leadership pipeline provides a place to start and some next-level goals for everyone on the spectrum.
If leadership isn’t healthy and growing, the church won’t be healthy and growing either.
Even at a large church, the majority of leaders will be unpaid volunteers, including deacons and elders. The leadership pipeline is not a career track but a chance for people to worship Jesus, care for his people, and grow in spiritual maturity.
An executive pastor can love his church well by thinking through these organizational dilemmas and working with the lead pastor to develop a game plan that creates relational margin and leadership capacity to welcome, disciple, help, and reach more people. If leadership isn’t healthy and growing, the church won’t be healthy and growing either. Yet we must keep in mind that the right structure and pipeline isn’t the magic formula to a bigger church. Only Jesus can make it grow.
VARIABLE #3: JESUS
In the business world, it’s easy to manage results, measure activities against the bottom line, and generally maintain some illusion of control. We are servants and stewards of our Father’s business — he is in charge.
The Apostle Paul said it well: “Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:7) When it comes to the future of the church and thinking about whether or not it’s going to the next level, we can plan, prepare, develop, strategize, manage, administrate, and oversee all we want. But we can’t make it happen. Jesus was emphatic: “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18). We do our best, work hard, and trust God’s purpose will prevail — even when we screw up.
The right structure and pipeline isn’t the magic formula to a bigger church. Only Jesus can make it grow.
God’s sovereign power is not only tremendously liberating but also spiritually healthy. If you’ve experienced any amount of success in the worlds of business, real estate, and money, it’s easy to think you’re the man.
You’re not the man. You’re not your performance. You’re not your net worth. You’re not your job title.
If you belong to Jesus, the only aspect of your identity that really, truly, eternally matters is that of redeemed child of God. We’re helpless without him. That’s as true in the corporate world as it is in the ministry world. But there’s something about serving the church that makes this reality all the more poignant.
JESUS DIED FOR THE CHURCH
Jesus loves the church more than anything else in the entire world. She is his bride, and to think that he would entrust her well-being in part to my care is daunting. I could not accept the responsibility unless I knew that Jesus was all in. And he is. He didn’t die for Apple, Google, or KPMG — or Young Life, World Vision, or Compassion International, for that matter. Jesus died for the church.
You’re not your performance. You’re not your net worth. You’re not your job title.
The church represents the tip of the spear of God’s work in the world. Talk about significance — I want in on that business! I would take any role I could get just to be a part of it, but the fact that he’s equipped me and called me to actually oversee some of the effort is an incredible privilege that blows my mind. I got to be an executive pastor. Thank you, Jesus!