Yesterday, I had the wonderful privilege of preaching for chapel at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. It’s always an enjoyable experience to preach in chapel, especially in the first week of classes when students are fresh and eager.
After chapel, we had lunch with President Kelley and several faculty members. It was a warm informal time to talk and fellowship. One of the faculty asked about church and what makes a church grow. I think he specifically wanted to know what I thought about church growth.
Over the years, I have changed my view of why churches grow and progress. The first answers I gave yesterday may not reflect what I would have considered thirty years. Today I see many things differently because of where the church is today and where we have come from.
I told my friend that I now consider the health and unity of the church of paramount importance. I always remember an incident that happened at my home church which caused great struggles in the church for many years. For that reason, unity and church health have been at the top of my list of important areas. Also, we all know we don’t want to go where people are at odds with one another.
Along with the health of the church (but similar to it) is the love of the people for those who are lost, hurting, and alone. A church that will care for “the least of these” is a church pleasing to God and one that will have favor in the community. Of all the things people think a church should be, this comes at the top of the list.
I believe churches grow when the leadership and the members of the church truly believe in the power of God to change people’s lives. This attitude and belief become contagious.
The strong belief in God’s ability to redeem and restore leads to the belief that everyone matters and everyone counts. Like the old sitcom “Cheers,” everyone wants to go where someone knows their name. We all instinctively know when people care for us and when we are welcome.
Churches grow when they care about the least of these. In some ways we are all the least of these. We need someone to love us and someone to care.
My last thought: it’s hard to keep people away from where they are loved.
Let us be those people who love God and therefore love the people around us. This makes churches grow.