By Ken Blue
Dr. Tom Malone said, “An expert is any old spurt away from home.” I am not an “expert” on any topic. However, over the years, I have observed a few things that hinder the numerical and spiritual growth of a church. I list some of them, but not in any order of importance.
Location and facilities:
Where a church is located is important. I have seen whole communities change culturally and racially in a few short years. When that happens, it will have a dramatic impact on the church. The church must make a change in its culture or sell the building to those who are part of the emerging culture.
Another factor that hurts church growth is the condition, the age and the configuration of the buildings. Some people will tolerate an old building, but they will not accept a dirty and unkempt one. Paint and water are inexpensive; so, spruce up the place. If you are in the wrong location, find one more open to the gospel. The location of your church may be your greatest liability.
Outreach and marketing:
There are two colossal errors concerning outreach. One is the misconception that door to door soul winning is the only key to outreach. Secondly, that the word “marketing” is unscriptural. Statistics prove that 80% of the people, who visit a church, do so because a friend or family member invite them. Less than 1% come as a result of door to door soul winning. However, if that’s your only method, the percentage would be 100% in your case. Churches could learn from the world and the cults what effective methods they are using to reach the masses and apply them where appropriate. The world is wiser in this matter than most churches.
Statistics prove that 80% of the people, who visit a church, do so because a friend or family member invite them. Less than 1% come as a result of door to door soul winning.
The pastor might as well save church money and stop advertising in the newspaper and phone book. Young couples use the internet and watch television. Have the best web page possible for your church and have it designed to reach the un- churched. Place radio and television ads when finances allow. Do brainstorming and discover every method available; then use the ones you approve. Pastor Al Hughes, recently started a “Sign Ministry.” The positive results are worth looking into. Put the name and location of your church on the sign. A Bible verse only will not attract anyone. Most growing churches have found that promoting three or four big days through the year will attract the community, if planned and promoted properly.
Atmosphere and attitude:
It never enters the mind of some pastors how important the atmosphere of a church is. Every business owner understands its importance or he goes out of business. Pay attention to the next store or restaurant you visit. Notice how they try to appeal to those who enter their doors. If you are unimpressed, you will not return.
The selection and style of music is critical here. Some of the best preachers I know kill their church with dead, somber music. Someone has correctly said, “You cannot have an Episcopalian song service, a Lutheran sermon and a Pentecostal invitation.” The atmosphere and attitude should be positive, exciting, uplifting and enjoyable. The lighting, the decor and colors are all important. Many churches have a funeral home atmosphere and then wonder why everyone looks dead.
Preaching and personality:
When it comes to reaching people, it may surprise you to learn that your personality may be more important than your preaching ability. That may explain why many of the best preachers have the smaller churches. It could be a personality quirk, a distracting habit or poor manners that hinder ones influence. Most people will talk about these, but not to the pastor.
Some preachers have the idea that if they are not screaming and yelling throughout the sermon, they are not preaching. This is a learned concept and must be corrected, unless you are in a culture where people enjoy being screamed and yelled at; if you are, then keep screaming. Remember you have different people at different services; a different purpose for each sermon and different methods at your disposal. You must understand that people are not as impressed with your preaching as you are. If you doubt this, ask them what your sermon topic was a week ago.
Laziness and playfulness:
The call to preach is not a call to slothfulness or amusement. Some preachers are lazy and ought to be fired; they would be if they behaved the same way on a secular job. The preacher must pray and study. He is to be a student of the Word of God. His calling is to studying and teaching. He must plan for church growth and ministries. Then, he must lead others to do the work of the ministry for Christ. Success rises and falls on leadership. If a church is not getting the job done, in most cases, it is a weakness on the part of the pastor. If you are weak in leadership and management, learn all you can on this subject and then do your best. If you are lazy, repent or resign.
Another flaw the pastor must guard against is the temptation to spend too much time playing. There are many good and acceptable hobbies and recreational outlets, but the pastor should avoid being identified with any as an addiction. Your first and foremost calling is to the ministry. Everything else must be subordinate to that calling. Rest, if you must, but don’t be lazy. Play if you can, but don’t get the reputation of an addiction to anything but the ministry.
Pastor Ken Blue was born in Boswell, Ark. In 1955 he accepted Christ as his Savior. He and his wife Joyce were married in 1955. They have 5 children. He graduated from Midwestern Baptist Bible College in 1969 and started the Open Door Baptist Church in Lynnwood, Wa. where he pastored for 39 years. Because of health issues (ALS) he was forced to resign as pastor. It is his desire to continue to be used of God to help pastors and believers through this ministry.