This is the latest post from our leadership blog www.benjaminconway.net. This post however contains wisdom for people in all levels of a church and we reckon it will inspire you!
10. Growth is like human growth – in spurts. You can account for it, plan for it, prepare for it, but you can’t ever quite predict it. You know a healthy human child will grow, but you don’t know EXACTLY when.
9. Growth means change. You don’t like change – no one does. We like our security and safety. BUt things must change – things you can do in a church with 15 people (interrupt the sermon, share a Scripture, celebrate your birthday, stop the service and pray for you, be informal about management of money or children, as examples) simply cannot be done with a church of 200.
8. Remember the change isn’t for you! You might like your church and not want to share it with 200 other people but God wants to share the life in the church with as many people as possible.
7. One of the hardest barriers for a church to cross is around 140-160 people. It’s when you simply cannot know everyone in the church just by going on a Sunday. On a subconscious level people find that difficult to deal with. The best thing to do is to join a smaller group – a Living Church, the choir, the working party, the set up team, whatever. By being in a smaller group within the group, you still get the benefits of being in a group where you know everyone and you also get the benefits of being in a larger group. If you are a pastor to break this barrier you simply must provide the smaller groups for people – if you don’t they’ll form themselves and become cliques.
6. Growing churches will always become more formal. It used to be that you knew the people looking after the children, you knew everyone so processes were informal. That cannot stay the case if the church grows. Sometimes we mistake formalization for depersonalization. No – it’s just ensuring the processes are robust enough to see more people come. Formalization is the only way to ensure the church becomes more personal and more welcoming. By taking the pressure of structure off the people and onto the structures and processes, the people are now free to relate to one another and enjoy church.
5. In growing churches, paid staff often do what volunteers used to do. Volunteers have to get used to having a line manager who is not the senior pastor and main preacher. Volunteers have to get used to having certain responsibilities taken off them and let it happen graciously.
4. In a small church the drawing factor is community. People are part of the small community and that’s why they keep coming back again and again. The problem is that this community is exactly what is unwelcoming to newcomers. Every slot is filled – you can only have so many friends. Occasionally someone leaves the church and someone joins and fits in their place, but it will not grow. In a growing church the drawing factor is life impact. It is how someone’s life is being changed. Therefore the service has to not pander to the community but embrace everyone and provide powerful ways to improve life impact.
3. In a small church certain things are tolerated because of good relationships. Someone can ramble on in a sermon for an hour and everyone knows “That’s just Bill…”, the worship leader can sing out of key and out of rhythm and everyone giggles because it’s how Jimmy plays. The low quality is almost an in-joke that sustains the community. As soon as a church breaks 100 this cannot happen anymore because there will be people who are not in on the joke and have a higher expectation. Everything must be done professionally, from the first opening song through to the notices, the offering and so on.
2. A growing church needs multiplicity and redundancy of communication. I knew this intellectually but didn’t really believe it until recently when Tree of Life Dagenham started hitting 110-120 per Sunday. People would call me and say “why didn’t you tell me about THIS EVENT?”, “why didn’t you let me know THIS SPEAKER was coming?”, “how come I didn’t know about the BAPTISMS?” when these things were clearly in the church newsletter and announced from the front for several weeks. Because the church is no longer one community – things need repeated. We now try and say a notice in six different ways: we email everyone personally, we text everyone, we put it on Facebook, we put it on the church website, we put it on Google calendar and we put it in the church newsletter. No one listens to the notice, so we stopped doing them on a Sunday. If you are reading this and thinking I am into overkill, you are where I was this time last year. Let me know what happens when your church reaches 120+.
1. A Growing Church is the most exciting place on earth. In the age where church attendance is seen as an optional extra for supersaints (or worse – and even more absurdly, institutional legalism for people who don’t get the grace message), being in a healthy, growing church is so much fun. Marriages are getting restored, Muslims are becoming Christians, children are getting saved, people are getting healed, people are learning how to dream, how to walk in their dreams,community is being built. Lives are being changed. I wouldn’t change what I do for the world. It’s not always easy, but it is always an adventure.
Pastor Benjamin Conway, lead pastor of Tree of Life Church and founder of the Tree of Life Network, shows here how to use your imagination to enter fully into God’s dream and your dream for your life. This message is inspiring and challenging and will let you be all you can be!
For years the faith movement has been telling people that “faith works by love”. It’s true, that’s how faith works, but they misunderstood “by love”, telling us that faith only works when we love.
If we don’t love people, forgive people, help people, serve people, show compassion on people, help people, live for people then our faith won’t work, we will stay sick, stay poor, stay in defeat and that’s that.
So we responded. We made our love confessions, we strained to feel good feelings for people who annoyed us, we made ourselves human doormats, we became our pastor’s armour bearers serving them to the detriment of our own families. In the name of love, we strained to the point we became unbearable to live with. Then we stayed poor, stayed sick, stayed in defeat and rather than receiving God’s grace and healing and prosperity and victory we wailed our lack of love, we condemned our unforgiveness, we beat ourselves up for not loving enough, not feeling enough love and not doing enough – no matter how much we did do and how much we sacrificed.
The truth (which will set you free as you read this): the love that empowers our faith is not our feeble, human, limited, pathetic, self-obsessed, impure, roller coaster feeling of love; not that which we squeeze out of our hearts and then kick the dog the next moment because our heart now hurts so bad. It’s not even our love at all: it’s HIS LOVE.
Faith doesn’t work because you have earned enough brownie points loving people. It works when you realize that no matter what you have done, no matter what you have felt, no matter what you have felt, no matter how half-hearted you have been, no matter how much you hurt inside: GOD STILL LOVES YOU.
His love is unending, unconditional, undeserved. It is not a still, logical, passive love: GOD IS LOVE. He is alive with love for you, He is buzzing, sparking, zapping with love for you. He made you because He needed a vessel to love with all the love inside Him. He redeemed you through Christ and His death and resurrection just so He could pour that love inside you and love you from the inside out.
God is eternal, and every moment of that eternity is crammed with His love for you. God is infinite – and every iota of that space is exploding with the heat of a million suns with love for you. It’s not love based on your goodness, your strength, your joy, your ability to do. It’s love that comes straight from His nature, His heart, His being. The core of God is love for you.
God is all-powerful and every ounce of His infinite strength is for you not against you. God can think a million thoughts at once, and all of them are thoughts on how to prosper you, how to get you through, how to make your life heaven on earth. His whole nature is love.
When you realize the depths of His love for you, and when you grasp that He will never let you go, never let you down, never do or think anything that is not for your highest. When you realize that Christianity is not your utmost for His highest, but His utmost for your Highest; when you find out that you are not a sinner in the hand of an angry God, but a child of a loving Father. When you find out that the faith-life isn’t about your love for Him, but His love for you: then FAITH WORKS.
Why wouldn’t He heal me when He adores me? Why wouldn’t I get the promotion at work? HE ADORES ME. HE LOVES ME. He wants me to have good things to enjoy. He wants to supply my needs according to His riches in glory. He is awesome to me. He can’t stop thinking about me.
Of course I am going to walk in victory because He loves me. Passionately. Always. Not based on what I do, but based on what He has done.
That’s why faith works by love: it’s easy to believe good things are going to happen to me the more I realize and grasp and meditate on His love for me.