One seemingly obvious answer to that would be a head count. You could even get one of those airline flight attendant clickers and walk up and down the aisle when the doors are closed and the service is about to begin. Keep the records, take the monthly and see how it’s g(r)o(w)ing. When there are no more empty seats, you know you’ve grown to capacity and it’s time to think of a bright idea!
Numerical growth is one way a church grows – and it should be fairly easy to measure (even without a clicker).
Numerical growth can happen through transfers (anyone thought of a church transfer window where you can only change churches at designated times of the year), but surely more significant numerical growth is the kind that Luke talked about in Acts:
And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
But there is another kind of growth – and this is not as easy to measure: spiritual growth. How can you tell if your church is growing spiritually? How can you tell if you are growing spiritually, for that matter? If you are a leader, how can you tell if the members of your church are growing spiritually?
In the New Testament, it was not always a given. Hebrews addresses people who ought to have been much further along than they actually were but they needed someone to remind them of the basics.
Elsewhere Paul, in Ephesians 4, talks about the Church and its progress. He highlights growth in unity – specifically unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God; maturity – which he defines as growing to the measure of the full stature of Christ; and stability – by which he means that they will no longer be blown about by any and every doctrinal fad.
Growth comes about as every member plays a part. The chapter certainly emphasises prominent word-related gifts: apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor-teachers; but the body grows as each member plays a part.
Exciting: you have a part to play in someone else’s spiritual growth.
It’s not that Paul would have been content for churches to be theological classrooms where information is imparted, and nothing more. In another letter (2 Thessalonians) he notes the increasing faith and love in a congregation:
Your faith is growing abundantly and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.
Growing in faith and growing in love.
Those are a lot harder to measure with a airline clicker. But they are vital signs of spiritual growth.
Is your church growing in faith? Does it display a greater degree of trust and confidence in God than it did 5 years ago? How can you tell? Is it because of a bold new initiative that you’ve started? Can you tell by the tone of the prayers in the various prayer gatherings? Are you seeing some big answers to prayer? Is there less panic when problems arise?
Is your church growing in love? Do its members love each other more today than they did this time two years ago (even though they may be more aware of each other’s foibles)? Is there a greater degree of tolerance of difference on things like musical taste? Are there fewer grudges? Practically, does your church enjoy spending time together at things like church lunches? Does the men’s group laugh a lot together just because they enjoy their meetings? Are there fewer lonely people?
What Do You Think?
Used with permission from Time For Thought | Reflections from Alan Wilson.
A native of Northern Ireland, Alan Wilson spent several years as a language teacher before moving to Switzerland in 1990 to pastor a new International Church on the shore of Lake Geneva –Westlake Church, in Nyon. He was there for 17 years during which time the church grew to the point where a satellite congregation was started close to the university of Lausanne. In 2007 Alan moved back to Northern Ireland where for four years he pastored Portstewart Baptist Church. He is now working towards a Doctor of Ministry degree via the Irish Baptist College and the University of Chester: the theme of his research is ‘the significance of crucible experiences in the formation of Christian leaders.’ Alan has been married to Pauline (see her Tales of Taughlumny blog) for almost thirty years and they have two adult daughters. He is also involved in some itinerant speaking, teaching and preaching in various settings. And in his free time he enjoys running and manages regular visits to the gym and the (very) occasional round of golf. For most of his life he has had a soft spot for Everton Football Club.