How can we tell if the church is growing? When it comes to growth, often people think about the three ‘B’s': buildings, bodies, and budgets. But in reality those things in and of themselves do not tell you if a church is truly growing as disciples of Jesus Christ.
So what does it mean to grow in sanctification as disciples of Christ? In his book, What is a Healthy Church?, Mark Dever writes, “When you peer into the life of a church, the growth of its members can show up in all sorts of ways.” Here are fifteen examples Dever offers to show what “growth” means. This list doesn’t cover every way we grow as disciples, but it does give us some good examples:1
- Growing numbers who are praying for and getting involved in evangelism and missions both locally and globally.
- Older members getting a fresh sense of their responsibility in evangelism and in discipling younger members—“Why don’t you come over for dinner?”
- Younger members attending the funerals of older members out of love—“As a single man in my twenties, it was so good to be taken in by Mr. and Mrs.…”
- Increased praying in the church and more prayers centered on evangelism and ministry opportunities—“I’m starting an evangelistic Bible study at work and I’m a little nervous. Would the church pray that …”
- More members sharing the gospel with outsiders.
- Less reliance among members on the church’s programs and more spontaneous ministry activities arising from members—“Pastor, what would you think if Sally and I organized a Christmas tea for the ladies in the church as an evangelistic opportunity?”
- Informal gatherings among church members characterized by spiritual conversation, including an apparent willingness to confess sin while simultaneously pointing to the cross—“Hey brother, I’m really struggling with …”
- Increased and sacrificial giving—“Honey, how can we cut fifty dollars from our monthly budget in order to support…”
- Increased fruit of the Spirit.
- Members making career sacrifices so that they can serve the church—“Did you hear that Chris turned down a promotion three times so that he could continue devoting himself to being an elder?”
- Husbands leading their wives sacrificially—“Honey, what are several things I can do to make you feel more loved and understood?”
- Wives submitting to their husbands—“Sweetheart, what are some things I can do today that will make your life easier?”
- Parents teaching the Scriptures and catechisms to their children and discipling their children in the faith—“Tonight let’s pray for Christian workers in the country of …”
- A corporate willingness to discipline unrepentant and public sin.
- A corporate love for an unrepentant sinner shown in the pursuit of him or her before discipline is enacted—“Please! If you get this message, I would love to hear from you.”
It is our prayer that the Holy Spirit will work through the preaching of the gospel to conform us more into the image of Jesus Christ. And we do pray that the church would grow as God saves the lost and sanctifies his people to the glory of His Name.
- Mark Dever, What Is a Healthy Church? (Wheaton: Crossway, 2007), 109-110 ↩
- Many thanks as well to Aaron Armstrong’s blog for recently pointing these things out. In the post above I cited Dever and Armstrong, while slightly editing some things for this blog: http://www.bloggingtheologically.com/2014/01/23/15-signs-church-growing-right/?utm_content=buffer45d4b&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer