church growth rules

“How to grow your church” is a huge topic these days, especially over the last decade with the increasing popularity and glamorization of church planting. There are entire volumes and series of books and magazines dedicated to the topic, citing the top “church growth experts,” current trends and popular speakers. There are lots of rules and tips about things you should do and things you shouldn’t do, many of which are great and very helpful.

However, as a church planter in the South, I’ve found that some of the church growth tips, tricks, and trends aren’t necessarily true. Although we’ve learned from plenty of mistakes along the way, we’ve seen God use many of the rules that we’ve broken…

1. “Don’t teach on Revelation.”

Whoops. I didn’t know about this rule till after I had already broken it. Revelation is too controversial, too violent, and far too judgmental and close-minded. The moment you open that book, your church will start shrinking…or so some people seem to think.

We spent 37 weeks in the book of Revelation. Awaken continued to grow and people continually got saved (almost every week). Just ask the 88 people who made decisions for Christ if it was fruitful or not!

2. “Don’t talk about hell.”

I get it. Hell is hot and forever. It makes people uncomfortable. But Jesus talked all about it, and I’m pretty sure one of His primary goals was church planting (“I will build my Church…”). If it’s a real place, why would we not warn people about it?

One thing we say often at Awaken is, “If it’s in the Bible, we’re going to talk about it.” Hell is definitely in the Bible.

3. “Don’t preach longer than 20 minutes.”

I was once told that adult brains “are programmed to sitcom-length intervals. They can’t handle much longer than 22 minutes.” How are college students sitting through 60-minute lectures on economics then? The Bible contains all we need “for life and godliness!”

I’ll admit that I’ve been to some churches that I couldn’t imagine listening to the pastor for more than 15 minutes, but that’s not the Bible’s fault! PastorsPLEASE don’t bore people with the Word of God! It’s alive and active, preach it as such!

As one pastor put it, “Sermonettes make Christianettes.” Going deep requires some time – from the pastor and from the church.

4. “People just want to be encouraged.”

What we’ve found over the years is that people aren’t looking for 15-minute sermonettes peppered with spiritual hugs and high fives. They want meat. They want honesty. They want truth – even if it hurts. After a sermon I preached recently someone told me, “What I love about this church is that you have the guts to say it how it is and people keep coming back!”

At the end of my life and ministry, I don’t want to be guilty of editing out the things I thought were “too harsh” or “not encouraging enough.” I just want to be faithful in handling the Word of God. God wrote it and did not leave me with editing rights.