From 1994 to 2014 I was the pastor of an established church in Indiana. For several years, we saw healthy numerical growth, as well as solid spiritual growth in the congregation. In my ignorance, I assumed we were succeeding. But that determination was rooted in a wrong focus. I was measuring how many we gathered rather than how many we sent. I was trying to improve the programs we offered in our building rather than the life we offered to the people outside of it.
This mentality changed as I preached through the Gospel of Mark, and Jesus started messing with me. He opened my eyes to see His philosophy of ministry. The more I studied, the more obvious it became. I couldn’t miss the fact that Jesus didn’t measure how many He gathered. He refused to be captivated by the crowd. He didn’t focus on programs or worry much about buildings. His energy was invested in preparing to send.
Why? He understood His mission. He came to send as He was sent.
My prayer is that we follow His example, that we begin with a different end in mind. Instead of asking how many we gather, let’s prepare the people we have to be sent. Let’s equip and release people to be the hope of Christ in their world so that the hope of Christ changes our world. Let’s stop worrying about how many churches are in our city, and start talking about how many lost people live there. Let’s stop seeing new church plants as our competition, and start praying for them as necessary partners in our mission to redeem sinners for the glory of God.
Pastor, this change has to start with you. Your church is not a monument to your capacity to do ministry well. Your church is on mission with God to bring the gospel to people who are separated from Him. That requires movement. That requires sacrifice. And that requires exchanging your vision for the vision of God.
Clare Jewell is national church planting coordinator for Regular Baptist Churches.