Many Churches (including ours) like to talk about growing numbers because it is impressive. Here are a few announcements we may hear from churches:
- “Our congregation has grown 30% in the past year!”
- “We baptized over 100 people last month!”
- “Our youth/kids ministry is running (enter a number) …”
- “We have had 20 new members sign up in the last…”
- And this list goes on.
Crowds and numbers are exciting and impressive. As a pastor I certainly get it; it’s always better to speak to people in chairs than empty seats. The more people we can get to church services or small groups, the more lives we can change…at least that’s what we believe.
However, as thankful as I am for butts in seats, I’ve learned that crowds in churches don’t make up committed followers of Christ.
Getting people into church is a big (usually the first) step, and it’s important; but it’s simply not enough. I (as well as many of my pastor friends) learned this the hard way through the 2020 fiasco.
Here are a few big lessons we have learned throughout the years as church leaders:
1) Years of church attendance doesn’t equal maturity in Christ:
We tend to believe that if someone has attended church for—let’s say a decade —they have grown in Christ. What we have discovered throughout the years is that many who have attended church for years who do not commit to consistent discipleship can develop a false sense of maturity that can lead to pride. People who aren’t spiritually mature can lose focus on purpose, our mission, and our calling and pursue what they want from the church instead of what they can give to the church.
Something else we have learned:
2) If we don’t disciple people, they will drop out at the first sign of trials or conflict:
- “I can’t believe you can’t see what’s happening here…”
- “You/we are being attacked by our enemy…”
- “This is a distraction that is an attempt to cause division…”
- “This is no time to give up the fight…hang in there…”
- “Don’t fall for this deception…”
These are statements I’ve made for years to people who were about to walk away from a marriage, church, Godly calling, etc… The truth is they were young in Christ and didn’t recognize the importance of trusting God through a tough situation…so they bailed, jumped ship, quit, and took the easy way out. They gave up the fight. It is as sad as it is upsetting to see people walk away from what you believe to be their destiny because of a trial or conflict and they were just too young in their faith to see it through.
So what is the answer? The answer has always been and will forever be the same: as a church leader, my calling is to make disciples of lost people. I’ve got to teach them to obey and follow Christ, to study His words and the writings of the apostles, and to commit to a consistent life of prayer. It is the Great Commission and it has never changed.
People must be committed followers of Christ if they are going to grow in maturity and not walk away from the faith. Therefore, if we want to move people from being part of the crowd to being part of the committed, we’ve got to fulfill the Great Commission just like our Lord Jesus told us to when he launched His Church two thousand years ago.