Challenges Facing a Growing Church
In case you haven’t noticed, the church at Plant City is growing! And while that growth may not be what most would call explosive, it has been steady—and noticeable! (Think of our Sunday morning parking and seating situations.) We need to thank God for it.
Churches often talk about the challenges involved in pursuing growth. But what do we do when that growth actually happens? Consider a few challenges that are likely to face any growing congregation.
A growing church, naturally, means more people. It means new names and faces to learn, lines of communication to develop, relationships to build. It means increased personal responsibilities for each one of us. To borrow the language of Romans 12, growth means more people for each of us to “be devoted to,” more people to “give preference to,” more to “practice hospitality” toward, more to rejoice with or weep with. Let’s all be ready to serve one another.
A growing church means more potential for cliques and personal favoritism. As our numbers multiply, there’s a heightened danger that some may be ignored or feel left out. Let’s remember: “Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation” (Romans 12:16). On a related note…
A growing church means more potential for personal conflicts. It means more people who have to learn to live in peace with one another (1 Thessalonians 5:13). Let’s remember: “All of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead” (1 Peter 3:8-9). “As those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone” (Colossians 3:12-13).
A growing church means more sheep to shepherd. As our number becomes greater, so does the responsibility of our elders. These men need to be mindful of their duty to “take heed…to all the flock” (Acts 20:28). They must rise to the challenge of getting to know all the disciples in their charge—their situations, their personalities, their struggles. No one should be allowed to fall through the cracks. And as their work increases, these overseers will need our prayers more than ever.
A growing church means more needs to be met. There will be members facing discouraging situations with their family, their finances, their health, etc. There will be those struggling to overcome sinful habits or discard emotional baggage. To borrow the language of 1 Thessalonians 5:14, there will be more unruly folks to admonish, more fainthearted folks to comfort, and more weak folks to uphold. There will be problems to manage: disputes that threaten to grow, sinful attitudes or actions, false teaching, and more. The larger the group, the easier it can be for such trouble to fester unnoticed. Elders need to be all the more watchful. Deacons need to be all the more busy. And every member needs to be all the more attentive.
A growing church means a diverse membership. Our preaching and teaching need to take into account the varying levels of knowledge and maturity among disciples. Some will need milk, some will need solid food (Hebrews 5:13-14). Some will need help learning new concepts or unlearning old errors. First century churches had people in many different stations and situations in life (see Titus 2:2-9; Colossians 3:18–4:1). So will we. Let’s offer instruction in a way that profits everyone.
A growing church may mean slightly fewer opportunities for men to lead publicly in worship. It’s just mathematics: the same number of worship leadership duties each week, divided among more men. What we need to remember is that growth also means more opportunities to serve outside those assemblies. There will be more need for daily ministering—more people needing various kinds of attention, help, and encouragement. Let’s watch for those opportunities and remember that serving God isn’t just something we do at the building a few hours a week. Speaking of which…
A growing church increases the temptation for folks to hide in the crowd and try to avoid accountability. The bigger a church becomes, the easier it is for someone to go unnoticed and stay uninvolved. Unfortunately, some people prefer it that way! They’re content to slip into an occasional assembly, take up space in a pew for a while, and then go their way. We need to challenge one another to daily personal commitment and discipleship (Luke 9:23).
A growing church tests our commitment to evangelism. I can think of two equal but opposite dangers here. On the one hand, we may decide that we’ve gotten big enough and just quit evangelizing. Please note that the Jerusalem church in Acts never did this, in spite of massive growth. On the other hand, we may be so excited about growing that we pursue growth for its own sake, and begin compromising the truth in order to achieve it. Again, Christians in the New Testament never watered down their teaching about discipleship for the sake of popular appeal, even when the result was rejection and persecution. Whether few or many, in peace or in hardship, “they kept right on teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ” (Acts 5:42). Let’s do the same.
Let’s pray that God will continue to bless us with growth as we seek the growth of His kingdom. And let’s pray for His help to meet the challenges that growth brings.