Below, you will find the majority of an email that I received from a CCF member yesterday. It is really good stuff. The info below is from Kevin Stewart. He and his wife, Katie and their kids have been at CCF for over a year. What you will read below is one example of people really engaging with the process that we are in as a church to live to our full purpose.
Church growth is something that I have read and thought a lot about. And I’ve noted that (healthy) church growth and saving souls have at least one key thing in common – ultimately only God can do it.
Prior to Saddleback church there were whole libraries of books that had the “secret” to church growth. When Rick Warren started Saddleback he’d read most all of those books but didn’t feel bound by any of them. By the end he’d broken almost every “rule” of church growth ever written yet they still grew; healthy growth and incredibly fast. Understanding the seasons of growth probably was vital to that. But I think something else was even more so, something that I haven’t heard him say but that he just does and it works.
As I said, church growth really is God’s to do. We can do things to hinder or help God in His work, but that’s about it. The KEY passage in the Bible about church growth – foundational to all other growth “rules” – is found in Paul’s writings.
“I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.” (1 Cor 3:6-9 NIV)
Paul states clearly that God is the one that grows His church. Paul and Apollos were the gardeners doing everything to create an environment in which growth could happen when the time came. Or, in other words, they devoted themselves to church health. They tended the church to keep it healthy and then when the seasons of growth came, in God’s good time, healthy growth would happen.
Warren’s book “The Purpose Driven Church” is full of his efforts to make sure his church was as healthy as it could be. He never actually says that, but his constant efforts to realign the functions of the church with their “purpose” have the same net effect. He and his leadership devote themselves 24/7/365 to this and results happen.
Church growth does happen in seasons - seasons of growth in numbers, seasons of growth in depth, seasons of apparent dormancy storing up spiritual energy only to burst forth into brilliant Spring. But throughout, if the leadership of any church will devote themselves wholly to church health, then when the seasons come in God’s good timing, nothing on earth will be able to stop the growth of God’s church – not even the mistakes we make along the way.
Personally, I find all this very freeing. I mean, if the church could grow by my power then I would bear the responsibility. That’s a weight that I KNOW I couldn’t bear. But God’s shoulders are more than strong enough to bear it. All I have to do is help tend my little part of the garden as God has called me to do – freedom at last to do the work I was made for.
Wow, Kevin! Wow! Great stuff. More than enough for me today! Thanks for engaging and blessing me and others with your good thoughts! I hear this in what you are saying...focus on BUILDING PEOPLE (discipleship) and let God focus on BUILDING HIS CHURCH. (Matt. 16:18)