Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Finally Over the 100 Barrier

In church growth studies the 100 attendance barrier is a big hurdle in growth. Typically, churches hang out at these various barriers and either crash through them, or stay below and eventually begin to decline. In the past I have always watched the church where I preached struggle at two barriers: 100 and 500. It is pretty intimidating but one that causes you to step back and wonder if the hurdle will be to big to cross again.

We crashed through this barrier recently at Agape. It is hard to believe that less than 2 years ago we had 15 worshipping in a home. Now it is pretty exciting. We hit a few days just under 100, over 100, and a few weeks ago 120. It seems that our low day has jumped from 65 to now 95. It happened quickly and to our surprise with relative ease. God has been good and continued to bless.

However, in the past I found at the other churches where I served, God blessed but a few things that we did prevented us from continuing to let God bless us again. Too often we take a "whatever happens is God's will" mentality. This makes us passive and suggests that God will stop leading lost people to our churches. This is contrary to what the Bible tells us. God wants all people to be saved (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Peter 3:8-10) and will lead people where they are welcome. The reason we break the barriers reflects our faithfulness, not God's.

1. We don't make room for more people. We allow overcrowding and expect people to "find their own seat." Therefore, they leave because we don't care.
2. We don't act by faith and add more staff, ministry leaders, or small groups in order to empower people to do ministry. We wait until we have the money and then hire to fit a need. When we find someone the need is gone because the people quit coming.
3. We continue to whine that we don't want to be too big. In other words we tell God we don't want more people. So God sends them to a place that welcomes them. In Portland 85% of the people are unchurched. Where will they go?
4. We don't prepare to be as big as God wants. The research tells us that churches that operate as a large church become a large church. It's easy to be a small church. Its easy to be a small church minister. I have been that. It is easier than being the preacher at a church of 300-400. However, if God says we are going to be 10,000 then we say "here I am Lord send me..." We adjust, not God.
5. We have been told that large churches and mega churches water down the truth. This is a lie. The research tells us that people go to these churches because they are conservative, have good Bible teaching, and put people into ministry. That is why they are growing.
6. We don't act now. We tend to put decisions of multiple services, new locations, or more leadership opportunities off for months. We let committees committee this decision to death. Then the problem is solved--we quit growing.

I am excited that we have thought ahead. We have 6 full and part-time staff. We have 15 ministries and 16 home communities which grow monthly. We have decided to make the jump from worship in the cafeteria to the auditorium for Easter worship. The cafeteria holds a max of about 150. The auditorium 450-500. Agape says go for it, we will bring the people.

It seems that God is truly saying, "If you prepare for it, they will come..."

We will see what God does with this.


Kori said...

Some great thoughts Ron! It gives us all a bit to chew on. I will continue to pray for Agape and for you and Lori as you lead this tremendous group.

Johnny said...

It is great to see God blessing your work and that you are planning for God's blessings.

fzumwalt said...

Good stuff, Ron. I watch with amazement and thanks.

Billyboy said...

I appreciate your thoughts Ron. I am currently ministering at a church that is facing many of the hurrdles you discussed. Thank you for your words they where very encouraging.

Luke Coles said...

That is so awesome to hear! Many reasons you talked about is why we attend the church we do. We are at Abundant Life Church where we are drenched in God's word and their main concern is: "Reaching as many people as possible for Jesus Christ - Loving God, Loving People, Loving Life" It is evident in each service. (8 services each weekend. 6 at the Happy Valley campus and 2 at the Parkrose campus.) I'm so happy to hear what you and many others are doing at Agape. God will continue to do awesome things with you!