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Growth Mentality vs.
Maintenance Mentality


      Growing kids is easy. You can get a child to full physical maturity without much effort. All you have to do is maintenance. Feed her, cloth her, take her to the doctor when she is sick and you will grow a child. (Of course, I am not talking about raising a godly child, just growing one to physical maturity). Regrettably, many people believe that growing a church is just like growing a child. Many Christians think all you have to do to grow a church is feed it (hire a good preacher), clothe it (build a nice building) and take it to the doctor when it is sick (put out fires when emergencies come up). Here is the real truth—the maintenance mentality does not grow churches. It kills them. Growing churches takes a completely different mindset. It takes a growth mentality. If this church is to grow, we must remove the maintenance mentality and grow in our growth mentality.


I.         A maintenance mentality relies on us. A growth mentality relies on God.

A.      Paul explained how church growth works in I Corinthians 3:6-7. It is true that we work, but God causes the growth. We must recognize that as the basis for any possible progress we can ever have. The maintenance mentality, however, just thinks about the work we need to do and spends most of its time being overwhelmed because there is so much.

B.     Remember II Corinthians 5:7, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” Maintenance churches work on sight. Growth churches work on faith, believing the Lord. Allow me to illustrate. Maintenance churches struggle with discipline. All they can see is people leaving, which they will do, when they start disciplining wayward members. Growth churches just trust God that the way to have a strong growing church is to discipline as he has said.

C.     Can you imagine what the congregation would look like if we walked by faith instead of by sight? If our number one deciding factor for anything we did was simply, can we tell through God’s word that what we are doing is what God would want? Then, whether we see the finances, whether we see the resources, whether we see the workers right now or not, we just do what we know God wants us to do? Trust God, when we work His work, He will cause the growth.

II.       A maintenance mentality is satisfied. A growth mentality is constructively discontent.

A.      Maintainers are satisfied with good enough. They get a building relatively full, have adequate Bible classes, support their preacher and have two meetings per year and they are satisfied. They do not like it when someone comes along and says there may be a better way. A growth mentality, however, is constructively discontent. They are not satisfied. They are convinced the preaching can be better, the worship can be more reverent, the classes can teach more, the church can do more. Thus, they constantly look for ways to improve.

B.     Take a look at Laodicea in Revelation 3:17-18, to see a satisfied church gone to seed. They were comfortable and therefore could not see how much room for improvement they had. I certainly do not believe we are remotely like Laodicea. But we must not have the same comfortable mindset or one day we will be. We must be constructively discontent. We must be on the constant look out to make everything we do better.

C.     Notice that the discontent is constructive. Growth mentality is not malcontent. You do not have a growth mentality if what you are thinking is everything should be done your way to be right and then constantly griping and complaining about what every one else does wrong. Constructively discontent means able to see the good in what is going on, but pushing for better.

III.      A maintenance mentality looks behind. A growth mentality looks ahead.

A.      Maintainers do a lot of reminiscing. They think about the golden years when old brother so-and-so did the preaching. They think about the glory days when they used to meet in that nice building in the other part of town. They think about how successful what they have always done used to be. A growth mentality learns from the past, but looks ahead. Jesus encouraged this kind of mentality in Acts 1:8 when He told the eleven, “You shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Eleven men were supposed to accomplish that? They could only do that by looking ahead.

B.     Take a look at Sardis in Revelation 3:1. Sardis was living on a reputation. They were looking at the glory days in which they were alive. But when John wrote them they were dead. Again, I do not believe we are remotely like Sardis. However, we must make sure this mentality never creeps in or we will be. We must be visionary, looking ahead at what the future possibilities are, planning to do great things according to God’s word.

IV.    A maintenance mentality wants to stay the same. A growth mentality wants change.

A.      Here is one aspect of growth that people simply do not like. If we always do what we have always done, we will always get the same results. Actually, that is not true. If we always do what we have always done, we will always get declining results. One truth of growth in any organization is nothing fails like success. Too often people hit on something that worked once or twice or even for ten years, but when it quits really succeeding it has become institutionalized and we just cannot let it go. If someone suggests change, we brand them a heretic.

B.     Here is the truth. If nothing ever changes, nothing ever grows. Keep in mind that we must never, ever change our standard of authority. But within the authorization provided by scripture (II Timothy 3:16-17), we must be willing to change. We must be willing to try new approaches.

C.     Allow me to give you an illustration of this process. In the early part of the last century, the number one evangelistic tool was the protracted Gospel meeting. Nobody had anything else going on, so they would come to every service of a two week meeting, whether they were a member of the church or not. Even if they got mad, they would keep coming back. Many heard the whole truth that way and were converted. Now, a hundred years later, we find it hard to even get our own members to make it out to a Gospel meeting, let alone the neighbors. But some churches are holding doggedly on to that model. It has not really worked like that for nearly 40 years, but we just do not want to change.

D.     A good biblical example of having to change can be found in Acts 19:8-9. Paul was reasoning in the synagogue. But things had reached a stand still. In fact, they were probably going backwards because some were blaspheming the way. Paul changed the teaching place from the Jewish synagogue to the school of Tyrannus. Because of that change, all who live in Asia heard the word of the Lord.

E.     A true growth mentality rarely thinks “change for the sake of change.” I recognize there might be a place for making a change just to shake things up and rock off center. However, the growth mentality typically thinks of change because it is looking for improvement or because what we have always done is no longer accomplishing what it used to accomplish. A healthy growth mentality understands that once there was a good reason for doing things the way we do them now. However, it also understands that the reasoning may no longer hold and looks for other scriptural means to get the job done. Changes may be anywhere from order of services to the kinds of songs we sing to the way we conduct our Bible classes to the location of our meeting place. A growth mentality is willing to accept change when change will produce growth.

V.      A maintenance mentality avoids problems. A growth mentality faces them quickly.

A.      Maintainers typically try to hide from problems. They often act as if they can ignore a problem and maybe it will just go away. Growers understand that ignored problems only get worse. Maintainers, unable to see the big picture, only think about the immediate fall out of a problem. Growers, thinking in the long-term, can see the end result of dealing with the problem quickly.

B.     We can see this greatly illustrated in Acts 5-6. The first problem was with Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5:1-11. Discipline was needed and Peter addressed it immediately. What would happen if they had just overlooked it because they were afraid others might get scared off? The sin would have spread like leaven throughout the whole body. However, they faced the problem and dealt with it immediately. Granted they lost at least two members and most of the Christians were afraid to hang out with the apostles. But in the long run, the church grew (Acts 5:12-14).

C.     In Acts 6:1-6, the Hellenistic widows were being overlooked in the daily ministration of food. The apostles could have gotten worried about the possible fallout over facing this issue of racism. But instead they took immediate action, and had the church appoint seven men to make sure everything was being taken care of properly. The Hellenists and the native Jews could have gotten into all kinds of fights over who to pick or over the validity of the claims, but in the long term, the church grew (Acts 6:7). Only when churches honestly face their problems and deal with them quickly will they ever grow.

VI.    A maintenance mentality focuses on members. A growth mentality focuses on guests.

A.      This is a very practical contrast. A maintaining church just simply does not think about their guests. They do not explain what is going on in the worship to the guests. They often do not even try to make their guests feel welcome. They certainly do not make any decisions about how the classes or the assemblies are to be conducted based on their guests.

B.     I Corinthians 14:23-25 clearly demonstrates that we need to think about the unbelievers who will come into our midst. We need to make decisions based on what will most convict them. Notice, I did not say we need to think about entertaining ways to get more guests. I simply said we need to conduct our worship in a way that will convict our guests.

C.     I can give you a very mundane illustration. Most churches are willing to bore guests to tears, shutting them down with 10 minutes of announcements that mean absolutely nothing to the guests at the beginning of every service. Why do we do this? Because old brother and sister so-and-so will get their feelings hurt if we neglect to mention their battle with bursitis this week. Brethren, we have Powerpoint, bulletins, phone trees, and other ways to get Christians to pray for each other or know when their group meeting is. However, a radical like me steps up and says we should use these other means and do away with all these announcements and I get accused of not loving the brethren. I do love the brethren, but I do not like sacrificing prospects for the sake of brethren. I’ll tell you what is most amazing about this example. Most people do not even remember what is announced anyway. But we cling to it like a drowning man to a lifeboat because so many of our brethren get their feelings hurt when their names do not get mentioned in front of the whole congregation.

D.     A growth mentality figures out a way to get the work done that the members need without sacrificing the guests and prospects among them.

VII.   A maintenance mentality kills a church. A growth mentality maintains it and grows it.

A.      Here is the ultimate result. In our hearts we know this to be true. Churches are like trees. They are either growing or they are dying. When we are so badly just trying to hang on to what we have already got that we will not let go of what is no longer working, we will not survive. When we are so afraid of rocking the boat that we will not excise the dead weight, we will founder. When we are so inwardly focused on pleasing ourselves that we do not work to convict our guests, we will die on the vine.

B.     A biblical growth mentality, for all of its shocks to the system, will not only take care of what we have got, but it will push us forward to achieve what we never imagined. A growth mentality recognizes that we have minor setbacks and course corrections along the way. But in the long run, the movement is always up.

C.     Just take a look at the Jerusalem church. That church was not the least bit into maintenance. They walked by faith and just did the Lord’s will. However, in Acts 8:1-4, doing the Lord’s will caused a persecution that scattered nearly every member of a church that numbered in the thousands. But they were growth minded. In Acts 8:14ff, they sent two of their best leaders into Samaria to help the church there grow. In Acts 11:22, they were able to send Barnabas to Antioch to help the church there grow. By Acts 21:20, James was able to say to Paul, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed.” That is what a growth mentality does.


      Here is the sad part. Most churches begin with a growth mentality. However, they usually hit a point where they shift from wanting more growth to wanting to protect the growth they have already had. Maybe they finally become self-supporting and fear having to go back to letting their preacher get outside support. Maybe they finally built a building and fear not being able to make the payments. Maybe they finally got some wealthy members and they fear losing them. Who knows, but it almost always happens. We must not let that happen here. We must keep the growth vision alive.


Glory to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Franklin Church of Christ