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.
A maintenance mentality relies on us. A growth mentality
relies on God.
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.
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.
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.
A maintenance mentality is satisfied. A growth mentality is
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.
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.
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.
A maintenance mentality looks behind. A growth mentality
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.
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
A maintenance mentality wants to stay the same. A growth
mentality wants change.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
A maintenance mentality avoids problems. A growth mentality
faces them quickly.
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
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).
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.
A maintenance mentality focuses on members. A growth
mentality focuses on guests.
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.
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.
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.
A growth mentality figures out a way to get the work done
that the members need without sacrificing the guests and prospects
A maintenance mentality kills a church. A growth mentality
maintains it and grows it.
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.
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
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
to God in the church by Christ Jesus
Church of Christ