the shape of leadership

Six Indicators of Real Church Growth

Looking beyond the numbers

Influence Magazine on July 12, 2019

Church growth models focus almost exclusively on numerical gains. Across the board, the one factor experts lean on to determine a church’s overall health is rising or falling church attendance. This is great news for pastors of churches with growing attendance, but worrisome for those with plateaued numbers.

But are numbers a real indicator of growth? A church may see a sharp increase in attendance without experiencing true spiritual growth. On the other hand, many factors may attribute to declining numbers, including existing members starting new churches, which can actually be a sign of real growth.

Below are six indicators that go beyond the numbers to find real growth in churches. Think of each in terms of increasing focus, attention or intensity, regardless of the numbers. Look for these when evaluating your own church’s growth:

1. Call to Ministry

Not only are more people answering the call to ministry in growing churches, but there is also a desire among laity to get involved in ministry. Don’t just count those seeking ordination. Look for business leaders or homemakers who start Bible studies or gospel-centered outreaches. As these congregants go about their daily lives, they are impacting those around them.

2. Real Life Change

Disciples make disciples. As your church grows, you will see this happen more and more. Listen for testimonies of real life change, and then broadcast them to the rest of your people. This includes the breaking of addictions, restored relationships, forgiving old wounds and even healings.

People in growing churches will want to share their faith with others.

3. Sensitivity to the Lost

People in growing churches will want to share their faith with others. This means they will invite their unsaved friends to church so they can know God. They may also participate in short- or long-term missions trips. In fact, one sign of spiritual growth is an increased desire for the nations to come to Christ.

4. Interest in Baptism

Both water baptism and Holy Spirit baptism are important in the life of a believer. Without these, real spiritual growth is difficult. When your church is truly growing, you don’t have to convince people to follow Jesus in baptism and receive His power and presence through Spirit baptism. They will desire God’s best.

5. Obedience to God’s Word

Obedience God’s Word is not a prerequisite for salvation. But it is a hallmark of a life touched by Jesus. When a person comes to know Christ, he or she will want to align their life with His teachings. They will read the Bible more. They will make wiser decisions. And they will encourage others to do the same.

6. Awareness of Jesus’ Presence

Lastly, a growing church will experience the power of Jesus’ presence on a regular basis. People can encounter His presence in multiple ways, not the least of which is during worship. And that presence will extend outward from weekend services into the daily lives of members. An awareness that Jesus is with him or her should influence every area of a growing Christian’s life.

As you’ve read this list, no doubt there was some spark of familiarity. That’s because these six indicators were not randomly chosen. Jesus himself told His followers what to look for when helping people grow.

Matthew 28:19-20 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The Great Commission is your marching orders, but it should also be your barometer for success in church ministry.

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