What Makes a Church Successful?

As of the writing of this post, I am 30 minutes away from staff meeting at The Grove.  (Question: is our official name Grove, The Grove or The Grove Church or Grove Church?  Do you have to use and capitalize all 3 words?  I want to do right.)  We are going to talk about this question:

What is success for a church?

This question, as with a lot of things church-related, can be quite controversial.  Some are offended by the question.  They believe that churches shouldn’t be concerned with success.  There’s a logical problem with saying that though.  Bear with me.  (Actually this makes me nervous, since there are a handful of PhD philosophers roaming around the Grove now.)  If churches aren’t supposed to be worried about success and instead, for example, should just focus on worship and loving people, then wouldn’t said church be successful, by their definition, if they focus on worship and loving people?  If the point of church is following after Jesus, then a church is successful if it does so.

I think what people want to do is distance themselves from the word success, because it has such a secular, read worldly, read evil, connotation.  Success means lots of people and/or money and/or programs and/or staff, etc.  Success in church in the “bad” model is measured by the same tools that businesses measure.  That inherently is wrong, so goes the line of thinking.

Though I may not completely agree with that line of thinking, I understand it.  The true measure of success of a church cannot be simply in cash flow and customers and jobs created.  Success for a church simply put is effectively doing what God has called us to do and be.  The question can then become what has God called us to and can we measure or gauge that.  I would argue that more people coming can be a measurement as can the church’s willingness to give.  That shouldn’t be the only measurement, but it can be one.  So can involvement, serving, missionaries sent, community needs met.  We could make a long list of things, I suppose.

However, here is the point of this post.  Depending on the “success” of what happens next, we may keep this conversation going with future posts.  How would you define success for a church?  How do you know if a church is successful?  Should a church even think in those terms?  If not, then in what terms should we think?  Is evaluating churches based on numbers of people and dollars inherently wrong?  If so, why?  If not, why not?

I ask a lot of questions.  You don’t have to try and answer all of them.  Just give your thoughts.  I would love to get a good discussion going here on churches and success.

No pressure, but I’m measuring the success of this based on the number of hits and posts (I love Google Analytics).


4 Responses to “What Makes a Church Successful?”
  1. Jennifer Loftin says:

    Obedience to God and waiting before Him to get marching orders is the only measure of success.

    One day lots of people are gonna stand before God and say, didn’t we do this for you and that for you and Jesus is gonna look at them and say “depart from me, I don’t know you”.

    I know a dear Indian family who God saved out of the Hindu priesthood and spoke to that He wanted to have them be workers in His vineyard. The Indian man didn’t even know what the word vineyard meant. He went and asked another believer and the guy explained that God was calling Him into ministry. Ten years he served without ONE SINGLE CONVERT, NOT ONE. He cried out, God my family is poor, people mock us saying why would we choose your God and be poor and rejected like you? Why God? I thought I was being obedient to you?” God told him to go 20 minutes a further direction. He has had fruitful ministry there. Tons of baptisms, set up orphanages, he has trained over 8o ministers. There has been a great cost. Many family members have been martyred, etc. Success is doing God’s work, God’s way on God’s timetable. And a lot of time it doesn’t make logical sense. Read the bible and it is full of a lot of illogical things, such as parting seas, going out to fight armies with no weapons just song, feeding tons of people with a few fish and loaves, busting out of jail from worship alone. These things still happen all over the world. Why? Because God does not change….He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Success is knowing Him and doing what He says. Period. And not doing what you want to do, even if it looks godly and then asking God to give His stamp of approval.

    I remember wanting to quit a job one time. It was torture going into that place everyday. I went home for lunch, typed a letter to give two weeks, and then picked up Oswalds’ “My upmost for His highest”. The scripture was about how Jesus didn’t stay where he was liked or leave where He was hated. He did all things in accordance to God’s will. Wow. I knew I better not leave that job. It is not based in logic this spiritual life of success. It is based in the spirit and in knowing God. That means waiting on Him, doing the things He says to do, learning how to move according to His spirit. Sometimes it means doing completely illogical things if says to do so. A successful church really knows God and is obedient to Him alone. The body doing exactly what the Head wants.

  2. kazzakiwi says:

    Hey there, I saw your tweet and clicked through to this story. I was back at my old church where I was really involved in leadership in the weekend. It’s grown massively in the last 7 years since I first moved there so it’s quite amazing to see. But I also know there is so much frustration with so many people, that so many people get hurt and burnt out and made to feel not good enough, I’ve had to counsel quite a few people and try to get them to go to church, any church again.

    But in church circles and even to some extent, in the media, it’s considered a very successful church. I think mostly this is measured by numbers (in fact I know numbers are important there, I used to have to email spreadsheets after lifegroup each week, it was pretty clear that having five people but a great experience and real community wasn’t good enough) and how loud and like a rock concert the worship is seems to come into it.

    The great commission does mean that naturally when anything good is happening things will grow, in my opinion. But, having seen first hand when the focus on numbers is so important, a lot of people get lost in the tide. There are so many other signs of a healthy church, I would love to see a shift away from purely counting to see how much people grow, serve, love, give (monetarily especially).

  3. Jennifer Loftin says:

    Btw, I have seen what I think is a healthy church and it is not big. http://hopevineyardstlouis.com/. They love on people and serve their community. The high school kids last Christmas decided to go buy Walmart gift cards and walk through the store praying about who to give them,too. One woman started weeping because she was in the throws of which of her kids she could afford to get new shoes. She wanted to give all her kids shoes but no money. She was praying as she was deciding and one of these high schoolers came up and gave a $100 gift card. Problem solved and God GLORIFIED! Waiting on him…this group loves so well. They know how to operate in all the gifts of the spirit – word of knowledge, prophecy, etc. But the focus is on Christ and not on gifts. Beautiful! The gifts sure do edify and it is not a place where there is a form of godliness with no power. They also as a congregation pick around 5 or 6 people they interact with on a regular basis (same gas station attendant, grocer, etc.) and pray for them daily and ask God to work salvation or healing, whatever is needed for this person and their family. Powerful stuff! Sometimes, they don’t speak about Christ to this person for years, until the Holy Spirit says “now”. I go up there every year for Easter and have for the last 10 years. I went through an awful time two years ago and God literally caused my car to break down and gave me a job at Comfort in hotel (living there, too) so that I could be ministered to here. They understand deliverance and healing. This sweet couple prayed with me from 7 p.m. to 1 p.m. They didn’t ask what to pray for. We waited on God to see what He revealed. Wow, does God ever know root issues. It was an awesome, cleansing time. The church in power, the church in love, the church doing the work of the gospel. Healing broken hearts, binding up wounds. The response above is so thoughtfully said. I think that is the state of many of our countries churches. Read Francine Rivers, “The Shofar Blew”. It’s fictional but boy is it ever true. Not that big is bad! I went to a church in Dallas, I think 7,000 people. I had 70 of those people know I was a visitor when I walked through the door. Place totally filled with the presence of God. They knew one another and loved each other – therefore new outsiders. The Sunday I was there 80 African American elders stood before the congregation and prayed over the place. These men knew God. The worship leader was talented but was constantly reminding us, we were not there just to sing some songs but we were there to worship the living God, who is Jesus. No performance spirit in that church. Didn’t have to hype it up or be ultra cute. Could be real and worshipful. Sure there was humor, but that wasn’t the draw. It was God, it was that the presence of the Lord was there.

  4. Jennifer Loftin says:

    I wish there was an edit button. 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. and a host of other corrections needed.

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