How to know if your church is successful


I remember my first experience at a megachurch.

It was a Saturday night, and we arrived about thirty minutes before the service was scheduled to start. We waited patiently in line with hundreds of other people. Signs covered the walls, each with the title of a previous series. The familiar aroma of freshly brewed coffee hung in the air. Security guards stood by each entrance. Staff members, most barely out of their teens, walked around in skinny jeans and over-sized caps.

Our feet throbbed from the bass thundering inside the sanctuary. It was as if we were waiting in line for a concert. I wondered if it was the same feeling cattle experience when being herded into a fenced enclosure. I believed I even vocalized some mooing sounds while we waited. All in good humor, of course.

Christians are so talented at saying “The church is people, not the building”, yet we continue building bigger and better ones. I’m not anti-church. See my article from last week, Why you shouldn’t go to church.

Jesus wasn’t hip, trendy, fashionable, or good looking. Isaiah 53:2 says:

For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant,
And as a root out of dry ground.
He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.

Yet, as the corporate body of Christ, we feel the need to be all of those things in order to reach people. We have catchy sermon titles named after popular culture. We play secular music before each sermon. We have trendy coffee shops in the lobby.

I’m not saying those things are wrong. I’m saying, let’s not sell out cheap when the Gospel is the most amazing thing ever. Jesus didn’t need any gimmicks to reach people. He loved them.

Society has several factors that determine how successful a church is.

Numbers in attendance. How much money is given to outreach. How big the worship team is. How many locations or campuses. How many books the pastor has published. The list can go on and on.

I’m here to tell you there is a different way to gauge how truly successful your church is. And it’s a very simple concept.

Strip away the smoke machines, the latest technology, the coffee shops, the trendy accessories and clothing, the dazzling websites showing how much money and time you spend in the community, the luxury cars, the fancy houses, the huge buildings, and the CD’s on iTunes.

Strip everything away until there is nothing left but Jesus.

Are you still happy with church?

Everything I mentioned in the previous paragraph will one day burn. None of it has any lasting value in the overall big picture.

If we need to do all of those things in order to get people through the doors, maybe we need to step back and look at what motivates us. Maybe, just maybe, we are spending too much time inside the building playing church and not enough time outside actually being the church. 

We say Jesus is all we need, but we don’t live that way. To what lengths are we willing to go in order to ultimately die to our self?

Go to church. Invite people to church. Pray that lives are changed. Preach the Gospel.

If everything around us is gone tomorrow, yet we are completely satisfied with Jesus alone, then we have a successful church.

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19 thoughts on “How to know if your church is successful

  1. Spot on Chris! Jesus is the focus of the Church. I would be careful though, I do believe making people feel welcome in church is a must. The Gospel was meant to be contextualized to the culture that its in. I think what gets lost in so called Mega Churches is that they completely miss on the culture end. In other words it feels fake or forced.

    But again, if Jesus isn’t the reason, I ain’t listenin!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. wow. at the risk of sounding melodramatic, I can truly say that this blog post has changed something deep inside me (i’m reluctant to say it has changed my life but *sigh* i’m at a loss for words). This post. hmm still can’t find the words. I guess I’ll just say thank you and leave it at that.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I so agree with you on this. I really do feel quite sickened by the cult of celebrity which sweeps through some Churches. I go to one mega church and they have these cards on the seats advertising visiting preachers. They just have the person’s name in huge writing without saying what they’re talking about. I haven’t even heard of these people. Why should I go listen to them? Who are they? Huge turn off. I like going to quite a small church, which is struggling with numbers and just being viable on all levels and while I was there I really felt God touch me and say: “Church/Christianity isn’t a performance”. A few years ago, I wrote something about Jesus didn’t wear a leather jacket because all the guys at Church did. It was like a uniform. Yuck!! I want something real xx Rowena

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  4. Before I converted fully, I went to several different churches. The one I stayed with has a liturgy that can be traced back to the writings of Justin Martyr, a disciple of St. John the Beloved. I became Catholic.

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  5. Amen! “Seeker Friendly” shouldn’t be our aim. We shouldn’t need or put our focus on making someone comfortable. We should aim to preach the gospel enough that the reality of sin and need for Christ is clear. In fact, popularity may often be a sign of compromise, not necessarily that God is blessing what a church is doing.

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  6. I have never been to a mega-church and do not think it is an environment I would want to spend my time in on a weekly basis. I prefer my church where everyone knows each other.

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    1. If “everyone knows each other,” has anyone gotten out of their comfort zone and invited someone new to church? If all of our friends are Christians who believe as we do, perhaps we should repent of our laziness and begin taking the Gospel to unbelievers.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. We actually do Don. We do several outreach projects throughout the year and have new members join the church every year. I prefer talking to a pastor who knows my name 🙂

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  7. “Strip everything away until there is nothing left but Jesus. Are you still happy with church?”

    I’m puzzled as to what you mean by ‘nothing left but Jesus’. Clearly, you don’t mean a guy in white sitting on a park bench, but what do you mean? What is a non-believer, looking at the church, going to see?

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  8. (Yet, as the corporate body of Christ, we feel the need to be all of those things in order to reach people. We have catchy sermon titles named after popular culture. We play secular music before each sermon. We have trendy coffee shops in the lobby.
    I’m not saying those things are wrong. I’m saying, let’s not sell out cheap when the Gospel is the most amazing thing ever. Jesus didn’t need any gimmicks to reach people. He loved them.)

    My only disagreement is the playing of secular music playing before any sermon is unacceptable, otherwise I concur with all the rest. The church should never permit the things of the world inside the body of Christ! All praise and glory to God our Father and our Saviour Jesus Christ our Lord!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. “THE MOST HIGH DOES NOT LIVE IN HOUSES BUILT BY HUNAN HANDS”

    “WATCH OUT. BE ON GUARD AGAINST ALL FORMS OF GREED. LIFE DOES NOT CONSIST IN AN ABUNDANCE OF POSSESSIONS.”

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you. Very well said! I attend a larger church (about 300 or so per service) and sometimes I get the feeling that some are there just to be entertained or just to show face. It is wonderful to know that so many will come to hear the Word in one setting. But then it becomes a discouraging thought when you think that most of them are there because of how “cool” church is or because they think (speculating here) that putting in the time will do it. My minister can concoct amazing sermons. Part of the reason why I’m still attending this particular church. But sometimes I just wish he would push us more, to give us the hard truth, to encourage us not to become like the world. Because when the service is over and I look around, it can be hard to see a difference between the congregation and those outside of the sanctuary.

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