Sharing Eight Virtues of Rapidly Growing Churches

April 10, 2019

by Rev. Mike Ramsdell*
Bishop Lowry asked the Cabinet to read a brand-new book by Matt Miofsky and Jason Byassee called "Eight Virtues of Rapidly Growing Churches". The book is available on Amazon and other retailers. I know Matt, the pastor of The Gathering, a rapidly growing multi-site new church plant in St Louis. He is a Methodist Pastor. Last year, in partnership with First Methodist Mansfield, I went on “The Journeys of Paul” trip with Matt and many of his church family. 
The following is a quick outline with a few teaching points that might be helpful and maybe peak your interest in the book. It is worth the read whatever your church size or location.
Rapidly growing churches share the following virtues:
1. Rapidly growing churches believe in miracles and act accordingly
I loved this chapter. In my own ministry I lead a church that grew consistently for more than two decades. I think the story of the miracle is key. God works in churches working to be faithful with a focus of making disciples of Jesus Christ. Look for the miracle, ask for the miracle, celebrate the miracle and thank God for the miracle. I can quickly track back to that season where it wasn’t what I or someone else did, but what God did to carry the church into a new level of effectiveness.

2. Rapidly growing churches integrate new people quickly
These churches have systems and a culture that focuses on new people on a daily and weekly basis. They don’t just take in new members, they immediately begin making disciples of them. They have a plan, people and programs that address this quickly. They involve new people and learn to shut the back door where so many churches fail. They don’t just have a pathway to discipleship - they have disciples. I see too many times when churches ask their church to do things only disciples can and will do and they don’t have very many of them.

3. Rapidly growing churches love the local community
Interacting with the community is a huge part of growing churches, not just serving it, but partnering with its heart and life. This includes training the church family to understand that discipleship includes this key element. The growing church should be visible in almost every element of a community - schools, city and ministry. The growing church helps shape the community it is in.

4. Rapidly growing churches exist to reach the next person
The growing church builds its life, worship, buildings, etc., around the guest, the unchurched, those not yet part of the church, and not just its present members and constituents. The leader of a growing church is always thinking about how to reach and who to reach in the next steps of the life of this church.

5. Rapidly growing churches elevate the practice of giving
I absolutely agree with this chapter. Besides, a growing church needing financial resources, a key part of discipleship is teaching people to be generous.  When we make the decision that new people should not have to give or it’s not important, we are neglecting a huge key to future growth, for them, and for the church. Generosity and giving should be up front and personal. Telling guests and new people not to give is a bad call.

6. Rapidly growing churches work in teams
It took me a while to understand this in my own leadership. If we think we are enough, our preaching, charisma, or whatever, we are putting a lid on the growth of the church. It is true now more than ever that it takes a team, and teams of people who become very involved and very committed to the common vision for the church to grow and keep growing, and especially to step up to the next level.

7. Rapidly growing churches preach well to the skeptic
This is one of the most important pieces of a growing church today. In a culture with more and more none's and less and less I grew up in church and know church language people. Churches who expect to grow by reaching churched people will eventually decline. The good news is that the church was originally designed to reach the skeptic. We are in a season where building church around the skeptic is a biblical way to build. The church was never intended to center in the long-term member, but in the world of the lost sheep.

8. Rapidly growing churches make friends with the denomination
Lone ranger churches typically don’t do well long term. Relationships with other churches and other pastors are important. Leading a church in ongoing growth is not easy and walking with others who have and are doing it well can be critical. Find the resources that are available, local and national. Become friends with your Superintendent, your Bishop and the other Methodist churches in your area.
I hope you find these few bullet points useful. Even though we might all know them, the critical points they bring out can easily be laid aside or lost in the whirlwind of church demands. Staying focused on what grows a church is a non-negotiable part of keeping a church growing. I was blessed to be a part of one of only five large Methodist Churches in the country that grew over a 20-year period. If long term growth is what we are looking for, these points ring very true to me.
*Mike is the executive director for the Smith Center for Evangelism, Missions and Church Growth for the Central Texas Conference.