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Why Focusing Equally on Your Church and City Is Key to Growth

churchgrowth churchplanting growth leadership outreach serving Mar 01, 2022

A lot of churches are stuck and they don’t know why.

Trust me, I know this from experience. Years ago at my church we felt like we had examined every possible cause for our “slow-to-no” growth. We attended all the best conferences, read all the best books, and used all the best tools we could find. And don’t get me wrong—those things were helpful and necessary, but there was a fundamental switch that needed to be flipped. We needed to move from an “either/or” mindset to a “both/and” mindset.

Here’s the bottom line—and I’m convinced that in every example of healthy church growth you will find this to be true: Churches were meant to multiply. When you read the New Testament, there doesn’t seem to be any other model of what a church should aim for. Just as disciples of Jesus are expected to make new disciples, churches are expected to make new churches. It’s as though we can’t reach our full potential without this one critical piece.

Multiplication is the most exhilarating opportunity in life, period. Nothing better expresses the creative genius of bearing God’s image. There is no better reward for a parent than to raise up a healthy, growing child. There is no bigger thrill for a leader than to develop another leader that will go on to do greater things. And there is no greater achievement for a church than to reproduce another healthy, reproducing church. It’s a mark of maturity, and I believe it should become one of the primary measures of church health. Without church multiplication there is no proof of church health, and there is certainly no shot at building a sustainable movement.

But sadly, it’s not happening. With only 7% of churches in America currently reproducing, we aren’t even keeping up with attrition. It can seem nearly impossible to see widespread improvement in this area. If we could make progress—even a little bit of progress—in this area, the wins would be enormous. On a broad scale, our capacity as Christ-followers to serve, lead and add value across our country would skyrocket. If we could double our multiplication rate over the next 10 years in America, we could get ahead of the curve on church decline and make a new statement to a new generation that Jesus is alive and hope is real. We could carve out new spaces for emerging young leaders to explore and express their calling and giftedness at an accelerated rate, making the church once again a platform for excitement and adventure. This is the kind of thing that could literally change the world. But it’s never going to happen if we don’t flip the switch in our individual churches.

We have a balance problem. It’s easy for churches to lean either inward or outward. We need both. When leaders focus only on the well being of the church itself, we end up creating an organization that is overinflated, selfish, crippled by latency and ineffective in expanding the gospel. On the flip side, when leaders focus only on the well-being of the city, with no plan for nurturing the church, we end up creating anemic churches and unsustainable movements that stall out by starvation. This is where we need balance. We need to focus on both the church and the city.

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