Two disclaimers before we begin.
First, the title of this article is deceptive. “How to grow a church” is apparently one of the most popular online church-related searches, which in part is the impetus behind the title. My hope, Lord willing, is that some pastor somewhere who trusts the Lord, who believes in the authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures, and who is laboring to be faithful—and yet who is struggling to reach people and attract new visitors—my hope is that someone like that does an online search for ‘how to grow a church’ and stumbles across this article.
Second, I don’t believe in “growing churches.” Per se. Numerically, that is. I am a part-time pastor and one of the elders at my church, Firm Foundation Bible Church near Prescott, Arizona, and I was saved and established as a new believer through the radio ministry of the late R.C. Sproul. My church is a reformed (small “r”), baptistic, independent, elder-led, theologically-conservative, Bible-believing church. Several years ago I began MDiv studies at The Master’s Seminary, and my good friend and co-laborer at Firm Foundation is a TMS graduate.
If the pedigree doesn’t give it away, all of that is simply to say that I don’t believe in “growing churches” as a numbers game. I believe in a biblical understanding of growing churches, which means growing Christians, the individual members of Christ’s body who are committed to one another in the local church. Biblically speaking, real church growth is spiritual growth, and that happens as Christians grow together in likeness to the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 4.11-16). That kind of growth is God’s work, not man’s (1 Corinthians 3.6-7), and it happens as we give ourselves to the means God has given us through which he’s promised to grow us (again, see Ephesians 4.11-16), and then trusting him with the results. And that’s how to grow a church.
That said, I suspect that when this question is asked, in most cases the intent is something like what a pastor asked recently when he said, “How do we get more visitors to our church?” From the perspective of a pastor and a designer with a marketing background, I would like to try to deal with that question from what I hope is a biblical perspective.
Unfortunately, in theologically-conservative circles, things like “marketing” and “church growth” are four-letter words (or phrases).