Why some churches don’t grow

It was a pleasant afternoon conversation: an unnamed Pastor and I were talking …

Pastor: “We have been stuck at 30 for a while. How do we grow as a church?”

Me: “By reaching the lost. You are in a city with untold masses of people with no Pentecostal background. Many of them have no Christian upbringing to speak of. Reach out to them. Talk to people that God brings into your daily life. You’d be surprised how many will come.”

Pastor: “… (coughing) … Brother, I want to reach out to the backslider.”

Me: “We can do that. You can reach out to them during revival services. Do everything possible to contact them and make them welcome back. But don’t lose your focus on the lost. There are some backsliders who may not come, no matter how much we encourage them to.”

Pastor: “… (Pausing for a moment) … Brother, this church has always reached out to backsliders. I hear you about the lost, but I don’t want to ignore the backslidden.”

Me: “It’s not either-or. You can do both. Call, text, or visit those who have once been a part of this church. Make them feel as welcome to return as possible. But there must be a point where our attention turns to those who’ve never been to the church. They need the Acts 2:38 message, too.”

Pastor: “I just think we should focus on the backsliders.”

Me: … (frustrated) …

If you spend any time traveling in Pentecost, you’ll encounter many churches like the one described above. They are content with the number they have. They reach out to “backsliders”, but this is superficial: backsliders have been to an Apostolic church before. They know who and where you are and what you believe.
When the Pastor kept switching the subject to backsliders, I knew the actual meaning of his words: the lost were not a priority. “Backsliders” were the justification to ignore new souls being saved.

 - Jesus lost around 5,000 followers in John 6. I do not read Him and The Disciples reaching out to locate them and try to bring them in. Instead, I see Jesus preaching to new followers. Does that mean He didn’t care about them? No – but their decision to leave would not sideline His ministry of salvation.

 - When The Kingdom of Israel was divided into 2 parts – the northern and southern kingdoms – very little effort was made by The Levites to reach out to the Northern Kingdom. They had to choose for themselves to return to The Temple and worship God. Their split would not block the Southern Kingdom – the Kingdom of Judah – from continuing to worship Jehovah.

 - John The Baptist had scores of individuals he personally baptized. Only a handful of times do his followers appear after Jesus arrived on the scene. The Gospels do not record a concerted effort from the 12 to flip all of John’s converts over to following Jesus. John’s followers had even heard him say, “I must decrease and He (Jesus) must increase.” They knew what they should do. The ball was in their court.

I love those who have once been a part of Pentecost; the backsliders are not a group we are allowed to ignore. But their issues and concerns must not hinder the efforts of Apostolic ministry to offer salvation to all who come.

I want all who have walked through the church doors to stay in salvation. But even if they don’t, we’ll keep preaching to sinners.

I desire my personal friends who’ve left the Truth to return, but they must make that decision for themselves, and I must keep telling the Good News to “whomsoever will”.

Lastly, I challenge all of us to consider our personal witness: in 2019 so far, how many people have I invited to come to church with me? Whether or not they came is their own choice. My only request is to open the door for them. Let them decide if today is the day they’ll walk through it.


  1. Great thought brother, but if you'll allow, I'd add some other interesting scriptural references to support a view that there are seasons in which to focus on either/or. Jesus came with laser focus on the "Lost house of Israel," so much so that He dismissed the Greek woman in Mark 7 and called her a dog. While this sounds heartless on the surface, it should give us great encouragement. This reveals the intensity with which Christ pursued His people. He wasn't about to allow His focus to be drawn away from Israel. While He did eventually perform her request, He did so almost under protest because it drew Him away from His focus. Great news; He still pursues us now with that same laser focus!

    And, what is the prodigal if not God's calling of us wayward children home? Children...those who at one time were a part of His House but elected to squander their lives on worldly pursuits.

    And, thank the Lord for the account of Paul finding the disciples of John who had yet to be baptized correctly in Acts 19. They too could have been disregarded as having had already had their chance.

    I use these examples only to indicate, we need to be focusing on "planting and watering" wherever and whenever we can. We're to sow our seeds in virtually any condition, being in season and out, whether they've already heard or not.

    I love how you indicated this - DO BOTH! Our focus is on reaching the lost - PERIOD! As pastoring a church who has been stuck at 50 for most of it's tenure, I've come to realize, I have not been called to grow a church, I've been called to grow people; love people; reach people, love people, and if the result is allows our church to increase in number, so be it.

    Last thing I'll say - We have churches that are adding members all of the time. That looks good on paper, but we're not called to add members, we called to make disciples. Members can come and go. Disciples are made and sent forth!

    Great piece brother!


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