I start this post with a caveat: I believe in the historical understanding of Church Growth, marked by evangelism that necessarily resulted in disciples in the local church. I affirm, for example, the words of church growth writers Donald McGavran and Win Arn from the 1970s: “. . . we deceive ourselves if we believe that a person who has made a decision for Christ, who has prayed, ‘I accept Jesus Christ into my life,’ has truly become a disciple. We must make sure that he or she really follows Christ, really lives as a disciple. . . . We do well to use the more biblical concept of disciple and to evaluate our effectiveness in that context.”
On the other hand, I also think it’s wise to be aware of these cautions about church growth:
1. Growing a Crowd.
It’s possible to grow a crowd, but not a church. A group of people who gather on Sunday are not automatically a New Testament church – even if the word “church” is in their name.
2. Growth and God’s blessings.
Growth is not necessarily a sign of God’s blessing. A crowd might increase even when the gospel is not preached. Higher numbers might be the product of God’s work, but they’re not a guarantee.
3. Growth by Transferring Members.
Growth resulting only from transferring members can be deceptive. Of course, transferring one’s membership to another congregation is exactly the right move in some cases. Churches that grow only through that means, though, are often lulled to sleep evangelistically.
4. Evangelism without discipleship.
Even when the church is growing, evangelism without discipleship is not fully biblical church growth. Making disciples (Matt. 28:18-20) includes not only reaching non-believers, but also equipping believers to carry out the work of the gospel (Eph 4:11-12).
5. Discipleship without Evangelism.
Likewise, discipleship without evangelism is not fully biblical church growth. My generation focused more on evangelism (though we didn’t do it well), to the neglect of discipleship. I fear that the young generation today is overcorrecting our omission by emphasizing discipleship to the neglect of evangelism.
6. Church Growth Attendance.
Church growth attendance numbers are not enough. I’m not opposed to numerical evaluation; in fact, I think we don’t ask enough numerical questions. Attendance matters, but so does the number of attenders who genuinely model Christ. And the number who share their faith and invest in believers. And the number who are growing in their spiritual disciplines and serving in the church. And the number of members we send out to take the gospel around the world. And the number of parents who are teaching their children the Word of God. And, I could go on and on. . . . Accountability matters, and numbers are one means to move in that direction.
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7. Growing Adams and Not Christ.
It is possible to grow an Adams and not Christ’s Church. As I look round today, I see lot of what we call church growth as purely a gathering of people that are truly estranged from God. Simply because we make human efforts to please God, receive from Him even in our sinful and disobedient state of heart and life. That is the church of Adam. While Christ’s church consist only of those that truly repents, live Godly and shows HIM to others by their lives and works.
Whose Church are you growing?
By Francis Akin-John.
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I am a bit reluctant to articulate the characteristics of effective church leaders for fear that some may take the information and reduce it to a neat, quick-fix formula, and that others may see this approach as human-centered, denying the reality of a sovereign God. Nevertheless, in our studies of churches that are reaching people and retaining them through biblical discipleship we have seen a very clear pattern develop, especially in contrast to leaders in other churches that did not meet our criteria.
Keep in mind that it is the total and the composition of these traits that distinguish the effective leaders from other leaders. Many of the less effective leaders share some, but not all, of these traits. I will refer to these leaders as pastors, though some of the churches used other nomenclature, such as ministers.
1. Fierce biblical faithfulness.
Without exception, these pastors held to the total truthfulness of God’s Word. Not only did they believe the veracity of Scripture, they passionately lived out their beliefs.
2. Longer tenure
The leaders we studied are willing and even want to have long-term ministries at one church. While longer tenure itself is not the key to effective leadership, a series of short-term pastorates rarely allows one time to establish lasting leadership in a church. In one of our national surveys of pastors, we found the average pastoral tenure to be 3.6 years. But in different studies of effective leaders, those pastors had an average tenure ranging from 11.2 to 21.6 years.
3. Confident humility.
In our subjective interviews with effective church leaders across the nation, our interviewers repeatedly reported that the leaders had a clear and compelling confidence about their own leadership. But that confidence was not arrogance. To the contrary, their confidence centered more on what God was doing and less on their own inherent abilities.
4. Acceptance of responsibility.
We did not hear of excuses for ineffective ministry from these effective leaders, even though many of them experienced prolonged periods of struggles. Instead, these pastors accepted the leadership responsibility that comes with their position, and they refused to blame circumstances or others when the inevitable times of conflict and challenge occur.
5. Unconditional love of the people.
Ministry can be dirty and Christians can be jerks. It is often difficult to love those who complain and attack you. But these effective leaders, with no claims of perfection, still expressed an intense love for the members of their congregations. In some measure, they have learned to love as Christ loved us.
Because these leaders have a long-term perspective of their ministries at the churches where they serve, they are able to lead toward progress one incremental step at a time. That is not to say they have a laissez-faire attitude; to the contrary, these pastors are incredibly persistent.
7. Outwardly-focused vision.
An integral part of the lives of these effective leaders was their passion and vision to reach people who were not Christians and who were not a part of their churches. To say that these leaders are evangelistically focused would be an understatement. They are passionate about reaching the lost and unchurched, and the visions they communicated inevitably reflected this priority.
8. A desire for a lasting legacy.
The ambition and drive of these leaders cannot be denied. But that ambition is not limited to their personal successes. They are ambitious for their churches to be thriving and healthy well beyond their ministries and even their lifetimes.
In the final analysis, we cannot know how much of leadership skills are innate and how much can be acquired. These leaders will tell you, however, that they have made significant strides in becoming better leaders. Such are their testimonies. And perhaps, in God’s strength, we can follow these examples and become the types of leaders God wants us to be.-THOM S. RAINER, CHRISTIAN POST CONTRIBUTOR.
THE FOUNDER AND FIRST GENERAL OVERSEER OF REDEEMED CHRISTIAN CHURCH OF GOD.
PA Akindayomi, Josiah Olufemi. He was the founder and first general overseer of what is today known as the Redeemed Christian Church of God. The church, today acclaimed as the fastest growing Pentecostal church in the world, started in 1947 as an independent prayer fellowship, the Glory of God Fellowship.
This group blossomed into the Redeemed Christian Church of God in 1952.
Josiah was born in 1909 into the Akindayomi family in Ondo State, Nigeria. From early childhood Josiah’s parents noticed unusual things about him. When he was sick, allegedly his sickness, that usually defied traditional medecin-the most common treatment for sickness in those days-would abate and subsequently disappear once he was bathed with ordinary water. Josiah himself also had an inkling that he was different, for although he grew up in an environment where the worship of Ogun (the Yoruba divinity of iron and war) was prevalent, he was aware of the existence of a greater power and yearned to know the true God who created the earth and everyone in it. His yearning after God led him into the Anglican Church where he was baptized in 1927. Still spiritually unfulfilled, he joined the Cherubim and Seraphim Church in 1931. A few years later he began to hear a voice inside him declaring that he would be a minister of God. He was not at ease with this voice, which he identified as God’s call to full time ministry. For seven years he ignored it, since he had never intended to be a pastor. During this period, virtually everything went wrong for him. All his business ventures failed; heavily in debt and without peace of mind, he found himself totally dependent on the grace of God.
The turning point for Josiah came when, in 1940, he dreamed of an old man scratching his leg. He woke up the next morning with a sore on his leg that deteriorated significantly within a short period of time. Then he heard the voice inside him telling him to submit to God’s will and to serve him. When he asked for signs to confirm that the call was from God he was given the following passages as confirmation: Jeremiah 1:4-10, Isaiah 41:10-13, and Romans 8:29-31.  Without the use of medication, the Lord healed the sore on his leg. This marked the beginning of a definite relationship with God. Totally broken, he yielded to God, saying, “Lord I will go wherever you want me to go.” The Lord assured him that he would provide for all his needs as he would henceforth receive no salary from anyone. This promise from the Lord was a comforting reminder to him during his trials in subsequent months.
Akindayomi was married in 1947 and relocated to Lagos in the latter part of that year. In Lagos, he worshipped with the Cherubim and Seraphim Church at its Ibadan Street, Ebute-Metta branch, where Prophet Onanuga, the immediate successor to Prophet Moses Orimolade, the church founder, was the leader. He was still with the church in 1947 when a zeal for a better service and a deeper experience with God prompted him to start the prayer fellowship later known as the Glory of God Fellowship that met at 9, Willougby Street, Ebute-Metta, Lagos. Initially there were nine members; however the fellowship gradually grew as the news of the miracles that occurred in their midst spread. It became so popular that it drew not only members of the church, but others from the neighborhood.
By 1952 he felt persuaded to leave the Cherubim and Seraphim Church. The fellowship he had started then grew into the Redeemed Christian Church of God. The name of the church was said to have been revealed to the founder in a vision. Allegedly the letters forming the name of the church appeared in the English alphabet to Akindayomi, who could neither read nor write. Miraculously he was able to scribble down the individual letters which, when put together, read “The Redeemed Christian Church of God.” This has been the name of the church ever since.
In this same vision God promised to take the church to the ends of the earth and declared that the Lord Jesus Christ would meet the church when he returned in glory. The Lord also established a covenant with Akindayomi similar to the Abrahamic covenant in the Bible, promising to meet all the needs of the church in wonderful ways if only members would serve Him faithfully and be obedient to His Word. The Redeemed Christian Church of God was formed, based on this covenant, in 1952.
The church continued to meet at 9 Willoughby Street until they acquired some land and relocated to their headquarters at 1-5 Redemption Way, Ebute-Metta, Lagos (formerly 1a Cemetery Street). In the 1950s it was quite fashionable for Nigerian independent churches to affiliate with overseas ministries for expansion purposes. However, according to sources, God strongly instructed the Redeemed Christian Church of God not to merge with any foreign or overseas body. Today the church has become one of the fastest growing Pentecostal churches in the world.
Like Moses in the Bible, Akindayomi named his successor before his death. In the early 1970s God had told him that his successor, who was not yet a member of the church, would be a young educated man. Thus when a young university lecturer joined the church in 1973, Akindayomi was able to recognize him in the Spirit as the one whom the Lord had spoken of. This man, Enoch Adejare Adeboye, a lecturer in mathematics at the University of Lagos, soon became involved in the activities of the church. He became one of the interpreters translating Akindayomi’s sermons from the Yoruba language into English. He was ordained a pastor of the church in 1975.
One day the Lord revealed to Akindayomi that it was time for him to die. He then sent for Pastor Adeboye and spent several hours with him, sharing the details of the covenant and the plans of the Lord for the church. A year earlier, the Lord had revealed to Pastor Adeboye that he would be Akindayomi’s successor, but it was too difficult for him to fully contemplate such an awesome responsibility. Akindayomi died in 1980 at the age of 71. Thereafter Pastor Adeboye’s appointment was formalized and he has since been the general overseer of the church.Today God is still doing powerful work through the Redeemed Christian Church of God worldwide. In 1981 there was an explosion of growth in the number of parishes. At the last count there were about 2,000 parishes of the church in Nigeria. The church is also present in other African nations, including: Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Zambia, Malawi, Zaire, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Gambia, Cameroon, and South Africa. In Europe the church has spread to England, Germany, and France. In the Americas there are U.S. parishes in Dallas, Tallahassee, Houston, New York, Washington, and Chicago, and in the Caribbean states of Haiti and Jamaica. One prominent program of the church is the Holy Ghost service, an all-night miracle service, held on the first Friday of every month at the Redemption Camp at Km. 46, Lagos-Ibadan expressway. The average number of those who attend the service is about 500,000. The Holy Ghost service is now also held in London on a quarterly basis.
God bless the faithful leaders and all the aspiring leaders of the end time harvest of Christ.