When God Builds a Church


I get amused when experts analyzing church growth
attempt to reduce it to some magical formula. Here at Southeast
Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, we’ve been in the middle
of miraculous growth for 30 years — watching our church grow from
150 people to more than 14,000 — and we can’t explain it! Jesus
compared the movement of the Holy Spirit to the wind: “The wind
blows wherever it pleases,” he said. “You hear its sound, but you
cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going” (John 3:8).

Over the years, as I’ve visited hundreds of churches and
talked to church leaders, I’ve observed a simple truth — some
churches are alive and some are dead. Regardless of their size,
live churches have certain characteristics that dead churches don’t
have. I wrote When God Builds a Church (Howard Publishing) as an
attempt to explain the basic spiritual principles that enable God
to pour out his blessings on a congregation. Here’s a summary of
those principles:

Truth — Proclaim God’s Word As Truth and Apply
It to People’s Lives.

God promises to bless his Word when it’s taught (Psalm 119:130). Yet even among churches that
believe the Bible to be God’s Word, few are training people to know
God’s Word, and even fewer are applying it in a practical way to
the daily lives of people. But when God’s Word is taught and made
practical, it produces a harvest of righteousness.

  • Take a look at your sermons and identify how you’re presenting
    biblical truths to your congregation along with practical
    applications to their lives.
  • Ask someone to evaluate your messages by writing down how a
    person can use what you’re
    saying that week.

Worship — Worship God Every Week In Spirit and

Our worship leader, Greg Allen, is a talented singer. But there
was a period of several months when we let Greg lead our worship
even though he couldn’t sing at all! In 1994 Greg had developed a
polyp on one of his vocal cords. For the next three years he
endured three surgeries to correct the problem. Each surgery was
surrounded by long periods of voice rest. For sixteen months, Greg
led our worship services — even though the vocal team behind him
did all the singing. (Some of our congregation never figured out
Greg was lip-syncing!) Yet we have so many people at Southeast with
musical talent, even people who have musical degrees and experience
in leading choirs. Why would we allow a guy to lead worship who
can’t even sing? Because it’s not all about the music. We come
together to worship God. The person leading us to worship should be
the one who has sincerity, integrity, humility, and leadership
ability, and can bring people to the throne of God.

  • Is your music time just a time of songs, or are you looking for
    ways to invite your congregation to the throne of God?
  • If you don’t have a paid or volunteer worship leader, look for
    people in your congregation who express worship skills and gifts.
    Encourage them to become a part of your worship team — in the
    areas of leading, participating, or planning.

Leadership — Develop Christ-Centered Leaders Who Lead
By Example.

A Christian publishing company recently concluded that the
greatest need in Christian churches in America is the need for
leadership. There’s a leadership void in our churches. There’s a
hunger for dedicated, charismatic personalities who can inspire
others to follow. One of the reasons our church has grown so
dramatically is that from the beginning we’ve had leaders who were
gifted to lead and who loved God with all their hearts.

  • Spend time with those in your congregation who portray
    leadership skills. Walk with them and give them opportunities to
  • Great leaders bring in other great leaders. Investing time in
    the lives of your leaders will produce new leaders. Multiplication
    is the key.

Excellence — Do Your Best In Every Area Of

Paul said in Colossians 3:23-24, “Whatever you do, work at
it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since
you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a
reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” When you come to
church and the grass isn’t cut, the paint is chipping off the
walls, the bulletin boards have missionary letters tacked on top of
each other dating back to 1973, the greeters are sloppily dressed,
the children’s class has no teacher, and the service is slipshod,
not only is it unworthy of Jesus Christ, it also negates your
efforts to evangelize. But when something is done with excellence,
it honors our Lord and people want to tell others about it.

  • Take an afternoon walk through your facilities with a note pad
    and someone who can be a “fresh pair of eyes.” Write down the
    things that need attention, and then prioritize them according to
    urgency and financial involvement.
  • It’s easy to get carried away with the idea of excellence in
    performance. However, strive to develop your worship service with
    excellence in presentation — from the bulletin to the special
    music — according to the personnel and provisions you have in your


When God Builds a Church
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