Written by Peter Blanch
Want to boost the numbers of people coming to church? Let’s not take a lesson from the Abundant life Christian centre church in Texas…
It was News Years Eve, 2005 and the church wanted to boost the numbers of people coming to their service. So… they ran a church service where they offered free raffle tickets to those who attended! What was the prize for winning the raffle? Was it a voucher for their christian book stall? Was it ten new Bibles for your growth group? Was it a months worth of home cooked meals?
No – unbelievably, these prizes were out by a long way. What the church was offering as an incentive to get people into their building was a house, worth $120 000 USD at the time.
There was a builder within the church family who offered to construct the house for just the cost of the materials. The church leadership was willing to pay that amount of money and so the house was built and the church service was held. The only catch to winning the prize is that you had to be actually there at the church service to win the prize.
In a television interview, the pastor emphasised that this was a way of reaching out to new people. The church service itself resembled a game show. There were 12 finalists [to represent the number of apostles] and each were given a key. Only one of the keys would open the mock front door of the house. So, one by one, the 12 contestants tried their key in the lock and finally a middle-aged mother of two unlocked the door to win the house.
Tacky? Yes. Wise? No. But just another way that some churches have pushed the envelope to attract new people to their church. Of course, the motivation here is all wrong. Surely, what motivated these newcomers was not a desire to learn about God or a desire to know and follow Jesus Christ, but rather greed. I do wonder what the church did to follow up these newcomers. How did they handle the sudden influx of people who were attracted to their church only by the game show atmosphere and the potential to win a massive prize? How would you move from the emotional thrill of potentially winning a house to next week where there is a sermon on Leviticus?
This reminds me of the need to keep close at mind the encouragement of the Apostle Paul to Timothy. Paul warned Timothy that:
“… the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth.”
2 Timothy 4:3-4
While the preaching of the gospel may seem, to some, an ineffective way to grow the church, we must never forget that “it is the power of God for salvation”. To grow the church [both in numbers and in maturity] we must be committed to preaching the gospel in season and out of season – whether it is popular or not. For not even the feeling of winning a house would be motivation enough to turn a persons heart from idols to serve the true and living God.
I hope those in every Christian church around the globe long for their church to grow. Not so they can blow their own trumpet and feel good about themselves. Not so that church leaders can build an empire and feel proud of their achievements. Those motivations would be out of place and impure. The right motivation we should all have for church growth is a deep longing for God’s name to be honoured and hallowed by more and more people.
God’s name is hallowed when people reject living for themselves and live with Jesus as their ruler. The more people who do that, the greater the magnification of God’s name. This means that church growth matters, for as more and more people commit their lives to Jesus, more and more people are saved, more and more people turn to living God’s good and right way, and more and more glory goes to God. Those who are added to God’s kingdom we want to see joining churches where they can grow in maturity as the gospel is preached and as they grow more and more like Jesus, for then we see even more glory brought to God’s name.
At WWEC we are praying for growth. Spiritual growth and numerical growth. Not so we can boast of being a large church. Not so we can feel we are doing a good job. Not so we can claim that we have achieved our ten year plan. We pray for the growth that comes from people hearing the gospel and being saved, turning to God and living for his glory. God willing, our prayers will be answered and we will grow in number. This will mean all our resources will be stretched. We will have to set up more chairs each week. We will have to start new services. We will have to hire more staff. We will need more people on the rosters. We might not know everyone at church at a personal level. But we are ready and willing to undergo such discomfort and stretching for the sake of God’s Kingdom and God’s glory.
Are you willing to grow? Are you praying for gospel growth? God is bringing His Kingdom in – will you be a part of it?