How do you measure growth? And once you know how to measure it, how do you achieve it? Many, if not most, churches and ministries these days measure growth by the amount of activity that is going on and by the amount of people involved in those activities. Those people may be leaders or participants but it seems like “bigger is better” in the eyes of the church. Back in the gold rush days many people were fooled by fool’s gold. They thought they had the real thing only to find out it was worthless. In the same way, big numbers are the church’s equivalent of fool’s gold. While it is true that the Holy Spirit blessed the early church with large numbers of converts, how did that happen? God did bless with numbers, but what was the process or the cost of those numbers? The answer is simple: personal, individual growth.
What you need to do to grow your ministry is to first grow yourself. Growth has to happen in you before it happens in others over which you have influence. How do you grow yourself? You don’t do it by setting up a set of rules for yourself like I tried to do. That’s legalism. It’s true that there are certain TV shows, movies, music, hobbies you probably shouldn’t participate in. But the reason for not participating in them should not be simply because it may be bad for you or God might not like it. It should be because you don’t want ANYTHING to interfere with your love relationship with the Lord. That’s holiness. The difference between legalism and holiness is where your heart is. If you want others to love God then you need to love Him. They need to see it in you. It needs to ooze off of you and on to others.
Study God’s word for yourself, for your own benefit. Keep track of what you learn and how the Lord changes you through your study of His word. Then, teach others what you have learned. Teach them what you learn, what is changing in you, how you are growing. As you do this, growth will happen in the lives of your people. Personal growth begins with personal Bible study but it doesn’t end there. It used to be that people would share tapes of great Bible studies or great Bible teachers with each other. Now the thing is MP3s and podcasts. Over the past two years I have been an MP3 fiend. I used to spend 4-6 hours in the car every day. To kill time I would watch DVDs on my laptop. Well, I wouldn’t watch them I would listen to them. Listening to a 2-hour movie makes a 2-hour dive go much faster. Once I got bored with my movies I discovered a teacher of mine from Bible college who had all his stuff in MP3 format. He was now a full-time pastor teaching through the Bible. So I downloaded his stuff to my computer and listened to that in the car. I then won an iPod in a contest and put all his stuff on that, in addition to another pastor I really enjoyed. It was awesome! I realize that most people don’t have that much time to listen to stuff but most people have more time than they realize. What is more beneficial for your walk with the Lord: catching your favorite TV show or digging into an MP3 of what you are studying? Again we come back to the legalism/holiness question. I would never presume to tell someone what to do or not to do in this situation. I would tell them to seek the Lord about it.
So what I’m trying to say is grow yourself. Spend your time, effort, and energy in making that your priority. As you do, those in your ministry will grow. As they grow, they will automatically tell others about their relationship with Jesus, and the numbers will come. The numbers aren’t to goal, they are the fruit, the byproduct.