When we’ve stopped growing, 99 times out of 100 it’s not because we don’t know what to do next, it’s because we’ve grown complacent.
Senior Pastors come to me all the time looking for the silver bullet to church growth, to preaching, to leading their congregation to become generous.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: there is no silver bullet. There is no ONE unique strategy that once embraced organizationally wide will help everything get better.
A Pastor Who Hustles
All things being equal, the thing that almost always separates growing, healthy, effective outreach-focused churches (outside of sound doctrine) from non-growing ones, is the presence of a Senior Pastor who hustles.
Who works hard.
Who doesn’t make excuses.
I’m talking about Senior Pastors who do everything they can to wring every last ounce of impact out of the gifts God has given them, for his glory.
These people put in the hours. Simple. As. That.
These leaders work hard at creating boundaries, achieving top physical health, and streamlined workflow processes SO they can work as hard as possible for as long as possible.
These leaders aren’t demanding of their staff because of the hourly expectations they place on them, but because of the overwhelming statement their work ethic has on the people around them.
Show me a Senior Pastor that works hard, within godly boundaries, and fueled by godly ambitions, and I’ll show you a leader who will find a way to win in any circumstance.
The opposite is true as well.
You May Not Have Hustle If
Here are the three most common statements you’ll hear that indicates that a Senior Pastor needs to step up their game:
“I don’t have enough time”
I don’t buy it.
Stop watching Netflix.
Stop playing around on Twitter and Instagram.
Stop spending 17 hours a week on a sermon that should only take you four to write. Trust me, it’s not any better.
Stop sleeping in.
Stop spending three hours a week on fantasy football.
Senior Pastors like to claim that they work hard, and smart, but take an objective peak underneath the hood and I bet you’ll find, in the words of Hamlet, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
“I don’t know what to personally focus on”
Leaders under 600 tell me they don’t know where to start. I get that. Been there.
When we were a church of 5 that grew over time to 600, I really only did five things well: (1) I preached the best sermons I could (2) I made a list of the top 100 most influential people in the community and personally met with every single one of them and stayed in contact with them (3) I taught our people to tithe (4) I met with 10 leaders a week to lead them to Christ (what I later termed “leadership evangelism”). I mean I literally had 10 breakfast and lunch meetings a week for four straight years with anyone that looked, walked, talked, and acted like a leader. Finally, (5) I built a team to do everything else.
If you’re under 600 and want to lead your church to impact, nobody is stopping you from doing these five things. You don’t need board permission. You don’t need much money. Yes, your list may look different than mine, but you need a list of priorities, and then you need to work the heck out of them.
The reality is we know what to do, it’s just we want to find some trick, some hack, some shortcut that will allow us to bypass the work. I get that. Oh trust me, I get that.
I’m convinced many leaders go to conferences and read the latest how-to church growth books because they’re looking for a quick-fix way around the hard work.
There is no way around.
“I don’t know what model to choose”
Ten years ago people jumped on the “missional” church model because, as all church fads go, “this” would be the way forward. “This” would cure our ills. “This” would finally help us train real disciples the way Jesus would if he were here.
Over the last 25 years I have fielded calls and emails from Senior Pastors who were wondering if they should lead their church through the “flavor of the month” church fad:
* Baby-boomer church
* Seeker-driven church
* Seeker-sensitive church
* Purpose-driven church
* Worship-evangelism church (Hillsong version)
* Worship-evangelism church (Blink 182 version)
* Small groups church
* Church OF small groups (because churches WITH small groups suck)
* Cell church
* Gen X church
* Postmodern church
* Postmodern church (the kind that hates Brian McLaren but still embraces David Crowder’s goatee)
* One church, with many campuses (rotating teaching team)
* One church, with many campuses (video venue)
* One church, with many campuses (okay, video teaching was a stupid idea, let’s go back to live teaching)
* Gospel-centered church led by Mark Driscoll
* Gospel-centered church definitely not led by Mark Driscoll
* Church built around next steps (because “programs” are for idiots)
* And now…Missional church
Being “missional” is a fad, just like the fad that will replace it, and just like the dozens of fads that came before and will surely follow.
Knowing how to do church is not the hard part.
DOING church is.
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Constantly looking for the next best thing, continually second-guessing what path you’ve chosen as a church because it doesn’t line up with some guy at a conference or the latest church-growth book – this all stems in part from a lack of hustle.
When you’re putting in the work, quite frankly, you DO NOT CARE what other people are doing.
Why? Because if there are 300,000 churches in the United States, there are literally 300,000 different models.
Your job is to put in the hard work to contextualize the gospel in your region. That takes sweat. It’s thankless. It’s not sexy. It’s incremental. Contextualization takes an extraordinary amount of critical assessment, experimentation, and risk. There is no shortcut to that.
There Are No Shortcuts
There’s no shortcut to doing the hard work of remaining vigilant in prayer, of listening, of relentlessly pursuing holiness, of paying attention to how the gospel is heard by your listeners. Vision comes not so much by crafting a statement of clever sounding words, as by paying attention to what you are learning through the battles you are willing to fight and the hills you’re willing to die on.
No fad will make this process easier.
No book will allow you to bypass these war years.
No pre-done cookie cutter approach will get you “there” faster, wherever “there” is for you.
That’s because nothing can replace hustle.