8 Virtues of Rapidly Growing Churches
Rev. Dr. Alice Burnette Greene
September 18, 2019
“8 Virtues of Rapidly Growing Churches,” by Matt Miofsky and Jason Byassee, shares some of the values and processes found to be common among churches that have significantly grown over a short time period. While the authors are Methodist[i] and the churches they interviewed are the fastest-growing churches in American Methodism,[ii] most of the information provided can be applied in any church setting. Each chapter identifies and discusses in depth one of the eight virtues they found to be common among the seven churches interviewed, as follows:
- rapidly growing churches believe in and expect miracles
- they integrate new members into small group activities quickly and efficiently
- they love and are committed to the church’s neighborhood
- evangelism is their most important purpose
- they emphasize giving, focusing on how the funds are used to help others
- they each have a #2 leader (often unpaid) who complements and supports the pastor
- the preachers understand and intentionally speak to the needs of skeptics
- the leaders both support the denomination and know how to benefit from it.
The authors don’t propose that churches should expect to grow rapidly if they adopt the practices of these churches. They suggest instead that church leaders can learn from the experiences of these churches in ways that may open up new possibilities for their churches. The churches interviewed were quite diverse—in large cities, mid-size towns and one “far-flung exurb,” with both male and female leaders who are both young and old and who are racially diverse.
The book is straightforward, defining and describing each “virtue” with clear examples and often deep insight. The conclusion of the book offers a simple and effective method of evaluating the success and progress of each church ministry that I found to be quite helpful. It provides good food for thought for church leaders who are interested in helping their churches prosper. What good leader wouldn’t want that?
I was especially impressed by the common belief of all the pastors that God can and will do miracles. That to me defines the hope that keeps us going, especially when things don’t go well. These pastors are willing to try new things and to take risks based on where they feel God is leading them. While they do fail sometimes, they have been mostly successful. I suspect that this belief in miracles also keeps the pastors excited about what may happen next. This kind of excitement is contagious, and I imagine it has a lot to do with their rapid growth.
The only serious concern I have is the intensive focus on evangelism. While these churches are not to be confused with Evangelical denominations, they are certainly evangelical Methodists. They evangelize by sharing a gospel of hope and healing as opposed to one of hell and damnation, but the priority evangelism is given over other church work is disconcerting: “Evangelism is singular, a lens through which we see everything, and we pursue that focus unapologetically.”[iii] They base this priority on Jesus’ sending out the disciples to share the good news. But before Jesus sent the disciples out, he taught them for quite some time.
While I do believe that evangelism is an important church mission, I also believe it’s equally important for believers to have a solid understanding of what Jesus teaches and expects from them before they are sent out to evangelize. I have too often met Christians who do not seem to grasp just how radical are Jesus’ teachings on love for others, forgiveness, self-sacrifice and aversion to wealth, among other things. I also believe Christians should understand and use the great power they wield in the name of Jesus to make a difference in the world, which can happen in ways other than evangelism.
This book is one that pastors and church leaders can fruitfully study and discuss together. It should spark conversations and ideas about the importance of members sharing their faith with others, how to become more efficient in assimilating new members, how to prioritize giving and how to evaluate the progress of church ministries. It’s well worth the short time it takes to read it.
The Rev. Dr. Alice Burnette Greene is interim minister at Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ, Washington, D.C., and author of “The Revolutionary Power of the Lord’s Prayer” (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 2017). 8 Virtues of Rapidly Growing Churches published by Abingdon Press, 2018.
The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of American Baptist Home Mission Societies.
[i] Miofsky is lead pastor of The Gathering in St. Louis, Missouri. Byassee is the Butler Chair in Homiletics and Biblical Interpretation at Vancouver School of Theology, Vancouver, Canada.
[ii] The churches are Church of the Resurrection Downtown in Kansas City MO, Impact in Atlanta GA, The Gathering in St. Louis MO, Providence in Nashville TN, Grace Church in Cape Coral FL, Embrace Church in Sioux Falls SD and Bee Creek Methodist, Spicewood TX.
[iii] Miofsky, Matt, and Jason Byassee. 8 Virtues of Rapidly Growing Churches. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2018, page 45.
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