Sometimes churches grow then get stuck. I have a friend whose church has been stuck at 700 members for five years. That is already a big church, but my friend has a vision to reach many more. I first visited the church when it had 100 members. It gradually grew to its current size; then got stuck; hit one of those invisible, but seemingly unbreakable church growth barriers.

On the surface this church seemed perfectly poised for growth. The pastor is a not just a good preacher, he is a great preacher. He is a man of prayer, integrity and wisdom. He has a wonderful wife and obedient children. He is known and respected by political, community, and church leaders in his area. He has charisma and humility. He has an excellent staff — all high achievers. Despite all this, the church was not growing. It was stuck, but why? My church growth ideas may not be too spiritual, but here they are:

Think Big. It is impossible to think small and grow big. In 1990 when we transitioned from an event-based to a discipleship-based church, we repeatedly told our people we were “building a system for the 10,000 we don’t yet have, not for the 2,000 we have.” A few years later, when we hit 10,000, we made some changes in the system so we could “reach the 50,000 we don’t yet have.” To break the 700 barrier, my friend must think bigger and build for the next 7,000, not the first 700.

Take Risks. Some churches get stuck in a comfort zone, unwilling to take the financial risk involved in getting a larger facility, adding another service, or hiring new staff.

Work Hard. Some people are just too lazy to be successful.

Empower People. Some pastors stifle growth because they spend all their time ministering to people rather than equipping and empowering people to minister.

Make Disciples. Jesus said he would build his church. Our job is to make disciples. Too many pastors spend all their time trying to do what only Jesus can do (build a church), and have no time to do what He told them to do (make disciples). If we make disciples, He will take those disciples and build them into a great church.

Keep Learning. I do not know enough right now to lead my church to the next level; therefore, I must continually develop new skills in areas like communication, management, and leadership.

I hope this takes a bit of the mystery and mysticism out of church growth. Yes, there are invisible growth barriers, but our churches can and must grow, because as long as there is one unsaved person in our community, then our church is not large enough.

This article first appeared in the Ministry Digest magazine.