The Key to church growth!

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The key to church growth lies in our ability to motivate and activate the general membership to reach the lost in an avenue in which each feels comfortable. Very few churches have even come close to achieving this. We have a pastor system among our preachers and a passive symptom among our members. How can we activate the entire church to be evangelistic? Answer this question and you hold the key to church growth in your hand!

A. The process of church growth as a whole can be divided into four steps.


  1. Evangelize the lost
  2. Edify the new convert
  3. Equip the willing
  4. Entrust to the faithful

Every specific method of evangelism can be placed into one of three pigeon holes. Every Christian's conversion can be categorized into one of these holes:

  1. children of members
  2. mass media approach
  3. personal approach.

The mass media approach employs newspaper advertising, radio and TV programs, mail drops, correspondence courses, Bible Call recorded messages, gospel meetings, etc. The personal approach employs a personal invitation to those with whom we have developed a relationship, such as neighbors and friends. It also includes the invitation of persons contacted during door-to-door canvassing, random telephoning, and in the parks and shopping malls.

I believe we must place most of our emphasis in the personal approach category. Placing the emphasis on mass media approach hampers our goal of activating all the members to reach the lost because the members are not required to do anything personally. They are content to just supply the money and rely upon the preacher. On the other hand, the personal approach is wholly dependent upon individual effort. Success will be limited unless the individual is doing his part.

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Generating Contacts (Luke 14:23)

Luke 14:23 tells us to go into the highways and hedges and COMPEL the lost to come to the great feast. Most churches need to place more emphasis in this area of work. Many churches have a number of members capable of teaching the gospel. Unfortunately, the talents of capable teachers are often not utilized because of the lack of effort in contacting people and locating those who want to study (seekers). The shortage of seekers can cause capable soul winners to become idle. We must recognize our deficiency in this area and put much more emphasis on contacting and finding seekers.

It is my opinion that mass media methods such as mail dropping and newspaper and handbills on windshields should only point in one direction the correspondence course. I suggest, for example, that church services not be advertised at all. Replace these advertisements with an enrollment coupon for a correspondence course or a number for a Bible Call messages.

The personal invitation avenue of contacting seekers contains the most potential for new contacts. It is powerful but often neglected. Three basic categories of the personal invitation approach are: first, personally inviting those we know our friends, family, neighbors, and fellow-workers. The key here is conduct or letting your light shine. Second, personally inviting anyone we run into during the normal course of the day. The key here is alertness to opportunity. Third, aggressively inviting unknowns by phone, door-to-door contacts, contact in the parks, etc. The key here is boldness.

The focus of most personal invitations is best directed toward the Bible discussion groups in the home. (Also called cottage meetings or Luke/Acts readings. ) Begin by personally inviting those you know. However, before long this avenue will be exhausted and you will be forced to invite those you don't know. In order to have continued success, a change in lifestyle will be required so that you automatically and instinctively invite everyone you come in contact with. At this point you are only interested in the names and phone numbers of persons interested in Bible study.

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Cultivation Studies (John 4:7-42)

Cultivation studies are an important intermediate stage between the point of contact and a one-on-one Bible study. This stage is often overlooked. Bible correspondence courses, Bible discussion groups, Jule Miller filmstrips (Nos. 1, 2, and 3 only), and the 2-minute Bible Call messages are all examples of cultivation studies.

Once we find a seeker, we need to cultivate their interest in the gospel. At this stage you are not trying to convert them but you do have two very important objectives. First, develop their thirst for more Bible study. Second, allow a cold contact to become a warm contact by letting them develop a personal relationship of trust toward you as a person and a Bible teacher. The account of Jesus and the woman at the well in John 4 is an excellent example of the principles behind a cultivation study. Jesus discussed spiritual things in such a way as to develop her interest and trust in him as a person and teacher.

All efforts to contact people should be directed toward only two Bible study programs: the correspondence course and the Bible discussion group. It simplifies things for a local church to have only one main program in each of the two areas of contacting people mass media/correspondence course and personal/Bible discussion groups.

It may be that a person is contacted through the Bible Call number advertised in the personal column of the newspaper. They then enroll in the correspondence course offered daily on Bible Call. After completing the course, they check on lesson four that they want to attend the Bible Discussion Groups. After they have attended a number of these small group studies, set up the Jule Miller filmstrip study and show lessons 1 through 3 only. Now you are ready for the next stage of development the conviction studies. Now, for the first time, your primary motive is for them to be converted to Christ.

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Conviction Studies (Acts 24:25)

Cultivating their interest may require several months. You have developed a relationship with the seeker. They trust you as a teacher and respect you as a human being. Now, your purpose is to convict them to bring them to a point of decision about becoming a Christian be it positive or negative. A good example of this kind of study is when Paul tried to teach Felix about righteousness, self-control and judgement in Acts 24:25. Paul brought Felix to a point of decision. Felix replied, Go away for the present and when I find time I will summon you. Ever heard that before?

Although a number of conviction study sequences are available, such as Ivan Stewart's, Charles Goodall's Same Hour Of The Night, Bradford/Nerland question/answer series, and the McDonald system, there is very little available to choose from. Much more thought and energy needs to be put into this important area. I am amazed at how few evangelists have tried to develop their own study sequences. It is like a salesman who never develops his own sales pitch. The main thing to keep in mind with whatever you use is that the entire church is going to be taught how to use it. Some of the basic subjects addressed in most study sequences are: the Bible and authority, covenants, the New Testament church, denominationalism, the need and plan of salvation, and what it will cost to become a Christian. There is a need to have both a single and multilesson series prepared.

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Grounding Studies (Matthew 28:18)

The fourth stage is most commonly called follow-up. We all know that we neglect follow-up, but when are we going to start doing something about it? We are losing souls every year. It is like someone who smokes. They say they should quit and know it harms their body, yet they keep smoking year after year. We know the virtues and importance of grounding studies yet we keep neglecting them. An example of this kind of study is found in Acts 14:21-23 when Paul and Barnabas returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Derbe strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith. Another example is in Acts 15:36 where Paul said, Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word to see how they are. Matthew 28:18,19 says we are to make disciples (conviction studies), baptize them, and teach them to observe all I have commanded you (grounding studies).

The best way I have seen to follow-up a new Christian is by using a combination of two methods. First, have a rotating new converts class on Sunday morning. The one we had in Lethbridge, Alberta, had about 30 lessons. By rotating, I mean that if a babe in Christ enters the class at lesson 20 they will continue through the end of that series of classes (lesson 30) and up through lesson 19 in the next series. After completing the 30 lesson series they will join the regular adult class. The 30 lesson series is taught in a cycle over and over. Every cycle has one teacher and an apprentice. During the next cycle the apprentice becomes the teacher and a new apprentice is selected. Great experience for the men! Watch it spark life into the church.

The second follow-up method has the babe in Christ studying one-on-one with someone every week ideally, with the one who taught him the gospel. This develops a close friendship and provides an opportunity to give him the personal attention he needs at first. The revolving class and the one-on-one studies will provide for almost every need of a new convert. Generally, the revolving class has doctrinal lessons while the one-on-one lessons are exhortational. The kind of follow-up I have suggested here is a big project but one that is long overdue in every church.

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Training Studies (2 Timothy 2:2)

This is the stage where you teach them to fly on their own, take the training wheels off, and where you produce producers. Most Christians are capable of teaching the gospel after receiving some training; therefore, everyone who is going to be involved in teaching the lost and grounding the new converts needs to go through some kind of training. Both men and women should be involved in the training studies. (Remember, most of the new converts are women. So train the women to convert and ground other women.) Some of the men who progress through the training studies are the evangelists of tomorrow! It is the church's job to train men for full-time service.


  1. Paul: The things you learned from me
  2. Timothy: "you"
  3. Faithful men: Entrust to faithful men
  4. Others: Who will in turn teach others

Training studies can be broken into two basic levels:


Train Christians to teach the gospel to the lost; then train them to ground the new converts they have led to Christ. Prepare the outlines for the conviction study sequence and the grounding lessons. Make these outlines available at the building or some other central place that has 24-hour access.


Every growing church will need to develop new leaders. Now you instruct mature Christians to TRAIN younger Christians to teach the lost and the new converts. This is exactly what 2 Timothy 2:2 says to do, The things you (Timothy) have learned from me (Paul) entrust to others, who will in turn be able to teach others also.

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At the outset, we asked how we can motivate the general membership to reach the lost. As you can see, it is hard work and will require us to change the way we have been doing things. Church growth can be broken down into two parts:

Part 1. Three C's before baptism:

  1. Contact them
  2. Cultivate their interest
  3. Convict them

Part 2. Three T's after baptism:

  1. Teach them (grounding)
  2. Train them to ground others
  3. Train them to train

Relative time for maturity







newspaper mail drop posters

1 month + money or manpower

2 years

2 months

1 year

1 year


1 day

2 years

2 months

1 year

1 year

Steve Rudd

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