How Churches Will Grow in 2024 – by Jim Graff

How Churches Will Grow in 2024 – by Jim Graff

Healthy pastors have healthy churches. Sadly, many pastors are not healthy. They’re disconnected from the friendships they need, the information they need, to succeed. I believe God is on a mission to help pastors exceed the dream that’s inside their hearts. He’s on a mission to have them filled with a sense of significance every day.

I want to take the next few minutes and explore with you why some churches are going to grow and influence in their towns this year and some will not.

At Faith Family Church, we’re close to 20% larger this year than we were last year – and after 34 years, that’s something we’re grateful for! But here’s what’s more significant: People coming to Christ is up more than 50%, and we’re baptizing twice as many people as ever before. It’s not because we’re doing something different; it’s because there’s a spiritual hunger in our city.

I want to show you how to connect with the spiritual hunger that’s in your town and help people find redemption. It can be done if we do what Jesus did in Jerusalem.

First, He helped them overcome the faith barrier. John 20:19 says, “On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for the fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’’’ It was Easter evening. He had just risen from the dead.

Remember back to the 1980s when there was great spiritual hunger in our country? There was also great persecution for church plants. That same battle still exists today to some degree. There’s still a lot of persecution, and we have to teach our new believers – and even old believers – how to connect with those who are spiritually hungry in our towns in spite of the persecution. “Pastor Jim, how do we do that?” Well, I think there are two things we must do:

1) Jesus taught us to teach them the power of prayer as God’s ambassadors. Matthew 5:11-12 says, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you falsely say all kind of evil things against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad because great is your reward in heaven, and in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

I don’t feel like getting glad when people persecute me.  I feel like fighting them. But Jesus said that we must teach our people that persecution is a sign that we’re on the right path and that we should be thrilled because we’re going to heaven.

2) Jesus said that we’re to let our light shine before men. In other words, we have to do good works. Matthew 5:16 says, “People will see your good works and they’ll glorify your Father in heaven.”

Second, He helped them overcome the compassion barrier. In Acts 1, God did something so interesting at Jesus’ ascension. He sent two men who were dressed in white who questioned the disciples as they worshiped and watched Jesus go up into the sky, “What are you doing looking up into the heavens? Don’t you know He’s coming back again?” Basically, they were saying the church can get caught up in worship without doing the work of bringing the gospel to the hurting the way that we need to. We started pointing this out at the end of our church services. We’d close by saying, “We worshiped well today. Now, how are we going to reach out? How are we going to work this week outside?”

Pastor, this is significant. I didn’t become a better preacher overnight. The services didn’t get better overnight. But can I tell you this? We went from zero decisions in eight weeks to 365 decisions for Christ the first year we started working hard to connect with our community’s spiritual hunger.

Sometimes people think that the church is going to grow because of a special sovereign moment. Sometimes that happens, and for sure I believe that God visits us sovereignly to communicate the wisdom we need to institute a new season in the life of our church. But the reality is churches grow healthy and strong just like marriages grow healthy and strong: because they’re built on principles from God’s Word.

I sense God saying that people are hungry in this unstable time we’re living in. There are hurting people God is calling us to connect with as the church. Jesus prepared His disciples to do that. He helped them overcome the peace issues in their heart, and then He helped them remove their lack of compassion barrier. Listen to what He said in John 20:20, “After He said this, He showed them His hands and His side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent Me, I’m sending you in.’”

The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the nail-pierced hands because they knew that meant their redemption was full. But Jesus was saying that believers who want to connect with the spiritual hunger out in society aren’t just going to rejoice that their redemption is a reality. They are going to want everybody they know to experience that same redemption.

Third, He helped them overcome the indifference barrier. The indifference barrier is what keeps us from seeing the potential that Jesus can change any life. Listen to what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:16-18. He said, “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view…Therefore, if anyone’s in Christ, the new creation has come: the old is gone, the new is here! All this is from God….”

When I became a Christian, I was an athlete. I hung out with people I shouldn’t have, and the first church I joined seemed more interested in keeping girls from dating this new believer they weren’t sure if they could trust. Honestly, I came from a moral family, so there was no reason for it, but that’s what I felt when I went to church. The second church I attended started seeing the potential in me. You know how felt for me as a young believer? To have people who really cared about what was going on inside me, who weren’t indifferent to the potential that God could bring forth in my life?

Pastor, you can do this during the vision-offering segment of your church. At Faith Family, we stand up and remind ourselves that we, as a church, are called not just to worship inside our sanctuary but to connect to the spiritual hunger outside our sanctuary. We build faith in our people’s hearts that they can do this, and we are seeing drug addictions and so forth decrease in our community as men and women are coming to know Christ!

Once the church exercises its faith, we can prepare worship services that cause people’s lives to go well. Listen to what Jesus said in Luke 14:12-14, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers your sisters, your relatives or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and you’ll be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed….”

If your church will have faith, and if they’ll start inviting the lost, you’ll be amazed how blessed you feel by the redemption that you see taking place in the life of your church.

What’s really interesting is when you get to the end of this particular chapter, Jesus says that the servant (who I think is the pastor) said: “Sir, what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.” Then the master told the servant, “Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full.” That’s really what built Faith Family Church. It was the understanding that if there’s one more heart out there, we’re called to find that heart, we’re called to connect with that heart.

Pastor, you can do it. Break the faith barrier. Begin to help your people see they’ve got to overcome the fear that keeps them from reaching out to people. Overcome their lack of compassion and indifference. And hold services where people’s lives are made well.  You can do this and see exponential growth this year if you will simply begin with the ministry of the Word in prayer, build teams that will make your services highly attractional to your community, and show the lost who come to visit that you truly care about them. I’m not talking about some kind of altar call that even you wonder if they’re going to respond to, but just simply by inviting them to give Jesus a place in their hearts as Lord. Celebrate what happens as people make decisions for Christ and then design steps they can follow to grow in their newfound faith.

The churches that grow this year will be those who inspire their members overcome these three barriers (faith, compassion, indifference) and plan services that will enrich people’s lives. The spiritual hunger that’s out there in your community will congregate to your church, and you’ll bring a whole lot of people to Jesus!

This blog was created using content from the webinar Why Churches Will Grow in 2023-2024.