Rick Warren: The One Thing Growing Churches Have In Common

I was listening to a lengthy interview that the folks at Catalyst did with Rick Warren, and something that he said just blew me away.

He said that early in his career he sent out 100 letters to the 100 fastest growing and vibrant churches in America at the time.  He asked them to what they attributed their vibrancy, and he received a wide variety of responses.

But the ONE THING that he said that all of those churches had in common...
And the ONE THING that he said that all growing, vibrant churches have in common to this day is this:

"Strong leaders that believe God."

He clarified this a bit by saying that "believing God" meant that these strong leaders believed God more than they believed in their own strength, the institutional church, denominations, theology... any number of things that aren't God.

These leaders, he asserted, were not afraid to trust God to lead them and were willing to put it all on the line to respond to God's call.

And what might this entail for church leaders and pastors?  According to Warren:  sound, Biblically-based preaching... Evangelical zeal to reach the lost... A heart for kingdom of God work in acts of justice and mercy... Leaders committed to a lifetime of discipleship and learning...  Innovative ministry and a willingness to change.

This feels so true to me.  I need to desire God more, to believe God more, to trust God more.  My faith needs to be in God and not in the institutional church... and definitely not in denominations.

I also need to be constantly studying God's word and learning all that I can.  Warren spends 25% of his reading time in the Bible, 25% in the ancient church fathers and mothers, 25% in "modern" theologians and 25% in "current" literature.  

I also need to continue to develop as a preacher.  What us pastors need to get through our heads is that it doesn't matter how beautiful our church building is, or how awesome our music ministry happens to be---if our preaching is watered down, lackluster and uninspiring...  our church isn't going to grow.

This takes effort.

It also takes effort to be innovative.  Warren says that if you visited his church five years ago, and then visited it today, you would see vast differences.  He said that their willingness to change and transform to meet the needs of the people they are trying to reach has helped to remind them that it's not about their comfort---it's about the spread of the Gospel.

I'll be pondering this for a while.
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