I am not writing this as a professional church planter or church growth specialist. I haven’t written any books on the topic of “Church Growth in a Rural Community.” We have just seen some really amazing things happen in the last nine months in our church. I want to share three of the lessons we’ve learned as God has taken Real Life Church from 350 in weekly attendance to over 900 in weekly attendance in a short amount of time.
- Know Yourself
Before I pastored Real Life, I had never pastored a church larger than about 100 people. There have been moments that I have thought, “What is God doing? I am not qualified to do this.” And then God would send 100 more people to the church just to show that His quantity is never based off my qualifications. I believe God keeps me in that tension so that I never get to the place of thinking that I am the sustainer. The moment I start to think “Oh I’ve got this,” He sends more folks to remind me those are His words not mine. So I do my best to stay teachable, constantly learning what the next level is like, just in case God decides to take us there.
- Know your Culture
Our community is unique, so is yours, and so is the church’s down the street or two towns over. It took us a while to wrap our minds around this. I wanted to build a trendy new facility that had all the bells and whistles, but I have come to realize if the product is authentic and done with quality, the packaging matters little in our community. We currently meet in a renovated horse barn, and our people love it. Before you make an assumption…we are not a Cowboy church. We are a community that appreciates authenticity and humility. So be approachable and gracious. We are in a community that appreciates quality. So whatever your facility is create an environment that is excellent. I promise if any horse walked into our barn now they would say, “Whoa!” (You see what I did there…Horse joke…whoa).
- Know God
If God truly places His hand of favor on you and your church, you cannot manage, contain or manufacture it. You can only hope to live in it as long as He sees fit. In the last nine months, we have had to change our facility three different times, our children’s check-in system at least twice, and our organizational structure has resembled a game of Jenga. And all of this has been awesome! Our teams freak out a little bit, but we survive. We look back wondering why God would ever allow us to be a part of this movement called the local church. We look forward in wonder of what He will do next. It is my prayer that you will still be in awe of what God is capable of doing in your church. Stop trying to figure out what’s not working and go back to what always has, loving people with the Gospel of Jesus.
Vince is a Jesus follower, church planter, husband and dad. He is the senior pastor of Real Life Church in Mountain Home, Arkansas which will be celebrating their 5 year anniversary in September.