Two weeks ago, while wrapping up the congregational meeting, I said something like this: “I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t grow numerically over the next couple of years.” Some of you wondered what I meant by that. Let me back up a few steps, in order to help you track with me.
This past Easter marked 15 years for my GRC pastoral ministry and for our family living here in North Jersey. While living through each season, I’ve felt/thought/said that it was unique. Growing from a church plant of 50 people is like moving from the toddler-stage to graduating college! There’s lots of excitement, but also some skinned knees. There are seemingly insurmountable obstacles, and there are wonderful times of humble gratitude for what God is doing. Change in growth is good and healthy but sometimes it’s tiring.
We’ve been in our new building for over a year now. We’re starting to taste more and more “normalcy” after years of constant change and challenge: with our old facility/lease arrangement, through key staff searches, raising funds in two Vision Campaigns, and pulling off the move to Glen Rock. With appreciation for this season of church health and peace, and the strength of our staff and leadership teams, the Session engaged the professional services of a church consultant (John P), who also happens to be a PCA Ruling Elder at a church where he was the Executive Director for 17 years. I’ve leaned on him closely for about 10 years now, and we were blessed to have him lead our leadership teams through an honest look at who GRC is today.
Part of that involved John’s oversight and analysis of our recent church survey. (If we can find some time in the busy ACE/Sunday School schedule, we’ll share results of that survey sometime this summer). John will also shepherd GRC’s Session through an October Strategic Planning retreat, during which we will pray, seek the Lord’s wisdom, dream about what the next five years may look like, and put together a plan to lead GRC in that direction. Please continue to pray for us as we serve Christ and His church here!
Today, GRC is at a point where, as a truly medium-sized church, we need to focus on depth more than breadth. That’s not a new idea.
- It’s connected to some key thoughts at the heart of the Vision Campaigns, that we needed to: ensure a solid foundation (home) for the next generation; emphasize discipleship as a lifestyle (not merely a program) to build up God’s people, especially to raise up new church leaders; and to focus on what is best, not just what’s good (because too many options can be distracting!).
- We need to do a better job developing a pathway for reaching non-Christians: bringing them to saving faith in Jesus, growing them in their faith, and equipping them to do the same in others’ lives.
- We need to improve our welcome and assimilation ministries: how we receive newcomers and fold them into our GRC family.
- We need to improve the way we care for one another, whether through Growth Groups, Diaconal mercy ministry, pastoral/elder shepherding, or counseling.
ALL of the above feeds into my sense that GRC may not grow much numerically over the next two years…. and that’s ok.
We will NOT market ourselves to be more attractive to people by worrying about trends or what “itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3). We WILL gauge ministry success by changed lives, by healing marriages, and by growth in fruit-of-the-Spirit, rather than by numbers in our sanctuary or a busy church calendar. We long to see unchurched and de-churched people make up more and more of our guests and eventual members, rather than church transfers.
Going deep should NEVER involve forsaking evangelism and outreach. Nor is going deep a failure to care about people on the fringes. My words again, “I wouldn’t be surprised if GRC doesn’t grow numerically for the next couple of years.” That possibility is not our goal. That’s simply a statement, that if that’s the case, we won’t be worried, nor should we be surprised. Of course, we should constantly be praying for the Holy Spirit to surprise us with an outpouring of resurrection power in Revival, in which case, we’ll cast aside all of these thoughts and fly wherever that Spirit-wind blows!
Until the King returns,
Peter Wang is the Senior Pastor.