Development and growth of the congregation is essential if the church is going to grow. As mentioned earlier, evangelism and church growth must be a group effort. Even if a church has a full-time preacher, the members must still be involved in order to be most effective. Everyone must see themselves as a missionary whose goal is to bring about change. It has been said that, “The missionary also is an agent of change. He wants to see men and women transformed into citizens of Christ’s kingdom with all that that implies” (Hesselgrave 536). If all members have that goal in mind, great things can be accomplished. Andrew Erwin wrote a book titled Each One Reach One which is based on the theory that if each member can reach someone else with the gospel, and so on and so on, there will be exponential growth. Unfortunately, many members in the church, especially in the West, see evangelism as the responsibility of the paid preacher.
Most see the Great Commission of Matthew 28 as encouragement for missionaries and evangelists. However, Jesus commanded that we “make disciples” of all the nations. Yes, he was talking to His disciples, but the command was for all of His followers. Thus, when we read the New Testament, “it’s not surprising to read that Jesus’ followers were focused on making disciples – it makes sense in light of Jesus’ ministry and Great Commission. The surprise comes when we look at our churches today in light of Jesus’s command to make disciples” (Chan 30).
There are those of Central North who already possess this mindset, but the goal should be for the overwhelming majority to think this way. There are four areas of congregational development that are worth exploring.
Leadership development is the first area. Teaching and training members how to be leaders is essential. If those in the congregation are unaware or unable to lead others, then there is a major void in the church. This involves training them how to teach class, lead singing, conduct Bible studies, and more. Perhaps the greatest need in this area is one previously mentioned, and that is leaders in the form of elders and deacons. Such men must of course must meet God’s requirements and qualities/qualifications, and they should be ones who are already leading others in the church. They need to have a genuine concern for the members and possess good relationships with them. It has been said that shepherds, which is one responsibility of an elder, “smelled like sheep. Just so in today’s church: elders are not strangers merely plugged into a job. Rather, elders are people who have already a flock, who already are serving as shepherds” (Anderson 126). God’s church is designed to have elders and deacons. Without such leaders, the church is not complete (Titus 1:5).
Bible School development is the second area. Each church should have quality and beneficial Bible classes for all ages, not just for the youth. These classes provide an excellent opportunity for members to learn and grow. In contrast to most worship assemblies, Bible classes allow chance for members to ask questions and be involved. It also allows them the opportunity to teach such classes. Churches in the West have for years conducted Bible classes in the same lecture type manner. This however does not produce the results that should be desired. Learning and application should be the goal, not just the transferring of information. Central North has many individuals, men and women alike, who frequently step up and volunteer their time and efforts to teach. Many of them work very hard at developing their lessons. With the proper resources, and everyone working together, the most beneficial style of engaging teaching and active learning can be accomplished.
Thus, teacher training is the third area in congregational development. Training teachers is important because a lack of good teaching can have a big impact on the congregation. For instance, if members feel that they are not benefiting from Bible classes, they will stop attending. Teachers should therefore be trained in how to properly teach class in the most effective and engaging manner possible. Not only is there the possibility of a cessation in attendance, but life application is not happening either. Life change, which is the point of all lessons, is not occurring. As noted, Central North has several members who teach and preach the word of God. Many are skilled in this task; however, there is always room for improvement, and with a little training they could be that much more effective.
Youth development is the fourth and final area which will be mentioned. Without knowledgeable, faithful, and developing youth, almost any church will die. Not only because of the facts of nature (that is people will pass away), but also because the youth in a congregation bring energy and excitement. Developing the youth also ensures future leaders within a congregation. If young people are taught from an early age how to lead singing, how to teach class, or even how to preach, that is inward self-leadership growth. Seeing young men and women grow and take on the responsibility of leadership within the church is a motivator to the members. This not only encourages them spiritually, but it can also motivate them to want to do those things themselves. Tomorrow’s elders and deacons are the youth of today. There must be intentional teaching and training for these young men, so that they are preparing and focusing on the potential of becoming an elder or deacon in the future. They must understand the importance and need for such leaders in the church.