categories: ChurchMetrics,, church, community, future, global church, leadership
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May 29th, 2009

by Craig Groeschel

30 comments (+ Add)

Not Just More, But Different

I will never be satisfied with a church filled only with people who know Christ. God longs for the “lost to be found.” But for years I found the greatest joy in more people coming to church.

Today, I’m redefining success to not just more people, but different people.

A few years ago, our church was experiencing record crowds of people. But we also had many people who’d been with us for years falling into major sins.

We seemed to be effective at getting people into Church, but were we truly getting people into Christ?

I’ve been set free from being totally driven by attendance. Instead I’m asking God to take those we have into a deeper place of intimacy and knowledge of Christ. I’d rather have fewer and totally committed believers than a large number of lazy, apathetic, carnally minded and unproductive cultural Christians.

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  1. May 29, 2009 at 6:21 am

    Thanks for sharing this Craig. It’s encouraging to hear pastors of large churches talk about the depth, not just the breadth.

    If the church is a mile wide, but only an inch deep there won’t be much impact in the kingdom and vice versa. Keep bringing people in, sending people out and growing people deeper in love with Jesus and lives will be changed.


  2. 2Mark Barrentine
    May 29, 2009 at 6:43 am

    James 1:22 (NIV) Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

    1 John 3:18 (NIV) Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

    My own local community is being challenged in the same way. Pray for us, and I will be praying for you as we walk out, “Jesus replied, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.’ (John 14:23).”

  3. 3Gdub
    May 29, 2009 at 7:08 am

    The church truly needs to be about more discipleship and less about the notches on the “gospel gunslingers” gun … seek’em, save’em, school’em, send’em!

  4. May 29, 2009 at 7:30 am

    We just took our staff through Reveal’s new study, “follow me”. It was eye opening to discover how many believers have such a large gap b/w their love for God and their love for people. The church has become fat with knowledge and lean on action. It truly is time for the church to amp up their discipleship and become the hands and feet of Jesus. I too have been set free from crowds and want converts. I too have been set free from the multitudes and desire maturity. Good stuff Craig. Hope to see you soon.

  5. May 29, 2009 at 7:50 am

    This comes very close to home. Record attendance over the past few years. Growing youth ministry and them the misfortune of having two young girls I baptisted get pregnant out of wedlock. I preach myself blue in the face but church people still live together and sleep together aware of, but ignoring God’s commands to the contrary. Sometimes I truly feel I am wasting my time.

  6. May 29, 2009 at 7:51 am

    The Bible is full of various commands, some tell us to evangelize and some tell us to disciple. I think in all this that their is a balance but it is difficult to obtain. We are people who are moving things toward the compliacted. We complicate evangelism and we complicate discipleship. How do we get that balance? Is it found in being obedient to what Jesus calls us as individual church to do that then make up the church universal? I tend to lean that way - we should have balance but in all of it, it’s figuring out what Jesus wants us as individual churches to do. I think if we do that, then we are reaching whom Christ wants us to and we are filling our church with totally commited believers.

  7. May 29, 2009 at 8:09 am

    Thanks for your post Craig. I am glad you are looking at depth, not just breadth.

    Being a mile wide and an inch deep doesn’t advance the kingdom, while being a mile deep and only an inch wide doesn’t either.

    Growing deeper and wider will have the most impact.


  8. 8Sherrye
    May 29, 2009 at 8:10 am

    I love reading these blogs and seeing where the heart of our pastor is. I agree but that is so hard to get people to do. It took me a year of attending weekly before I got off my butt to take some action and before I truly wanted to know Christ more and wanted more of him in my life. God has had to take my husband and I to a place of complete brokenness so he could work in us and we could make some much needed changes in our hearts and lives.
    The series Elijah is so meaningful to me. I was so shocked to hear you preaching on what I myself had just finished reading a few weeks earlier in the bible and was wondering what I was supposed to take from I and II Kings besides a bunch of evil Kings. When you started preaching on Elijah my husband looked at me and said God answered you. I was just blown away.

    How do you know if people are taken into a deeper place of intimacy and knowledge of Christ at your church? How as a pastor do you define whether or not this is happening at your church? Attendance is easy to count but knowing whether or not people are drawing closer to God and want to be more Christlike and are truly changing their lives and following God that is so much harder to know for sure.

  9. May 29, 2009 at 8:14 am

    Health of our church bodies over wealth of numbers…this is what has mattered most to us as well and it has made all the difference. Good post.

  10. May 29, 2009 at 8:40 am

    Craig what do you think it would take for every pastor to be set free from from the ‘attendance-driven church’ model?

    How does the ‘numbers’ switch (like the one you’re talking about) happen?

  11. May 29, 2009 at 8:53 am

    WOW, can I hear an “AMEN”? AMEN!

  12. 12Ed Green
    May 29, 2009 at 8:57 am

    I agree, and this is where my heart is. But, I wonder, do we really start out looking just for (or at) numbers? My intuition tells me (which has been wrong before…) that most pastors and church leaders long for their seats to be filled with maturing believers who whole-heartedly follow Jesus. I think what happens is that we lose focus (for a variety of reasons) and get in a rut of focusing more on the front end (evangelism) and the goal (discipleship) gets lost in the shuffle (The Great Omission, a la Willard?). What I see occuring across our landscape is a recovery of Jesus’ priority of “teaching them to obey all that I have commanded.” Thanks, Craig–and others–for taking the lead in this.

  13. May 29, 2009 at 9:07 am

    The truth is, as we build into people and call them to a life of total commitment our churches will grow in number. Our churches will grow, because it’s the committed people that will invite the unchurched. Now our growth may be a little slower, versus just attracting a crowd of marginal Christians seeking the newest cool church. But our growth will be solid both inward and in numbers.

    Let it never be said, if we are focused on discipleship that our church will not grow in numbers. It’s just an excuse. Both should happen as the books of Acts clearly indicates.

    Just to respond to Tade. Two made bad choices but many others made good choices. Don’t be discouraged. Keep living it and preaching it. God is at work. You are making a difference.

  14. May 29, 2009 at 9:46 am

    I wonder how long it will be before someone writes “Why can’t we have both? Why does it have to be either or?”

    Thanks for your posts this week they’ve been empowering.

  15. May 29, 2009 at 10:08 am

    craig… awesome bro. thanks to leaders who continue to sweep and serve the church. {question} at what point do pastors stop serving the people and look to being served…. scerrrry

  16. May 29, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Steve hit on what I’ve been thinking about a lot recently–applying Jim Collins’ “genius of the and” to ministry. It’s not supposed to be or. Jesus showed us and. God’s been working on this in me for a long time. I can’t wait to see how this unfolds in the coming months here at LC and am psyched about how I could be a part of it.

  17. May 29, 2009 at 10:50 am

    Regardless of big or small churches - I believe that HOW we care for people determines whether God continues to show favor (allowing us to keep IT).

    As a new father, if you want to baby-sit/care for my baby girl - I don’t care how much you tell me you love her, love children, enjoy babysitting, etc. What I care about is CAN you care for her with love and do you know HOW to care for her while I’m gone. Likewise, we have responsibility to care for God’s “kids” to the fullest extent.

    May we all be willing to go to the depth of care required to see true transformation in God’s children!

  18. May 29, 2009 at 12:11 pm

    I appreciate Craig’s honesty and transparency that challenges us.
    I’m grateful for the comment of “does it have to be either or?”
    Churches used to be big and full of deep Christians that did nothing, and now maybe they’re full of pre-Christ followers or new at following Jesus with out the depth of character.
    Howard Hendricks at DTS - calls it the “Peril of the Pendulum” - we in the church seem to swing to extremes.
    Curious…I wonder how does the “life-stage” of a church and the current cultur play into how the church contextualizes the Great Commission? I would love thoughts on that?

  19. May 29, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    [...] 4. and Craig Groeschel do some great work. I love how they’ve upped the ante on providing free resources for churches. That’s been an issue with me in the last few years, but a topic for another day. Anyway, today’s blog post is something I whole-heartedly believe in regarding church building—Not Just More, But Different. [...]

  20. May 29, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    What a timely post as I finish my message prep for this Pentecost weekend! We, as church leaders, do need to invite our congregations into a response to our messages. I try with each message to bring the words that God placed on my heart and end with some suggested responses. It’s always encouraging to hear from congregation members who accepted the challenge to a deeper ministry.

    Thanks Craig for the great thoughts this week!

  21. May 30, 2009 at 7:41 am

    This is an awesome thing to move towards. Spending time taking your local church body through the scriptures and getting an understanding of God’s purpose in their lives is critical. Very,very critical when the church forgets what they have been taught via religious culture and “how to grow a church” type books and focus on edifying the body and sending out equipped saints we can truly begin to see changes in our local area and the world.

    We are in a day and age where trials are coming against His church and we have thousands of people in the sanctuaries,schools, and even home churches that are not being prepped to handle that attack. Leaders within local fellowships worldwide must take responsibility for feeding their people the truth and teaching then how to feed themselves so that each individual can walk upright with the Lord.

    Because of this trend for years people have fallen in more love with their local fellowship than God!!!! Committing themselves to their local fellowships more than GOD!!!! And being hurt by their local fellowship because they never found God there they just found exciting members.

  22. May 30, 2009 at 8:10 am

    I am reminded of the parable of the four soils. I think sometimes we don’t prepare the soil enough before we plant. the seed never has a chance to grow goow roots. Sometimes we just need to walk with some for a while before we ask them to cross the line of faith. We need to train our people better for one on one training but that takes time so we don’t.

    We have been taught that decisions are the big win so we discount all the conversations that would prepare the soil/heart as just as important.

    I think a web site (short videos) that helps people grow the roots in the basics of the faith would help people have more confidence to do one on one training with the friends. We need something that does not feel like a class room. Most people don’t like or want to read a book. Take a look at England papers. They are all like tabloids–quick and to the point.


  23. May 30, 2009 at 8:30 am

    Where do I sign up?

  24. May 30, 2009 at 1:48 pm

    It seems to me there’s a balance. If you focus strictly on discipling your current members, your influx will dry up. If you focus strictly on bringing in, you fail to build-up and train. The problem with balance is resources. With a larger church, it’s virtually impossible to do both well. There’s not enough money or staff to handle discipleship of thousands. That’s why I truly feel that the make or break of a church is not in the pastor per se, the worship group or the building, but rather how well you pour into your volunteer leaders and the structure in which they are implemented. Leaders that train leaders that train leaders.

  25. May 31, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    Two kids getting pregnant - yes that is the kind of thing you notice. I doubt if, in God’s eyes, it is the worst kind of thing to go wrong. How about being selfish with money, how about being unjust in how you do business (as cf Amos)? How about taking religion really lightly, and believing you are the good guys and so God is with you (as cf Jeremiah) - Nope the worst sins are the respectable ones.

  26. 26Brett
    Jun 1, 2009 at 3:59 pm

    First let me start by saying that I was one of the “lazy, apathetic, carnally minded and unproductive cultural Christians” that Craig referenced. I had what some people would call a ‘chance’ encounter in meeting Craig and his wife at the local park last Friday evening. I had no idea that he wrote this blog entry Friday morning regarding not just counting attendance, but counting the ‘different’ people, until I read it today. I briefly shared with Craig that I was one of those people in the church that had went for years, but that I wasn’t a true believer or follower of Christ, until last July. Craig asked me what any pastor would… “What changed?”

    For me, it was that God decided to knock me down, I guess some would say that I did it all to myself and that my circumstances were determined by my actions, but I firmly believe that God was trying to get my attention, and He certainly did.

    I think Craig is right on, in saying that he is “asking God to take those we have into a deeper place of intimacy and knowledge of Christ”. I think the only way to ‘reach’ the people you currently have and get them to a more intimate relationship with Jesus, is to pray about it. Pray that God will speak to them through you, that they will hear his voice and his message through your words. For me, I went to church, but never was there, in other words I was just there physically. I honestly don’t know that Craig could have done any more than what he was already doing in trying to get me to a deeper relationship with Jesus. From my own experiance, I had to be in a place in my life where I was open and ready to hear God’s voice. I understand that it is frustrating as Tade mentioned above, feeling like he is ‘wasting’ his time in preaching and the people are just not getting it, and that some are still living in deep sin. But I beg you all to not give up. There are those of us out there who might take longer to ‘hear’ God’s voice through you, but that doesn’t mean that God isn’t using you, it just means that we weren’t ready to hear it.

    I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. The good, the bad, and the ugly, it all happens for a reason. We don’t know what that reason is, only God knows. God always has a plan. Thank you, and thank you to everyone else who is spreading the Good Word!

  27. Jun 1, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    So agreed. Let’s start caring more about the passion of disciples and less about the numbers in our church. Did you see Driscoll’s response to the “Fall of Christian America?”

  28. Jun 3, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    What’s great is reading your blog, listneing to your heart change right along as you write this stuff. Leaders can’t lead where they are not willing to go and where they have never been before… your calling for a difference in your people and leading them as the difference in you continues to work itself out! Awesome stuff!

  29. Jun 3, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    [...] OK. This church has been wildly successful in terms of numerical growth. On his blog, Groeschel posted something that got my attention on the issue of numerical growth. I thought it was a gutsy admission on his [...]

  30. Sep 24, 2009 at 5:13 am

    [...] Not Just More, But Different 2009 September 24 by frank Taken from [...]