Four dimensions of Church growth

I wanted to call this article “On Introducing Change” but decided against it because, as Mark Twain is supposed to have said, “The only person who likes change is a wet baby.” But change is another word for growth and everyone is in favour of growth.

Luke 2:52 reads: “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and people.” Luke’s outline may be used to describe four dimensions of Church growth. Christians need to develop strategies for intellectual, numerical, spiritual, and relational growth.

Intellectual growth

Here lies the primary responsibility of pastors as teachers and under-shepherds of God’s flock. Their duties are to feed the flock so it may grow. Additional volunteer ministries such as Life Groups leaders, Sunday school workers, and teaching elders contribute to this ministry.

Theology must be balanced by ethics. What we know must be integrated into life. Click To Tweet

Participation in study retreats, conferences, Bible studies, and small groups increase the probability of the church growing in the knowledge of the Lord. Of course, we must not turn out intelligent church members who do not know right from wrong.

Theology must be balanced by ethics. What we know must be integrated into life. Yet, if wisdom is the application of knowledge, then intellectual growth is needed in the church.

Numerical growth

Numerical growth is desirable and mandatory if we are going to connect people with God, each other, our city, and our world. There is something unconvincing when someone insists, “Oh yes, we’re small, but we’re good.” We all wish to ask, “If you’re so good, how come your so small?”

A minority complex is numbing, limiting, frustrating, and unproductive. The hardest people in the world to move for God are those who believe their chief task is to hide in a cave somewhere until they’re perfected enough for Christ to come and rescue them.

Numbers are not always the measure of success. Yet, just as Jesus grew in stature, the body of Christ needs to grow numerically. The church is not a museum for keeping a few pure saints under glass for all to see. It is an ark in which both clean and unclean animals are being saved.

Keeping the church small in the name of purity may reflect an absence of a revival theology, a lack of boldness in witness, and an excuse for disregarding the great commission.

Spiritual growth

Spiritual growth focuses on our relationship to our Lord. In a personal sense this involve times of regular prayer and consistent listening to God through meditating upon his Word. It sounds very simple. Indeed, it is. Read the Bible and pray every day and you’ll grow!

In a corporate sense, we are referring to the relationship of the body to the Head. Every part of our human bodies is connected to our heads by an intricate system of blood vessels, muscles, bones and nerves.

Pain is God’s way of alerting us to some problems in the body. Our corporate relationship to Christ is fostered by healthy relationships among the various members of the body. Unhealthy relationships lead to disharmony in worship and in witness.

Relational growth

The church is not a collection of individuals like marbles in a box. In the body of Christ we are joined together and receive life and even pain from each other. What affects one affects all. Yet, we must not blame our spiritual failures on each other.

The church is not a collection of individuals like marbles in a box. Click To Tweet

If my leg gets broken my body will not get to the office. But it would be ridiculous if my good leg were to blame my broken leg or decide that it, too, ought to get broken. No, each part of the body helps the broken leg heal!

While the movement of the whole body is hindered by the hurting part, “blaming” does not promote healing. The healthy church does not amputate a broken leg; it seeks to heal it.

The Bible speaks about admonishing one another, provoking one another to love, praying for one another, singing together, etc. So the strategy for relational growth is meeting together for corporate worship, prayer, and fellowship in an atmosphere that will allow the Spirit to do healing work among us. The healthy church is a warm, open, loving, and healing community.

To grow is to change. That’s fundamental to life, isn’t it?

That little verse in Luke caused me to ask four simple questions: Am I regularly studying the Bible personally and in the fellowship of a local church? Am I faithful in sharing my faith with others? Am I maintaining my spiritual relationship with the Lord through consistent private prayer and corporate worship? Am I getting along with my brothers and sisters in Christ?

If I can say “yes” to these questions, I have a vision for the church’s intellectual, numerical, spiritual and relational growth.

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About the author


ChristianWeek Columnist

Dr. Garry E. Milley is an ordained PAOC minister, author, and speaker.