Here is an excerpt from my new free e-booklet, Five Character Traits of Growing Churches:

“He sure is growing up.”

That’s a common phrase around my household. I swell up with a sense of pride as neighbors, friends and family notice my son’s growth.

Bryce is six now and it is hard to keep up with all of the changes he is experiencing. For instance, his pants always seem too short because he is getting taller every day. And I’m constantly amazed by his increased reading level as he needs less and less help sounding out words in the Bible. Even his personality is changing. There is less whining (thank goodness) and more social interaction with others-including adults. When we check out from the grocery store, he’s learning to calculate how much change we will receive. And, spiritually speaking, he is beginning to ponder the work of Christ and the gravity of his sin.

When someone comments, “He sure is growing up,” it could refer to a number of things. Growth can be mental, physical, emotional or behavioral.

It is the same way when we talk about a “growing church.” That could refer to the church’s growth in knowledge, attendance, membership, maturity or activity.

So which one is the right standard by which to measure a church’s growth?

I believe they are all important. Just like my son’s growth includes every facet of his being, the church’s growth must also include every facet of its being. In other words, “church growth” is holistic.

The term holistic stems from the same root as the word whole. It refers to viewing parts of a system as connected rather than isolated.

For example, a holistic view considers every finger on one hand in light of all the other fingers. They must work together and cannot be separated (without great pain).

According to the Great Commission in Matthew 28, a growing church will include a scriptural foundation, mission focus, congregational participation, high view of church membership, and intentional discipleship.

For the purpose of this short book, we will use the hand as a symbol for the holistic nature of church growth with each finger representing a different character trait:

  • Thumb: God’s Word is the Standard
  • Pointer: Mission is Major
  • Middle: Every Member is a Minister
  • Ring: Membership is Meaningful
  • Pinky: Disciples Make Disciples

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