By Tony Morgan
I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to serve churches with a variety of ministry approaches and philosophies. Because I facilitate next steps rather than prescribing a specific ministry approach, I get to help many different types of churches. Based on that experience, I can confirm that many different strategies work. In fact, if someone claims to have the one way to grow a healthy church, you should probably turn and run in the other direction.
I’ve also been engaged in different roles in church ministry for more than two decades. During that time I’ve seen different iterations of ministry strategies from the seeker model to purpose-driven to cell-based to emergent to missional and more. In my opinion, some of those strategies work better than others, but I’ve also seen healthy, growing churches that embrace versions of all those strategies. By the same token, just because you use a seeker, attractional model doesn’t mean you have a healthy church. And just because your church leans missionary doesn’t mean it’s necessarily healthy either.
Regardless of the strategy you use, one sign of health is the fruit the ministry produces. Jesus reminded us: “A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit” (Matt. 7:17–18).
So, what is the fruit we should be watching for to confirm if our tree is healthy? It would be good for you and your team to come to agreement on that question, but I’m assuming one type of good fruit would be new disciples of Jesus. After all, Jesus’s final challenge to his followers was to “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19–20).
Let me state the obvious here. We’re supposed to make new disciples. We’re supposed to baptize and teach new disciples. That, at the very least, is part of the good fruit. What that suggests is that if a group of thousands of people gathers for worship and teaching on Sunday, but the church is not producing new disciples, that church is not healthy. If a church is effectively connecting almost everyone who attends worship into home groups or Sunday school classes or Bible studies, but it’s not producing new disciples, that church is not healthy. If people gather for worship and then scatter missionary into the community to share the gospel, but the ministry isn’t producing new disciples, that church is not healthy.
Stone creek Church in Milton, Georgia, took this challenge seriously. They launched a 365 Campaign based on the picture of the early church in Acts. During the campaign, they were praying specifically that 365 people would be saved. The number was based on one person representing one day of the total year. This was a big prayer for a church of just over 1,200 people.Every time someone accepted Christ, they lit a light bulb on a giant 365 sign in the lobby. That visual was powerful for the church, and it kept the priority in front of them for the entire twelve months.
Pastor Steven Gibbs described the initiative this way: “We want to be a daily type of church—a church that moves church beyond Sunday and into the everyday lives of people. We want to mobilize people to create lasting change in the world daily.”
With that in mind, the leadership team prayed about the campaign and solicited every Stone creek volunteer to pray with them as well. The whole staff team met twice a week to pray. They also communicated regularly with the church throughout the campaign, including sharing stories of people turning on light bulbs to acknowledge their new faith in Jesus.
You can celebrate along with Stone creek, because last Easter they reached their goal of seeing 365 people accept Christ. I love that intentionality and focus around fulfilling God’s vision of people being saved daily. You might argue with their strategy, but it produced fruit—good fruit.
This good-fruit philosophy can be applied to help you and your team make all kinds of decisions for the future. Is someone ready to step into a leadership role? Is his or her life producing good fruit? Do we launch a new ministry program? Do we know what type of good fruit we expect? If so, will the new ministry produce it? Should we continue offering an all-church event that we’ve done for the past several years? Is the event still producing good fruit? If you ever run into a situation where something’s not producing good fruit, it’s time to prune that branch so the tree can regain health.
Tony Morgan is the Lead Strategist and founder of the Unstuck Group, a consulting group that has served hundreds of churches throughout the world since its launch in 2009. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). Tony has authored more than a dozen books and ebooks which offer valuable. practical solutions for different aspects of church ministry. He has also been featured through his writing and speaking with organizations that serve churches including the Willow Creek Association, Outreach Magazine, Catalyst and Pastors.com.
Adapted excerpt from The Unstuck Church by Tony Morgan.