12 lessons I’ve learned about church growth

Reposting my top ten most viewed posts. This is #10 on the countdown.

Rick Langford

I have been privileged to serve as pastor of three churches. 28 years as a Senior Pastor will teach you a few things. Here are some of the lessons I have learned about church growth.

In order to experience growth:

1. You MUST define yourself as a church. What kind of church are you going to be? Will you be a church that exists primarily for church-goers or a church for the unchurched? The difference is huge. Here’s one way to determine what kind of church you are. Answer this question: Are we growing because of move-ins and transfers of Christians from other churches or are we growing because we are winning brand new people to Christ?

2. You MUST be willing to LOSE in order to gain. As hard as it is, when you define what kind of church you will be, some people will leave. Don’t…

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Cecil the Lion, Planned Parenthood and Beards

I know you may be wondering how the three things mentioned in the title of this post relate. Bear with me, we will get there.

Cecil the lion

Let’s start with Cecil the lion. Cecil was killed a few weeks ago. Cecil was a long time tourist favorite who called a Zimbabwe national park home. As long as he was on this dedicated portion of land, he was protected from hunters. He had a pretty good life I’m told.

A few weeks ago he was lured out of the park, according to news reports, and once out of the safety zone, he was promptly shot and killed by a dentist from a small town in Minnesota. Now, I am sad for Cecil. I’m sad for all the tourists who will never get to see him. He shouldn’t have been killed and from what I’ve heard, those who arranged for all this to happen are going to be charged with crimes.

Cecil’s untimely death has caused a deluge of anger to be released. People are mad at the poachers and the dentist. So mad, that they are organizing protests, calling in death threats, demanding that the dentist’s patients drop him and go elsewhere for their fillings. Big name supermodels, animal rights activists and politicians are seething in anger, wanting to exact revenge on someone who could do such a terrible thing. They are up in arms over this, rallying the troops, sending out email blasts, swamping social media and making headlines with their passion for the cause.

Planned Parenthood

Then there’s Planned Parenthood. This group has been in the headlines a lot recently. This is a group of purveyors of death who specialize in killing innocent babies and then, apparently, selling the organs of those babies for profit, in the name of research. Not only is all this an abomination, marketing the body parts is illegal. Yet, you find them defending themselves and being justified by others. Its really crazy. Millions of babies being killed, yet public outcry is minimal.

Of course, now that the news of what they have been doing is out, sponsors and donors are jumping ship like fleas in a creosote plant. There has been a small public outcry but the media and politicians  immediately condemn anyone who takes a stand against such atrocities as outdated and dumb. Pro-abortionists loudly and proudly proclaim their cause and are using what should be a negative to further brainwash a new generation.


Okay. So here’s where it gets a little crazy. On Facebook the other day, I ran across this link to a blog written by, as his site notes, a pastor, evangelist, conference speaker, camp meeting speaker and banquet speaker. I will not reveal his name. In the post I am referring to here, he goes on a little rant about how beards are making a comeback in the church. He uses historical, cultural, and ethnicity arguments to prove his point that facial hair on men is not, in his words, “expedient.” I find it interesting to note he did not produce one scripture to back up his inference that facial hair is a sin. Maybe its because there is none.

I was also intrigued by the responses he got to his post. One person said, “…and I feel the same with colored shirts on the platform.” This comment brought a flood of responses from people who declared they would never wear colored shirts (white shirts only) on the platform. One even had a divine revelation. Another wrote that he would never wear a short sleeved shirt and only occasionally would he roll up his long sleeved shirt. One lady said, “Take it from a woman, facial hair on men is gross.” Another said. “The reason I don’t grow/wear facial hair? Most backslidden preachers do.” Then, here was the kicker. “Put your finger in your ear. If your sideburns are lower than your finger; it’s facial hair.”

Okay, Okay. I know you’re wondering where all this is heading. I also know I am opening myself up to criticism and judgement. I can live with that.

  • So, there are 42 million abortions performed every year around the world. In 50 years between 1 and 2 billion babies have been murdered at the hands of abortionists.
  • Between 20 and 30 million humans are being trafficked in the world today. 80% of them in the sex trade industry. 80% of those are women and 50% of those are children. Human trafficking is the third largest crime industry in the world behind drugs and arms trafficking. (Dosomething.org)
  • Drugabuse.gov estimates there are 24.6 million drug addicts in America.
  • NCADD.org estimates there are 17.6 million alcohol abusers in America.

On and on the list could go, of things that are wrecking lives and creating havoc in our world.

What bothers me is where our priorities are. People are dying because of drugs and alcohol; Children and young people are being abused and used as instruments of commerce to satisfy deviant behavior; Christians overseas are being beheaded and burned alive because they will not denounce the name of Christ; Politicians and judges are playing with our lives and freedoms; Poverty is being perpetuated by governments for the sake of power and control; We are losing our children to the ideologies and lies spread by the purveyors of hedonism and pornography and Hollywood idealism, and what are some churches and people doing? Debating the nuances of facial hair on men. Come on! Really?

This is why Paul said in Romans 2:24  As it is written: “God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” (Read Romans 1 and 2 for the context)

Thankfully, not everyone is caught up in religious moralism that is graceless and all about self-preservation. If  you want to be part of that mentality, that’s your prerogative, but there is a movement that, without compromise, lives out the true meaning of Christianity.  One that does not throw stones because the people who make it up recognize their own messiness. This is the movement I want to make sure I remain a part.

Our responsibility is to PREACH THE GOSPEL, to spread the Good News and to live into His righteousness, which is His gift to us (Romans 5:15). If we will live into that gift, which by the way is not deserved (we have it because of grace) or earned, we will then bear the fruit of His righteousness in our lives.

So, let’s get our priorities in alignment. As my spiritual mentor often says, “Let the main thing be the main thing.” Here’s my recommendation. Make friends with some sinners. Quit just hanging out with your “Christians Only” club. Be with some real people for a change and it will change your perspective. Hang out with some people who’ve been raped, abused, used and discarded. You might just find out that there are more important things to get “hung up” on.