Following are Church Growth Principles I followed (1 Corinthians 3:10-15) in the beginning years at New Life Fellowship Phnom Penh
Pastor Eric Dooley laid a firm foundation in New Life Fellowship during 1994-1997; that foundation is still firm, valid and strong. When Pastor Eric Dooley turned New Life Fellowship over to me in 1997 I knew what to do to help the church grow to the next level. I knew because I had been involved in a church growing from about 200 to 1,700 and we had studied church growth principles for years. At this point these principles are part of who I am and I think about them and try to apply them unconsciously. I share them with you for our benefit and hope to share them in a seminar form someday to help local churches in Cambodia grow in number. When I turned the church over to Pastor Jesse, Jesse took the church to a new level using his wisdom and keys from the Word of God.
Below are 10 Principles that I systematically put into place during the years that I was senior pastor of the Phnom Penh Church.
Principle 1: True Converts
Explained: I wanted to avoid Cambodians just joining our religion or following our customs but no heart change. I wanted them to truly love God and commit to serving him the rest of their life with no turning back.
Goal: Not just follow outward activities such as attend a class, attend a meeting, help or even read the Bible or be water baptized. I wanted them to have a transformation in their inner heart that will last until the day they die.
Process: We preached the Bad News first to help them have a strong desire to want the Good News. People must first understand that they are hopeless sinners before they will want God’s salvation and will remain true to him.
Principle 2: Clear Path to Make Disciples
Explained: I wanted to have the Word of God and basic truths and principles to help them grow taught to new converts in a systematic way so as not to miss any key point. I wanted to create the culture for them to study certain classes and then teach them to others.
Goal: Study through the Knowing God Book (true conversion); Foundations Book (Foundations of the Faith); and Family of God Book (Church Life) and teach the lessons to others.
Process: In the beginning there was not a culture to study like this. In fact it was difficult to get them to come to a Sunday church meeting for an hour and a half, but then we added a one hour class before the Sunday church meeting. At first hardly anyone attended and attendance was inconsistent. But we persisted and now it is our culture – someone comes into the church and they just know they’re supposed to take these classes. These classes are the doorway to other ministry in the church. The lessons were written with the intent of being simple and reproducible so anyone who has completed the class could easily teach it to someone else.
Principle 3: Small Groups for Fellowship and Discipleship
Explained: I understood that people do not make friends or become disciples in the Sunday church meeting. The Sunday church meeting is for casting vision, the Holy Spirit to move in a dynamic way and for celebration. Discipleship and friendship occurs in small groups.
Goal: Everybody to become part of a small group.
Process: As I recall, we started one small group with Eric leading it and one with me. We meet with leaders and they met with others. Personal invitation is the best way for people to join a group. We made a simple meeting schedule for them to follow. The groups were to grow and members were to become small group leaders themselves.
Principle 4: Constant Emphasis on Evangelism
Explained: I understood the principle that Christians seem to lose their passion to reach the lost after 2-3 years of being a Christian. They like to fellowship with other Christians instead. Also, only about 10% of the church are bold to share their faith. I realize that I and the leaders must continually declare the vision to evangelize in every way and at all times. We must not quit but find ways to emphasize this in every meeting and provide opportunities.
Goal: Everybody is passionate about sharing their faith in Christ or at least passionate about leading Cambodia to Christ and willing to invite people to evangelistic and church activities.
Process: In prayer meetings, sermons, altar calls, testimonies we remind the church members to reach their lost friends, neighbors, workmates and classmates. We provide training in evangelism and church activities to bring their friends. We provided evangelistic tracts they could use as well.
Principle 5: Family Atmosphere as committed brothers and sisters
Explained: When Eric turned the church over to me I felt we had a group of young men becoming disciples, but we were not yet a family. A family cares for one another, sacrifices for one another and stays faithful to one another.
Goal: Church members are committed to the local church as something important to them because they have friends whom they consider like family.
Process: I felt the key to this was eating together and having fun together. Therefore, we began to have regular meals together and to places to have fun as a group. I tried to arrange activities so they could get to know one another to become friends.
Principle 6: Big Events with Strategic Follow Up
Explained: Big Events such as holiday activities, concerts, crusades, special-interest meetings can help a church get a name in the community and can help push the church over the growth barrier, but there must be organized follow up after the event.
Goal: Have regular Big Events with follow up.
Process: We would take advantage of Cambodian public holidays as well as international holidays like Valentine’s Day and Christmas. We would organize, advertise and try to do follow up. However, in those days no one had cell phones, street addresses were not consistent and I discovered that Cambodians often went by one name at home and another name among friends! It was very, very difficult to follow up!
Principle 7: Mindset to Multiply Yourself and Release Christians to Ministry
Explained: Most people leave church because they have nothing to do in the church (it has not become their church) or they have no friends or they get out of the habit as a result of a significant life change. My mindset was to teach Cambodians everything I know and teach them how to do everything I know how to do, thereby multiplying myself to some degree. We tried to model this, teach it and provide opportunities. If you play an instrument, teach someone else. If you speak English or use a computer, teach someone else. If you know how to pray, teach the Bible, etc., teach someone else to do it. It’s in this way we multiplied musicians, preachers, teachers and all kinds of ministries.
Goal: Everybody should be teaching someone else what they know how to do. Everyone should be teaching and everyone should be learning.
Process: I modeled this in making disciples and training leaders in every way and encouraged the disciples and leaders I was training to do the same.
Principle 8: Feeding God’s Flock at Balanced Spiritual Diet from the Word of God
Explained: During the course of a year the pastor must teach truths from the Bible that are useful for every area of the Christian life. Pastors have a tendency to teach primarily the things they like. We need to plan well-balanced teaching from month to month and we need to teach in a series of sermons, with the former sermon reviewing the previous sermon to remind the listeners that we are on a journey through the Word of God on that subject.
Goal: Plan a preaching schedule for 52 weeks of the year.
Process: We must determine where our church is at spiritually at this time and where we want to lead them during this year. Make a list of all the important subjects (skills and knowledge) that are necessary for a Christian to grow to maturity (do the same for what leaders need) and make a schedule for each month – four sermons each month on the same subject but differnet aspects of that subject).
Principle 9: Preaching Practical Sermons that are Useful for Their Life
Explained: Many pastors preach sermons and teach lessons that are about Bible history or Bible knowledge but they are not useful for the everyday life of the people in their church. Also, they teach without passion and do not show the church members how to apply what the Bible says about that subject to their lives every day.
Goal: Preach sermons that will help Christian grow and tell them how to apply the Word of God in every area of their life.
Process: I believe a short sermon is better than a long one. Most church members don’t remember our sermons anyway. Make a clear introduction with a story and just 3 or 4 points then a conclusion. I like to ask myself these two questions when I finish preparing the lesson: 1) What do I want them to know as a result of this lesson? 2) What do I want them to do as a result of this lesson? If I can’t answer those two questions in two clear sentences then I don’t know what the main point of my sermon is and those who hear me won’t know either. I try to tell them clearly how to apply this. Also, I give an opportunity for them to respond to the Word of God through the sermon by praying, declaring the Word of God, laying hands on them or providing some other kind of opportunity for them to show they will obey and apply the Word of God.
Principle 10: Releasing Church Members to do the work of the Ministry before
they are fully trained
Explained: It’s not necessary for a church member to be fully trained before we release them to ministry. It’s not necessary for them to go to a Bible School before they are released to ministry. Jesus trained his disciples and leaders as they were working together. He showed them how to do it by modeling it for them. He released them, then they reported back and Jesus corrected or encouraged them according to their results. We want men and women who are trained. We don’t want to release them too soon and we don’t want to release them too late. We try to find the middle ground.
Goal: Be willing to release Christians to help in a ministry or lead a ministry before they are fully equipped, but make sure you follow up with them and guide them.
Process: We would do ministry together. I would explain what I’m doing – how and why. I would let them help and watch them. I would allow them to do it and report back to me. We have regular meetings for reporting and follow up. I used the principle of “Low Experience and Motivation needs High Supervision. High Experience and High Motivation needs Low Supervision. When they were new I gave a lot of supervision and guidance. As they gained experience and strong motivation I didn’t supervise them as much.