Numerical stats don’t answer the most important question: Are your church members and leaders experiencing spiritual growth?
By Bobby S. Sena
The 2022 Lifeway Research study of United States Hispanic Protestant churches, sponsored by Lifeway Recursos, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and Samaritan’s Purse, captured some of the needs of Hispanic evangelical churches. Pastors indicated their priority on helping their church family and leaders grow spiritually.
For more than 50 years, I have served in a variety of roles in ministry. During most of these five decades, pastoral leaders only measured growth numerically. How many salvations and baptisms were there, and how many were in small groups and worship? Knowing our numerical stats is important, but numbers don’t answer the most important question: Are your church members and leaders growing spiritually?
It did not take me long to determine I would need the help of a team of pastors to answer this question. Here are four pastoral testimonies that demonstrate ways churches are emphasizing spiritual growth.
Champion Forest Church, Houston, Texas
This church has experienced continuous growth, both in numbers and spiritual vitality, according to Pastor Ramon Medina. Each of the church’s activities is focused on helping every person have a personal encounter with Jesus and every member grow in their spiritual development.
The church’s priority and calling is to be a witness of what Jesus has done in the life of the community of believers (Acts 1:8). But developing members of the body of Christ who are growing in the image of Christ is a challenge.“When the church helps the member grow, the church’s growth is in the Lord’s hands.” — Bobby Sena Click To Tweet
At Champion Forest Church, the applied exposition of the Word of God both in the Sunday messages and in discipleship programs has encouraged and helped this community of faith grow in the image of Christ. One of the church’s directional convictions is “to reach people for Christ and disciple them in their faith.” When the church helps the member grow, the church’s growth is in the Lord’s hands. In this church, the entire growth program is focused on Romans 12:2. When pastors are intentionally helping believers transform their ways of thinking, the believer’s ways of acting will also be transformed. This turns the believer into a witness who lives what he believes, naturally allowing spiritual growth.
House of Blessing Church, St. Cloud, Florida
Pastor David Perez says there are two important aspects of spiritual growth at his church. One is that the church must be spiritual. Galatians 5:25 tells us that if we live by the Spirit, we also have to walk by the Spirit. And Romans 8:8 teaches that those who live according to the flesh—that is, those who are not spiritual—cannot please God.
The other aspect is that one of the functions of believers is to encourage each other in spiritual growth. And pastors and leaders have a greater commitment to that function.
Here are three effective ways in which a pastor can encourage the church to be spiritual.
1. Be an example
No one will be encouraged to do something the pastor tells them to do but doesn’t do himself. Paul entrusts the young pastor Titus to present himself in everything as an example of good works (Titus 2:7).“No one will be encouraged to do something the pastor tells them to do but doesn’t do himself.” — Bobby Sena Click To Tweet
2. Words of encouragement
If we want to move the church in its spiritual search, we must be intentional communicators. Words of encouragement stimulate action. They must be said with wisdom, a vision of faith, and conviction, as well as meekness and love. There are moments of rebuke, but mostly they are done in a personal way and with the purpose of restoring (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
3. Bible and prayer
These are the two fundamental tools that will move the church into a vibrant spiritual life. Neither can be missing. The Word is alive and effective. Its truth is capable of penetrating and bringing conviction to the heart. On the other hand, prayer is the perfect and inseparable complement of the truth. Through it, the Holy Spirit manifests His power in the life of the church. This prayer has to be intentional and specific, a movement of persevering congregational prayer, crying out for His presence, direction, wisdom, and revival. This will be a catalyst in the spiritual life of the church. No matter how many participate at first, if we persist, others will join, and God will do the work (Jeremiah 33:3, Ephesians 3:20).
Courage, God is working powerfully in His people, and for this time, we were called to be instruments of His glory.
Victory in Christ Baptist Church, Riverdale, Georgia
According to Pastor Rubén Torres, they spiritually encourages the congregation through the expository preaching of the Word of God, making the wisdom of the Word of God available to the people of God so they can apply it to their lives. Biblical, intentional, collaborative, and analytical discipleship allows God’s people to grow and deepen their walk with Christ and discover their gifts and passions. Through healthy companionship, they learn to love, respect, and trust one another.
The Bridge Church, Richardson, Texas
The Bridge Church recently launched as a North American Mission Board replant with Pastor Jose Arzate. Because a church replant requires a renewed mindset and fresh goals, The Bridge Church implemented a growth track for existing members to trace their spiritual growth and involvement. When members are given the full purpose and pragmatics of spiritual growth, they are more likely to devote themselves to church engagement.“When members are given the full purpose and pragmatics of spiritual growth, they are more likely to devote themselves to church engagement.” — Bobby Sena Click To Tweet
The Bridge Church implemented a five-month challenge for the congregation to refresh their passion and urgency for the gospel. The challenge began with 21 days of prayer and fasting, in which church members prayed and meditated over a daily Scripture while fasting. Each month focused on one of the five pillars of the church―worship, fellowship, evangelism, discipleship, and service. The church offered monthly challenges relating to these topics, such as memorizing a Psalm, sharing the gospel with someone, or meeting with another member outside of church to pray and grow together.
To see a spiritual shift in the local church, Pastor Arzate believes it takes collaboration and a desire to reach the goal of connecting people to new life in Christ. Several parties must intentionally work together to accomplish the task, and God Himself must be in the middle. As Paul says in Philippians 2:13, “For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to His good purpose” (CSB). When the congregation, its leadership, and God align in Spirit and in truth, a church can experience immeasurable growth of spiritual maturity. Prayer and fasting should precede any vision or decision, and challenges can remind the church what it looks like to devoutly and counter-culturally live on mission.
For permission to republish this article, please email Marissa Postell Sullivan.
Bobby S. Sena
Bobby is the director of Spanish studies and professor of ministry at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.