You Can Have Growth, Or You Can Have Control

Grace Hills Church In a Movie Theater

If Proverbs could have a 32nd chapter of nuggets of wisdom, David Chrzan would write it. In the five years or so that I’ve known and worked with David, he’s repetitively dropped advice that has shaped my own philosophy of leadership. For example, in a recent conversation David said, “You can have growth or you can have control. And you have to decide how much of each you want.”

Wow. So true. David wasn’t implying that control is a bad thing. In fact, some level of control is essential. And “control” really refers to the amount of institutional structure and machinery required to guide a movement forward within protective boundaries.

This past weekend, Grace Hills set a new attendance record for the third time this year and it’s only February. At least five adults have trusted Christ this year in our services. And on Sunday, 36 people came to our Newcomer’s Lunch which is more people than we had in our very first public meeting two and a half years ago. Angie and I go home on Sundays and talk about how humbled we are to even get to be part of it, and then we usually talk about how scary it is.

Scary? Growth? Isn’t growth good? Yes. Growth is good for a church if it’s the result of God’s response to a healthy body. But with growth comes the feeling of a loss of control. Suddenly, we don’t know everyone anymore. We can’t remember all the names and match them up with all the faces. We are scrambling to staff our kids rooms and other areas with enough volunteers to keep things working well. It costs more money to minister to more people. People from different backgrounds are converging, which brings a broader array of philosophies into our small groups.

Our gut reaction to rapid growth is to immediately try to control it. We need more systems. We need more machinery. We need to stabilize the institution. I know… let’s form some committees…

As David shared the principle of how growth and control are fierce enemies, he also pointed out that as a church grows, some level of control is necessary. Systems are good. They help us keep people from falling through the cracks and getting left behind. But if a movement is gaining momentum because of the involvement of the Spirit of God, then who can really stand in its way?

So here’s an alternative plan to follow when growth comes.

  1. Celebrate the wins and the changed lives and the steps forward happening in the lives of people
  2. Try to get in front of the movement with a framework for making disciples that will scale with growth.
  3. Have a solid theological framework for doing ministry long before you start.
  4. Focus on developing leaders who can create healthy systems, not systems for which you desperately need leaders.
  5. Go with the flow. Follow the Holy Spirit’s movement, which can be as unpredictable as the wind.
  6. Realize that growth should be multi-dimensional. How will you turn this new crowd into a committed congregation?
  7. Never shift from an outward focus. It’s never time to “stop reaching new people and start discipling those we have.” Discipleship, by its nature, involves reproducing, so remaining outwardly focused is the best way to make disciples.

You can have growth, or you can have control. How much of each do you really want?

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About the Author

I'm Brandon. I'm the Lead Pastor of Grace Hills Church in Northwest Arkansas, which my wife, Angie, and I planted in January of 2012. I previously served as a Pastor at Saddleback Church and still manage Pastor Rick Warren's online, global ministry to pastors, I also lead a blog about blogging, a blog about social media, and a blog about men's issues. And I've written a book - Rewired, which challenges the church to adopt social media to spread the good news about Jesus. I sometimes take on church website design projects and I coach pastors and leaders as well. I'd love to hear from you!
2 Responses
  1. Brian Strickert

    Growth is good! You don’t want to slow growth. If growth is happening that means God is sending them.

    Control is good to. Ultimately God is in control.

    But the next word that goes with it is delegate. Delegate some of the control with people that are Christ centered that have the same vision as the pastor.

    Next is a plan. A Church must have a plan. A plan for growth and a plan for shrinkage. Check the plan and make sure that the plan still fits the growth. If not then its time to adjust the plan. Checking the plan often helps and checking that plan with Gods help well you can’t go wrong.

    But what an exciting problem to have!!

  2. Thought provoking post, B. While this is extremely applicable to church planting/pastoring, the same can be said for careers, marriages, and families. Having total control is something to which we naturally flock due to our depravity. We want dictatorship over our lives. On the contrary, supernatural growth merits faith in He who epitomizes Super Natural. I love nurturing and raising my child, but she’s almost at the age where I will no longer have to be so involved in her feeding; eventually she’ll be able to hold her own bottle and pick up her own spoon. That’s scary, but it’s also beautiful. Thanks for writing.

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