On the surface, there may seem to be little difference between pastors who grow their church and pastors who grow their people. Both will emphasize serving as opportunities to take ownership, express their faith, and provide a venue to fulfill the commands of God. When you pause for a moment and dip beneath to see the motivations and machinations of those ministers who are primarily concerned for an amorphous concept of the Body of Christ, the difference are stark and startling.

Pastors who are concerned about church growth tend to look at the bottom line. They determine the health of the church numerically. "How many people attend?" "How many people are involved in activities?" "Who is tithing and how much are they tithing?" The larger the numbers, the more secure they are in their own concept of "success."

As ridiculous as it sounds, I know someone who was in a church that had morning prayer meetings. Although no one attended, the senior pastor made it mandatory for the pastoral staff to attend, even though the senior pastor rarely attended. Later, when much of the staff transitioned, the senior pastor admitted to one of the leaders that the sole reason for this prayer meeting was his ego. He wanted to tell other pastors that he had morning prayers everyday.

Another indicator of a pastor who focuses on church growth is the haphazard manner in which they throw people into positions and quickly replace them when they seem inefficient. There is little to no training or equipping given to position the people for success. It is a sink or swim style appointment for these positions. When the person begins to sink, they quickly look for a replacement.

Pastors who focus on the growth of their church will use the vocabulary of "empowerment" and "ownership", but they really care about free labor. There is no investment in these servants, just demands.

They also place the running of the church above the personal health of the people who make up the church. Making sure things are going smoothly takes precedent over personal schedules and issues.

Pastors who care about growing their people are marked by their investment of others and their ability to set others up for success. They are willing to train, mentor, disciple those who are serving, or at the very least provide resources or point them to someone who can train them. They understand that the difficulties of personal life will require flexibility in church life. These type of pastors believe that the overall health of the people and relationships are the best indicators of the overall health of the church.

One other crucial difference I want to mention is that pastors who seek to grow people make it very apparent that they believe in the visions and dreams of their members. These pastors seek for opportunities to elevate and promote others so that they can take steps further into the dreams God has given them. Pastors who seek to grow their own church look at people as means to fulfill their own end of self-glorification.

The theological mandate for these pastoral priorities comes with a New Testament understanding of the presence of God.

In the Old Testament, God's presence was made known in a physical location. He met with the Israelites in a box in a tent that was carried around among a people. In the New Testament, though, we are told that we are the Temple of God. When we believe this truth... that the people in our care are carriers of God's presence, then our priority must become focused on their growth and health. If we fail to believe the truth of this, then our focus will become relegated to the external, superficial buildings and programs we tout as service to the Lord.

God is calling the church to wake up to the priorities of His heart. He cares for us and honors us to the point of residing in us through the Holy Spirit. As a people of God, may our priorities align with His. May we bless and grow and love the people that He calls home.

Published by Young Song