There is much discussion in ministry circles about whether or not established churches can be effective at reaching the lost. Some say that church plants are much more effective–and this is born out statistically. This is certainly true to some extent. Church plants seem to be able to reach people more quickly, more effectively, etc.
I have seen and been a part of established churches that are effective at reaching lost people. I have seen dying churches turn around, I've seen churches that were pretty much left for dead rise up and live again.
I have never seen that without a fundamental change in the attitude of the church. Church attitude is at least as important as church strategy–and that is why cultivating a healthy church environment may be the most important core strategy any church can have. To me, this is why church starts tend to grow more quickly. It's not just that they are new, etc. Church starts convert more people and grow more quickly because they are like a new garden planted, and weeds haven't begun to grow yet that choke off growth. Church plants are full of enthusiasm, innovation and energy not just because they are new–but because they are usually born healthy. As the church ages, weeds begin to grow and thus the new plant's long-term health depends on their ability to continue to "grow green." Churches are typically far more diligent at scattering seed than on cultivating the health of the soil on which the seed falls. Over time, scattering more seed yields less crop.
If a church does not actively cultivate a healthy church environment, even good seed won't grow. A healthy church environment simply requires seed scattering to produce growth. If we want to see our churches grow and bear fruit, we must continue to scatter seed but focus more on cultivating healthy soil.
This is why we added, "in a healthy church environment" to NVC's mission statement. The Parable of the Soils reminds us that the type of ground seed falls on makes huge difference whether the seed grows into anything or whether the birds will eat it or the thorns will choke it out. Regardless of whether the church is established or brand new, health is more important than growth. Health will nearly always bring growth. Growth, when the growth brings weeds into the garden, can actually lead to decline over the mid and long terms.
This series of posts focuses on how to grow green whether you are a new church or a more established church. I hope you will find it helpful.
Question: Do you agree that churches focus more on scattering seed than on cultivating healthy soil? Do you think that's the best way to do things?