For me growing up the son of an evangelist in a family of evangelists, I guess you could say that church growth is a family business. When I was a child, evangelism wasn’t optional. I participated in every aspect of church growth. It was mostly a positive experience. (I’m sure if you could have asked 16-year-old Richie, he might say otherwise.)
Even during those years when it was the last thing I wanted to be involved in, I could not deny the transformative work of the Holy Spirit through the uplifting of Jesus Christ through personal and public evangelism. I’ve seen so many lives changed, even my own, as a result.
This is why I consider it the greatest privilege to serve the Southern Union in the United States as director of church growth and revitalization. My greatest desire and goal is to see a thriving church of mission and compassion transforming lives, communities, and the world.
This has always been God’s goal for His people. Throughout Scripture, we hear God telling His creation to be fruitful and multiply. We first hear it in Genesis 1:28 to Adam and Eve, and then repeated to Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Jacob’s sons, Moses, and Israel. God is constantly reminding His people of their calling to be fruitful and multiply. “I will bless you so that you can be a blessing to the world around you” (see Genesis 12:2). Centuries later, changing the wording a little, but essentially saying the same thing, Jesus calls the disciples and says, “I will make you fishers of people” (Matthew 4:19, NASB).
God’s desire for His church is the same today: to be fruitful and multiply. We want to support our great conferences in bringing revitalization to our established churches (fruitfulness) and to facilitate the planting of new ones (multiply).
First, let’s talk about revitalization. In John 15:8, Jesus says, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (ESV). We have some incredible churches in our region. But, the reality is that even the best, most healthy churches plateau over time. Statistically, most churches in the United States are either plateaued or declining. Our goal is to support our churches through the process of revitalization — reversing the decline and leading to greater fruitfulness.
We help facilitate this in several ways, including coaching, organizational health assessments, leadership development, weekend revivals, and church growth training and resources. Every church and community is unique, and we want to develop an approach that factors in that uniqueness, playing to our strengths and addressing areas of needed growth. In John 15:2, we read, “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful” (NIV).
The second major area of service in is to support and facilitate church planting in the region. Not only do we want to reverse the decline of established churches, but we need to plant new ones. Throughout the New Testament, we see the necessity of church planting. Church planting wasn’t one of the many ways they spread the gospel; it was the way.
I believe Jesus is returning soon, but if it is another 100 years before He does, I want to make sure my grandchildren and their children still have a church to call home — a community that will love them, make disciples, and send them out into the world. If we want to pass on the mission to the next generation, it won’t be with bigger churches but a bigger movement of church planting. God has called us to be fruitful and multiply. Regardless of how difficult it may seem for the church to go from declining to thriving in our world today, I know God can do it.
I believe our best, most fruitful days are ahead of us. I believe we’re at the beginning of a great movement of multiplication that will reach the world with the gospel and usher in the return of our Lord Jesus — this time not as a baby in a manger but as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.