Pastor With 9,000-Member Congregation Says Churches Should Stop Focusing on Numbers

Megachurch Pastor J.D. Greear Explains How Churches Can 'Gain' by 'Losing' Their Members in New Book

CP: In Gaining By Losing you express some criticism of the attractional model, but at the same time write that it has value and a biblical basis.

Greear: In the world that I run in, where there's a lot of megachurch pastors, they are very aware that the attractional model, which I take time in the book to say, is valid. We certainly ought to celebrate when people are coming, and there's a lot of room for growth in that. But we're gonna have to not just be satisfied with it.

One of the reasons why I feel like I'm kind of in a unique place to say this is we have a church that's been ranked by Outreach as one of the fastest-growing churches in America for the last six years in a row. We have close to 10,000 people on the weekend. So I'm not like an anti-big church guy. I'm just saying that we have to put so much of our energy now into raising up and sending out, not just gathering and counting. So I think we have to recognize that there's a place for both.

CP: What's your response to skeptics who might say, "Well that's easy for you to say because you have such a huge congregation?"

Greear: I have a chapter in there on disciple-making, and the point I make is that disciple-making is just one Christian producing himself in another Christian. If disciple-making was a part of the church culture again, then sending would take care of itself. So sending is not something that a church with a lot of resources is supposed to do. It's supposed to be what every Christian does. They're supposed to be raising up other leaders around them and empowering them to go into ministry as well.

So if you have a church of only 10 people, they can be doing this, they can be identifying who is the leader they should be raising up and sending out to plant another church. Multiplication is built into the very DNA of the individual Christian, so whether it's 10 or 10,000 the principles apply.

CP: You explain in the book how your church encourages members to be mission-minded. How do you keep from guilt-tripping people? How do you equip them to follow the Great Commission in their own Spirit-gifted capacity, without drawing comparisons to others?

Greear: You replicate what you celebrate, so we are constantly telling stories of people who God is using, just ordinary people. So you have people at different stages of their discipleship saying, 'I could see God doing that in me.' It doesn't take a seminary education and it doesn't take a great deal of talent to be able to reach out to somebody and begin to bring them in the process of discipleship.

Discipleship is just you teaching somebody to follow Jesus the way that you do. In fact, you can make an argument that people are at their most effective in disciplemaking the newer they are in the their faith, because they can still understand what it's like to be outside of Christ and they're able to bring other people along. So we just start celebrating people that are, whether they are sharing Christ or ministering Christ's love, we tell their stories all the time because, like I said what you celebrate, you replicate.

CP: You also write about myths or misconceptions some Christians might have about seeking God's will for their lives, or believing that only a select few are called to ministry.

Greear: The call to leverage your life and talents for the Great Commission was included in the call to follow Jesus. Jesus says follow me and I will make you a fisher of men. That call is given to every Christian. The question isn't (any) longer if we're called. The question is only where and how. What we tell our people is, if you're a sincere follower of Jesus, he's called you into mission. Now you just have to find out where he's gifted you and find out what arena he sent you into to carry the Gospel with you.

The counterpart to that, about seeking God's will, we're asking the wrong question when it comes to seeking God's will. God has already spelled out His will in Scripture for us, the majority of it. That is that we would be a people who know Jesus and make Him known to others. Once you answer that part of it, what He does is He steers you in the execution of His will.

We have a lot of people asking the question waiting for a voice, when He's already given us a verse. The will of God is spelled out in the verse: 'He's not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.' Christians pursue disciple-making and they pursue glorifying God with whatever gifts and talents God's given them. And the question is where and how they are supposed to do that most effectively.

Email this CP reporter at nicola.menzie(at) | Follow this CP reporter on Twitter.

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