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: What are your thoughts on those who might say that instead of sending Christians abroad to do missionary work, why not have them focus on evangelism at home?

Greear: The heresy of sequentialism, which is a big term that just means treating things that are supposed to happen simultaneously as if they were supposed to happen in sequence. God never told us to distinguish between reaching our neighbor and reaching the nations. The very first apostles that God called, He gave the commission Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, the uttermost parts of the Earth. It wasn't that they were supposed to go to the uttermost part of the Earth after they won all the Jews to Christ. If that had been their mindset, then none of us who are Gentiles would be Christians today because the Jews still haven't all come to faith in Christ.

So what we have found is that we pursue simultaneously ministry at home and ministry overseas because that's the agenda that Jesus has given. What we found is that our abilities in one actually make us strong in the other. When we go on mission trips overseas, inevitably people come back from those with a greater clarity about the needs in their own community. Because they see the universality of the Gospel and they see what it looks like for Jesus to be glorified in the nations and they begin to desire more for that to happen in their own neighborhoods. The way we say it is 'the light that shines the farthest will also shine the brightest at home.'

CP: Are there any final points you would like to share?

Greear: For me, the biggest obstacle to becoming a multiplying, reproducing church was my own idolatry as a pastor. Because pastors tend to want big churches and big ministries. It all came to ahead for me one afternoon when I was praying for our city, that God would send an awakening to Raleigh-Durham, an awakening to the Gospel like nothing I'd ever seen before. It's the kinda thing that you write about in 100 years.

It was one of those moments when God, the Holy Spirit answered, not audibly but in a voice every bit as clear as if it were audible. He said, 'What if I answer this prayer and what if I send an awakening through the city of Raleigh-Durham but I don't use your church to do it? What if I bless somebody else's church down the road and your friend's church gets big but your church stays the same size. Do you still want me to send that awakening?'

I knew the answer was supposed to be 'Yes, Lord, You must increase but I must decrease. I knew that was the right answer. But that wasn't the real answer. The real answer is 'No, I'm not OK with that because I want our church to grow.' I realized that a lot of times [when] I'd made the statement 'thy kingdom come' it really had the undertones of 'my kingdom come.'

I had to go to our church and basically repent and say, 'I'm sorry. I felt like I've led you guys wrongly. Our focus has been on becoming a great big church. Instead, our focus needs to be on reaching our city with the Gospel and then getting the Gospel around the world in the places where Jesus is not known. And if God grows a great big church with us in the process, then so be it. But if he wants to send out some of our best resources and best money into the nations and we lose them as we send them out, then that's gonna be OK, too. Because the focus ... God never called us to just grow big and celebrate that. He called us to reach people, and the focus is reaching people, not growing big.'

That was a big turning point for us, because it marked this time where instead of simply trying to grow a great big ministry for us, it was like 'let's take our hands off that and let's reach people and if we can grow the Kingdom bigger by sending our best people and resources, then so be it.'

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

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