• Gil Torres

    I am a pastor of in a Spanish Community. Funds, professional members and talent are very lacking in the church since many nun the church are Hispanic members who have not assimilated completely to the English culture. We are, however, community driven. We need and have identified a location we can use to expand our ministry. Can you help us?

  • Gabriël G Smit

    and where in all of this is Jesus Christ?
    “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”
    (Mat 6:33 ESV)
    does ‘all things’ exclude church growth? if not, why be ‘hell’ bent on achieving it?
    the bottom line of the emphasis on church growth through man-made programs is lack of FAITH!

    in Christ

  • Brenda

    Umm, I thought that we (people) are to plant and water (seeds) and that God Himself causes the growth. At least that’s what Scripture teaches. (1 Cor 3 ?). And we’re also to preach Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor 1:22, 23 and 1 Cor 2:2). These are the things that will transform a man’s heart and thus get to the root of the Church dysfunction problem. God Bless you all, Brenda

  • Susiemail2002

    The five pastoral pointers seem like a corporate strategy. I’m seriously concerned if we’re basing church leadership on ‘Mammon’s’ board-room principles! 

  • Mori Martin DJIRI

     Yes, dear Pastor Rick. May God continue in blessing you and your ministry in Jesus’ Mighty Name!

  • No.

    No. No. No. No. No.

    “You must change the primary role of the pastor from minister to leader.”  With that sentence, Rick has summarized what I consider to be the biggest problem with the American church of the 21st century.  God forbid I ever elevate my role as leader above my role as minister.  Yes, I believe God calls pastors to exercise leadership and vision, but I am first and foremost a caregiver for my flock.  We have trained countless pastors (and seminary students about to become pastors) to become CEOs first, ministers second.  As a result, we have people who can craft a heckuva vision statement, run a meeting efficiently and form a task force faster than anything, but we also have starving flocks who believe that there must be something wrong with them because all the vision statements, ministry reports, and new programs still leave them feeling empty and uncared for.  As if it were their fault, instead of our fault for abandoning our call to love and lay down our lives for the sheep.

    I agree with Rick that “pastoring is a balance,” but it confuses me that he would say that directly after saying the pastor needs to shift from a minister to a leader as their primary role.  That is not balance.  The thought that our leadership responsibilities are more important than our ministerial duties, in my opinion, is ripping the heart out of God’s church.

    • Pastor Ben

      I have a lot of repect for Rick Warren (in fact, I have a quote sitting above my desk right now about church growth), but here I Completely agree with Jack.  There’s a really good book out called “Under the Radar” by Douglas Webster that deals with this very issue.  We certainly must lead, but our charisma, charm, or organizational prowess are not what reflect Christ’s leadership, our compassion and care for people are.  It is not accidental that Jesus repeatedly draws upon shepherding language in the gospels when he’s teaching his disciples, it’s because that is how he intended for His church to be led and fed, not by assembly line ministers or CEO’s. 

    • Jack, Rick’s view is a reflection of Ephesians 4, where the role of Pastors is spelled out clearly as equipping people for ministry rather than doing all the ministry. A shepherd’s heart is necessary, but if the Pastor becomes a chaplain, doing all the ministry, then the people go unequipped.
      The Pastor is a leader of leaders.

    • Susiemail2002

      Thank goodness! It’s not just me! I feel very much like a second-class citizen in my church where the focus seems to be ‘bums on seats’ at the expense of serving the needs of the congregation. I’m all for outreach but what you do with those you usher into the fold is equally important!

    • Ana Willis

      I’m a pastor and I can testify that in a church where the pastor is not exercising the role of a leader is pure chaos. I think what Rick Warren is saying is that we can’t just think of our roles as ministers (just ministering the Word). A church will only go where the pastor leads. I’ve seen this with my own eyes and the product was a dying church. As pastor we also have to be ministers and leaders – side by side in perfect balance.

  • Robbiza

    Sorry about the ” G”s I guess I was having a senior moment.

  • Robbiza

    I  don’t see anything in any of these comments about the work of the Holy Spirit in building growth, both spiritual and physical in a congreation. You Shall recieve power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you and power is what empowers a growing and dynamic congreation. Lives need to be changed before a congreation can change

  • oquendo2727

    Pastor: Angel O.

    It’s amazing how an article can bring out all kinds of
    opinions. This gives us a little insight on the true nature of the problem; it’s
    not so much the methods that we are using  as the diversity of opinions and
    forms of approach that we each have as pastor”s. I will say this, surely something of value can be extracted from all the observations that have been made.

  • Angel O

    Pastor: Angel O.

    It’s amazing how an article can bring out all kinds of
    opinions. This gives us a little insight on the true nature of the problem; it’s
    not so much the methods that we are using as the diversity of opinions and
    forms of approach that we each have. I will say something of value can be
    extracted from all the observations that have been made.

  • Revjustinharris

    Enjoyed this article.  Good stuff!  I needed that.

  • Jeremy Mould

    thank you Pastor Rick for this and all your writings that have given me and many others so much to meditate and act upon. I am an assistant in a small Anglican church in Belfast and your books and articles have had and will continue to have an important impact in our attempt to share the good news of the kingdom of God in this hard consumerist place!
    once again thank you and your whole team for all your hard work in trying to encourage churches across the world. please don’t be discouraged by those who criticise. there are probably 1000’s of others like me who have never left a message because we love what you have written and so have no axe to grind!
    May the Lord bless and watch over you and your church family.
    yours in Christ
    JM (Rev)

  • Guest

    Growth is from God, which is clearly stated in Colossians 2:19.

    Unless you acknowledge that God is the head, and for everything to be done prayerfully in Him, every other human effort is done in futility.

    “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”John 15:5″Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labour in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain.”
    Psalms 127:1Nothing you’ve mentioned above is supported by scripture.

    • We agree with you. Growth is from God, yes. We believe Jesus is the Head of the church, that in all things He might have the preeminence. 

    • Guest, your comment suggests that we just need to sit back, do nothing, and God will make it all work out (somehow). But something I do find interesting in the verses you quoted is that nowhere do they tell us that we should not labor, or that watchmen are unneeded, or that there doesn’t need to be fruit. In fact, they suggest exactly the opposite – that we’re supposed to work; in this case, we’re supposed to be intentional about building and growing the church. What the verses DO say, however, is that God must be involved. But nothing is what Rick wrote suggests otherwise.

      • Dgv

        Your first point is so important. I’ve heard so many pastors talk like there is no connection between the growth of the church and the choices leaders make. Talking about the sovern will of God as a reason some churches don’t grow is a shame in light of His desire for none to perish.

  • Chad Bruegman

    Great article Rick! Sorry
    For some of the disrespectful things that people have posted on this page! Maybe that critical attitude is what is halting
    Their church growth! To say that if “you planted a church in any other area
    Then OC, then no one would know you.” is, in my opinion, not only ridiculous, but disrespectful and not done in the Spirit of Christ! You would think Pastors (of all people) would show each other a little more proffesional respect, even I you disagree! I believe Jesus called it loving your neighbor as much as you love yourself! As a Pastor, I loved the article. I know Pastor Rick is a age old PRO at dealing with critics, but I am not! The unbriddled discourse that the Internet has allowed, has revealed the heart of so many, small minded, insecure Pastors who assume anyone else’s ministry must be the result of pastoral pride or impure motives! Pastor Rick has proven over and over again, that he’s in this for the right reasons. He’s also earned the right to speak to Teachable pastors like myself, about church growth, even if it’s in three small points!

    • Chad, thanks for your encouraging comments! To note, I have chosen to delete the comment you reference here, not because it was a disagreement, but because it was a personal and unwarranted criticism. 

  • Robbie

    Rick, I am a Pastor who has heard a lot of good council from you. So I must say that I’m a little bit taken aback at a comment that you’ve made in this post. I’ll start by saying the whole idea of growing the church or not is not the issue I have here. I fully believe that people should be concerned with numbers in their church. Numbers are people, and people are who God has charged us with reaching.

    My issue comes with your comment about Elders and Deacons, and the Church not having an explicit organizational pattern. I hope that I’ve just misunderstood your comment, because if I haven’t, I am very disappointed.

    The Bible is VERY clear about how to organize your fellowship. 1 Timothy and Titus give us specific qualifications for who God has appointed to lead His church: Elders.  And then Romans 8:28 gives these Elders their marching orders.

    Again, I hope and pray that I have misunderstood your comment. If I haven’t, I pray that you would seek wisdom in this matter. And not from me. I do not presume to be anyone of wisdom or knowledge. But I know you like to read. If you haven’t read it yet, I would recommend Biblical Eldership by Alexander Strauch.

    I wish you all the best, my brother.

    • Robbie, to clarify, we definitely believe what the Bible has to say about Edlers as overseers. Rick’s comments have more to do with the structures we add on top of Scripture – the job descriptions typical to a human resources department, flow charts, bylaws, etc. These are necessary, but man-made and change from age to age and culture to culture. That God has ordained pastoral leadership for the church is certainly not in question. Thanks for calling for the clarification.

  • Your are correct on what you write…. What you may not realize
    is that your success is a gift of grace. Your results are because God by no merit
    of you, just chose to bless and favor you. There are many far better Bible teachers
    in So Cal, far better churches too. You are good, I like you very much and have
    been an avid follower of you sense your tent, sense your fax of life, sense
    your CEFI seminars… but make no mistake, your growth, even though you done it
    right and well for the most part, is purely grace alone. If you planted your
    church in Pasadena or anywhere else besides the mega growth region of SOC, no
    one would have ever heard of you too… be blessed!  A few cents from another ‘Rick,’ Phil 1:6

  • Fred

    Great read and very valuable tips from someone who has obviously experienced struggles and success. This advice did not come free, someone had to spend yime in trying method after method till they understood that we are not omly ministers but leaders. To Scott I say, even if your church kills any vision you may want to transmit, the conviction you have on what God has sent you out to do must be much greater than the oppositions position. Push through even if your alone, God will reward your faith.

  • I think we may be on dangerous ground in part of this.  1 Corinthians 3 warns us that God is the one who provides growth.  We must plant and water, according to Paul.  We should be less convicted about growth and more convicted to do whatever it takes to do our job as those called to tend God’s fields.  I also have difficulty with bifurcating leadership and ministry.  Perhaps it’s just me, but there’s far more to these topics than three paragraphs can cover.

    • Jason, you’re right, and we agree with you. It is God who provides growth, but He expects us to be very intentional about creating the church health necessary for growth to occur. In fact, if you check out The Purpose Driven Church, you’ll notice that growth is not the primary issue – health is. Nonetheless, healthy things grow – a truth illustrated in scripture and in creation.

      • Mark

         “but He expects us to be very intentional about creating the church health necessary for growth to occur” – Where does He expect that? Are there specific imperatives for us to do that?

        • Mark, the entire New Testament makes it imperatives. All of the “one another’s” of the Bible are about creating health within our church, loving one another. The Great Commission requires us to be intentional in evangelism and discipleship. The multiple commands to serve and Ephesians 4 make it clear that striving for health includes Pastors training people for the work of the ministry. Acts 2 and Acts 4 give us concrete examples of a caring biblical community. Yes, there are hundreds of imperatives about being a healthy church. 

  • Scott

    I wish it were that simple.  These three are important–no doubt–but probably not sufficient in most ministry contexts.  In my experience, you also have to go to war in identifying and rooting out an ungodly culture.  It might be selfishness, pride, or a love of money.  In my church, it’s a complete aversion to honesty and biblical community.  We hide and cover up our true natures and attitudes, so that we look good in many ways on first glance, but the truth is that inside we’re full of shame and doubt and fear–but we refuse to talk about it or deal with it.  We are absolutely committed and fully invested in an I’m-ok-you’re-ok arrangement with all of our relationships.  We’ll never grow (or accomplish anything for the kingdom, for that matter) until we get this pretense and deception out of our church’s culture.  

    I guess you can put that under point 2 (be a leader).  But it’s a big enough job I think it should stand on its own–Learn how to identify the unspoken assumptions of your congregation; Learn how to help them see what is invisible to them; Find a way to communicate the tragedy that their faulty assumptions have wrought, when it comes to the advancement of the kingdom; Lead them through a process of repentance; Set up a plan for changing attitudes and behaviors; Develop accountability structures (including rewards for successes); Be on the lookout for the reemergence of old attitudes and behaviors; Help others see the signs of sliding back into old patterns; Create an assimilation process that orients newcomers to the desired worldview instead of the old one.  

    And there’s probably some more steps that ought to be involved.  I don’t know because I’m only on step 2, moving into step 3.  And I’ve been here seven years.  The first five were spent trying to figure out why nothing works here.  The next two were spent on step 1.  Now that I’ve “got it,” I’m trying to make up for lost time, but this is a huge job–and one that nobody talks about.  

    I’ve got nothing against Rick Warren, but all these successful pastors with their big churches apparently never had to deal with this kind of  stuff–because they just say “learn to communicate your vision,” as if that were all that were necessary.  But what if you have a church culture that is vision-proof?  What if you have a congregation that will kill any vision you have because it threatens their most cherished beliefs and attitudes?  What if they desire self-protection more than the advancement of the kingdom?  In that case, I don’t care how good a communicator you are.  You need to address the fundamental incompatibility that exists between your vision and their values.

    • Scott, it sounds like you’re in a rather tough spot, and we feel for you! There are churches that do not and will not respond to the vision cast by their God-given shepherd-leaders. This is tragic and there are times when a leader has to move on to a place where he can lead biblically. Other times, the leader needs to learn to lead more wisely. There’s no way, in an article written for the masses, to advise on each specific situation.

      Also, please realize that articles such as this one by Pastor Rick are somewhat general – he’s giving some broad principles and isn’t trying to cover all the bases but rather is addressing three particular barriers out of many.

      • Scott

        Brandon, thanks for the kind words.  For myself, I sense that God has called me to work at transforming this church’s culture, not to leave it for greener pastures, as it were–although he does certainly call others to move.  And I understand what you’re saying about the purpose of this article.

        However, I guess I just want to push back one more time a little bit.  I know my comment was long and oriented a lot around my own context.  But my point is that I think my church is typical.  I think my church represents the majority of churches in America (70-80%).  Oh sure, the particulars might be different.  The way the dysfunction gets played out might vary.  But I think the biggest issue facing pastors today is that most of them are attempting to do kingdom work in a church that is opposed (in one manner or another) to the kingdom.

        So what are we to do?  These three particular barriers, as crucial as they are, won’t be the clinching issue for most pastors; they can address them and still see no tangible fruit.  As you say, we can leave and try to find a healthier church–one that’s receptive to vision and godly leadership–but there aren’t that many of them out there.  In fact this is what most pastors do–they move every 4 years, only to find the same problems sand frustrations wherever they go.  I think most pastors give up too early.  I think most should stay and fight against the ungodly culture that has taken root in their church.

        But you never see an article on that.  There are no how-tos, no three simple steps.  Nobody talks about it.  Because it’s hard.  It requires incredible sacrifice.  It means being all alone, many times, with only God to rely on.  It means being a leader of a church that isn’t growing, and living with the opinions that others form about you because of it.

        And yet, I believe that’s what God has called us to when he called us to be pastors.  Because the majority of churches need someone who’s going to lead them out of slavery.  We need more pastors who are willing to be Moses instead of Joshua.  If we want to see the church in America renewed, then we need pastors who are willing to lead their churches into renewal.

        I love Rick Warren.  I’ve benefited greatly from his wisdom and experience.  I just am crying for someone–anyone–to address what I believe is the central issue for most churches, most pastors: A sinful, ungodly, dysfunctional church culture.  You can change everything in the church–the name, the structure, the worship style, the programming, whatever–but until the culture is addressed, it’s like spitting into the wind.

        • lc

          Yes, Scott-  the mainline denomination churches in America are actually the norm, not the exception.  But we mainline pastors love the energy of non-denoms, megas, and new church starts, perhaps as a relief and encouragement.  And the first temptation – our “coping mechanism” is to dream for greener pastures (or for the congregation- dream for greener Pastors) where we will have a prime setting.   But what Jesus’ setting?  It is this consumerist perspective that allows Harold Camping to effectively cry out- “leave the Churches, satan is in the Churches.”  And the enemy would have us do that, abandon the very stubborn people God loves.    But spiritual maturity, the very growth at the core of church growth (which this article aims to address) comes out of sacrificial living, allowing Christ’s peace to manifest in difficult situations.   I admire your faithfulness to a stubborn people, which comes from no one other than Christ, who did not choose a place where he wouldn’t be crucified, but preached good news while they were nailing him to the cross.       Peace-  lc 

    • Won2have

      Scott, brother. Breathe. Sin and death are the enemy. You can not save anyone. There is wheat and chaff, god knows it. If you embrace success as your own doing so must you failure, so don’t do either. Ppl perish for lack of vision. The vision is the gospel. If no one is getting on board, your preaching the wrong message or they are not your sheep to lead. Teachers are held to a higher accountability. Don’t respond or react. Breathe. Pray for what ever it is you need. Yu can not save anyone. Sin and death are the enemy.

  • Eric Santaella

    Dear Rick, Thank you very much, I just need
    that right now. Particularly on point 2. Sincewe began the
    transformation of “A healthy church” in our
    small French provincial church, Ialso review the conception
    of the my pastoral ministry. This is particularly difficult
    in a country where democracy is implanted in the working of churches.
    I thank The Lord of the capabilities it gives you and I
    can be in the benefit.
    Eric (from France)

  • Definitely something I needed to read right now. Great post!