Christian Living

Who Goes to Your Church?

The Number of First-Time Church Attendees Says Much about Your Congregation

Consider the people who go to your church. They fall into three categories. The first group are those who came to your church from another church. The second constituency consists of people who’ve gone there their entire life. The final type are first-time church attendees.

The second and third categories are small at many churches, with most of the people who go there coming from other churches. Most every church I been part of or have visited fits this pattern.

The result is that churches are largely—sometimes exclusively—comprised of people who came from other churches.

Church Shuffling

The result of this isn’t overall church growth but a migration of believers. It’s church shuffling. Yes, some churches grow because of shuffling people, while others shrink for the same reason. Yet the net result is overall zero church growth.

As a result, most churches gain attendance and members at the expense of other churches, which means that those churches lose attendees and members. This isn’t growing the kingdom of God but merely reshuffling it.

This shuffling of church members doesn’t accomplish anything to grow the kingdom of God or honor him in the process. These churches aren’t growing because of conversions; they’re not attracting first-time attenders.

Growth through First-Time Church Attendees

God-honoring growth comes not at the expense of other congregations, but when someone who doesn’t go to church starts attending.

Though some may have had a pre-existing relationship with Jesus but weren’t part of a faith community, most of these people have either just begun to follow Jesus or are checking him out.

They represent true church growth. And it’s absent at most gatherings. These churches have few converts. Instead, they have a different purpose in mind for church.

Meeting Needs

Churches that experience growth at the expense of other churches may justify this with the argument that “we’re just meeting people’s needs” or “we’re simply providing them what they want—and their old church didn’t.”

There is a bit of truth to this, but it’s a marketing mentality. This approach targets people using a consumer mindset and not a kingdom perspective.

Do you want to build a church dependent on marketing strategies or one that specializes on making Jesus-following disciples?

Don’t pursue church growth by shuffling members. Instead seek to grow with first-time church attendees and truly expand the kingdom of God.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

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