In 1996, while serving as pastor of a church in Montgomery, Alabama, I became acquainted with a dynamic pastor named John Ed Mathison, who serves as senior minister of the Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church. While Frazer memorial started from humble beginnings, under Mathison’s leadership it quickly grew to the largest average worship attendance of any congregation in the United Methodist Church.
I had the opportunity one day to sit in John Ed’s office and talk to him about Frazer Memorial. I asked him, ‘What do you think is the most significant reason for the growth here at your church?’ John Ed replied, ‘Scott, I get asked that question several times a month. The answer is simple: it is the overwhelming involvement of our laity in every area of our church.’ He went on to say, ‘Our church continues to grow because people invite people to visit and become a part of our church. The bottom line for church growth is that God uses people to reach people. In our case, church members who find deep satisfaction in their ministry experience here at Frazer Memorial are excited and invite their friends and loved ones to worship here. As a result, people are experiencing the joy of seeing God work through them to meet the needs of others around them. It’s contagious!’
I have found this to be true throughout my entire ministry. The secret of growth is the personal involvement of the church membership in meaningful ministry. Church members actively involved in a worthwhile ministry in the church are more interested in sharing what God is doing through them than finding fault and criticising others. I’ve discovered that people who are busy rowing don’t have the time or energy to rock the boat! People who are absorbed in serving and witnessing create a contagious atmosphere for inviting people and encouraging others to serve.
A major problem in many churches today is that many members have the mind-set that ministry is to be done by the professional clergy or ministerial staff of the church, and that laypersons are the recipients of that ministry. This attitude is killing the effectiveness of the church. In fact, I fear that if this misconception is not corrected in our churches, the results will be devastating. Even now we are dangerously close to echoing the words from the book of Judges where it declares, ‘After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.’
From Chapter 9 of Reach – a team approach to evangelism and assimilation, published by BakerBooks 2005