Question: What is the primary way to grow God’s church?

For years, if you’d looked at my ministry, I think you would have to conclude that I believed strategy is the answer. I thought we needed the right approach, the right plan, and then the right execution to make things happen.

I still believe strategy is important, but I no longer believe (or act like) it’s the primary way to grow God’s church. I’m increasingly convinced that Jonathan Leeman is right: “God’s Word, working through God’s Spirit, is God’s primary instrument for growing God’s church.”

I was reminded of this as I studied 1 Thessalonians 2 this past week. Paul is writing to the church plant that he left sooner than he would have liked. “And we also thank God constantly for this,” he writes, “that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Receptivity to Scripture has to be a top priority for every church. What could be more important than listening and obeying God’s Word?

Paul then describes what the Word does when it’s received: “…which is at work in you believers.” Scripture isn’t passive. When we receive it, it does its work within the church. Our job is to receive the Word. Then the Word does its work in us, both individually and together within the church.

There’s a place for all kinds of plans and strategies within the church. The best strategy we can come up with is the one that Paul offers in this verse: receive the Word, and then trust the Word to do its work. Let’s make this the number one way that we aim to grow our churches.