In 2000, Robert Morris started Gateway Church out of a humble home church. Within a dozen years, it has spawned to more than 20,000 people. How did this happen? With God’s blessing of course, but not without a wise action plan. In “The Blessed Church,” Morris writes about his action plan to encourage church leaders to bring that blessing to their church.
In the book’s introduction, Morris states that the book is not just about the how, but also about the why. This is important, because I believe that the reader could get caught up in the ‘how’ without remembering to focus on the ‘why’—and in ministry, I believe God blesses the ‘why’ as much as the ‘how’.
The book begins with how his church began, and gives us guidance on how to do so efficiently, which makes a great resource for church planting. As Morris stated in chapter 1, “at its heart, ours is not a story of growth. It is a story of health” (Morris 2012, 22). Growth, as also written in books by Christian Schwarz, is often an organic result of health. “That means that if your vision involves growth, your real objective should be health…if you pursue health, growth will be a naturally occurring byproduct.” (Morris 2012, 30).
Regarding vision, Morris stated there are certain core elements that should characterize every pastor and every church. The primary element is feeding His sheep. Doing so with excellence was part of Morris’ central goals of his church’s vision. But feeding sheep isn’t easy, and it isn’t necessarily something that comes naturally to everyone (if it did, God wouldn’t have to call us). Morris made a great statement—that leaders may be seen by their sheep as superior, but “the ground is quite level at the cross” (Morris 2012, 57).
In every church, no matter whether it’s a congregation of 100 or 1,000, raising up leaders (whose primary goal is to feed sheep) should be another pastor’s priority. As stated later in the book, every believer is called to be a minister (I was thinking of writing a sermon on that very subject just days before reading this. A coincidence?).
Above ministering to the church, however, the pastor’s first and most important ministry should be as a father (or mother) and husband (or wife). 1 Timothy 3:5 tells us that our obligation should be to our family before leading others. It is a sad but true statement that we sometimes see pastors and evangelists who lead people to the cross by the hundreds while their own children fall astray or their marriage falls apart. This happens when pastors and missionaries don’t bother to minister (be a parent/spouse/shepherd) to their own family.
This book answers many questions about church growth and proper pastoral management (including self management)—the how-to’s, the things to remember and prioritize, what not to do, plus church government structure as it relates both similarly and differently to secular government and non-profit organizations.
Morris briefly brought about the idea that sometimes leaders feel stymied by a stagnant or domineering church board, but didn’t go into detail about the fact that too many church growth is hindered by certain attitudes simply because the church and its board may not understand the principles in this book—“The pastor as a visionary? That’s absurd!”, “The board is not a democracy? It’s always been that way!”
But maybe in some churches, it is what it is, and we may have to work with what we’ve got. Perhaps a congregation of 25 senior citizens is exactly what God intends for that church—and that church can be blessed as it is.