By Mark A. Taylor
When you go to a conference for church leaders, you expect to come home with a folder full of methods, strategies, and tactics for growing your church. This is especially true when a megachurch minister is the keynote speaker. What secrets does he know about growing a church? What’s working in today’s culture? What approaches are guaranteed to bring success? What techniques have been most effective where he serves?
But when Aaron Brockett kicked off the Intentional Church Conference at First Christian Church, Decatur, Illinois, last week, he didn’t talk about methods at all. Or numbers. Or “church growth.”
“Before God does anything in and through our church,” he said, “we must ask what he must do in our hearts.”
He gave his whole sermon to drive home this point: the most important thing we can do for effective ministry is to open our hearts to the warm glare of God’s gaze. “Our heart is an idol factory,” he said. “So daily we must ask God to examine our hearts. I’m continuing to take my heart to the Lord and say, ‘Check my motives.’”
The theme seems to be one that Brockett repeats wherever he has an audience, especially to his fellow leaders at Trader’s Point Christian Church outside Indianapolis, where Brockett is senior pastor.
He shared the motto for ministry he regularly repeats to the church staff there: “Jesus is to be the hero.”
“Our task as a church is to remove the barriers that keep people from seeing Jesus. Give people a picture of the real Jesus. He’s the one who changes hearts.”
He spoke of the misconceptions about Jesus held by many who haven’t yet decided to follow him. Some see Jesus, Brockett said, as a Mr. Rogers type: gentle, soft-spoken, nice. Others, he said, think Jesus is just “some angry guy who wants to change you.” We must show them the real Jesus, he said, the one whose message of grace and truth is the essence of life-giving change.
In the seven years since Brockett came to Trader’s Point, average attendance has grown from 1,722 to 4,762, according to Christian Standard’s annual reports. The church baptized 138 this year on Easter weekend alone. John Caldwell attended one of the Easter services that Saturday and reported, “They were still baptizing when the service was dismissed so the parking lot could be cleared for the next service.”
It seems clear that God is blessing the congregation Brockett is leading.
Critics sometimes accuse megachurches of attracting numbers through compromise, showmanship, or gimmickry. Maybe that happens in some places. But it’s refreshing and reassuring to hear the preacher at one growing megachurch say the first step is maintaining a right heart before God.
That’s a “method” difficult enough to challenge every leader but simple enough for all of us to try.