The Missing Power in the Local Churches – Part 1


You never have to advertise a fire. Everyone comes running when there’s a fire. Likewise, if your church is on fire, you will not have to advertise it. The community will already know it.” Leonard Ravenhill

Earlier in my ministry, I was pastoring two churches that were not growing. No matter how hard I worked with the churches, I was not achieving my goal of seeing them grow. I searched my personal library for books on “church growth” and realized that I had already read and tried to implement the suggestions without experiencing any growth. Because I wanted to see my churches grow and flourish, I decided to read and learn more on this subject.

The church, as a living organism, is supposed to be alive. It is supposed to bear fruit, and because of that, it must grow. Jesus was clear in his teaching that the Kingdom of God is like a seed that “sprouts and grows” (Mark 4:27). I was determined in my quest to find ways to help my churches grow.

In the books and articles I had been reading, there were many suggestions on how to grow a church: “Twelve steps to grow a church,” “Creating a mission and vision statement for your church,” and “Creating strategies to help your church growth.” I also decided to look up the words church growth on the Internet. Thousands of website links appeared, most of them promising a quick fix to my church growth problem. Then I decided to check out the latest books on church growth on Amazon, and to my surprise, the church growth search for books only, also showed me thousands of books references at that time. Are you serious?

I was overwhelmed with so many results! Why was it that to help a church to grow we needed thousands of websites teaching different “techniques” on the same subject?

Suddenly, a simple thought came to my mind: Why not look through the Bible and see what it had to say about church growth? I had read the Bible cover to cover many times, but I had never read the Bible with the intention of finding principles on church growth. Perhaps it was time I did.

I decided to carefully study the book of Acts. After all, in the first few chapters of the book, the church grew from one hundred twenty (Acts 1:15) to thousands of followers in just a few days (Acts 2:41; 4:4). Talk about a church growth movement!

While reading the book of Acts I started asking some questions. What type of strategy did they use? What vision and mission statement did they have for the church? What church values did they develop? What were the steps they followed to achieve such tremendous success in their church?

I read the book of Acts, and then reread it, not once or twice, but dozens of times! I was determined to find the key to such triumph. However, after closely examining it, do you know what I found? Nothing. I found no strategies, no vision or mission statement, no set of values, not even steps to follow to make my church grow. The church growth in Acts was not based on something that we are able to copy or recreate. The remarkable advance of the church at that time only happened because they searched, claimed, pursued, and allowed the power of the Holy Spirit to work and guide! That was it! The key to church growth is not found in human strength but in divine strength. It comes from above. That was the key!

There is nothing wrong with creating tools to help our churches grow. It is important to have strategies, vision, mission, and values for the church, but they should be used as what they are—tools—and there is a place for those. But tools should never replace the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit was extremely active in the lives of the disciples and the Bible shows the Holy Spirit acting in two critical areas of the disciples’ lives—their actions and their words (Luke 12:12; Acts 8:26; 16:6, 7). The Holy Spirit was the one making the agenda, and the disciples followed it.

What more do we need than to have God lead us where we should go and what to say? I had to admit that the Holy Spirit was not in charge of my agenda at the churches I was pastoring. Sadly, I realized also that He is not in charge of the agenda of many local churches anymore. Our agenda is exactly that—our agenda.

Our agenda is imperfect, full of politics, personal biases, traditions, preferences—to which we have the audacity to ask God to bless, without first having even asked for His leading!

So, because we do not see fire coming down from heaven to stop our madness, we assume that God approved our pathetic and selfish plans. How insane! We try to build God’s church without God! As the author John Bevere wrote,

“There is virtually no Christian life without the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, Christianity is dry, monotonous, and mundane. Without the Holy Spirit, our labor is draining and wearisome. Without the Holy Spirit, there is no fellowship with God. Remove the Holy Spirit from a church and one of two things will happen: It will morph into a social club, or it will become a religious institution. The truth is . . . There is no revelation without the Holy Spirit. In fact, without the Spirit, Scripture becomes lethal; for we are told, ‘the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life’ (2 Corinthians 3:6). There is no vision without the Holy Spirit. There is no joy without Him. There is no peace without Him. There is no freedom with- out the Holy Spirit. The Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17, NLT).”[1]

We need desire to live a more abundant spiritual life. To live my ministry more freely with the assurance that the Holy Spirit is in control, and to actively enjoy the ride, acknowledging that I was invited to be part of it, not reinvent it.

Accepting that I am not in control of the journey brings me peace. Instead of being stressed and trying to control the direction of my ministry, I will simply enjoy the ride, knowing that the Holy Spirit is the one who is leading my life and my ministry. The mission of the church did not start with me and it certainly will not end with me. I am just a pilgrim invited by the Holy Spirit to be part of this amazing journey.

[1] Bevere, John; Bevere, Addison (2013-08-14). The Holy Spirit: An Introduction (Kindle Locations 214-225). Messenger International. Kindle Edition.

Paulo Macena

Paulo Macena

Paulo Macena is the Lead Pastor for Ellicott City Church. He holds an M.A. in Youth Ministry, a Doctor of Ministry in Leadership, both from Andrews University, and he is also an Independent Certified Coach, Teacher, Trainer, and Speaker with the John Maxwell Team. He is the author of the book The Missing Power, published by the General Conference Ministerial Association.