By Jack Wilkie
As a minister, I’m constantly looking for materials (books, blogs, videos, etc.) that deal with church growth and helping build a “successful” church. Unfortunately, much of the material available today views churches just like businesses. In fact, if you stripped them of their religious language, many books and blogs could be just as easily applied to a restaurant or a clothing store.
But the church isn’t a business. Its success is not defined by what man sees as success. Instead, each congregation’s success is defined by her faithfulness to the missions God has given in His Word. Here are three ways to get past the world’s pervasive definitions of success by going back to the Bible to find what God considers to be success and faithfulness.
A church is not successful just because it has a large number of people. That’s not to say that a small church is automatically successful, either. The size of a church has no bearing on whether or not that church is being faithful to its mission. Instead, a church is successful when it is helping every member grow to maturity as a contributing part of the body (Ephesians 4:14-16). Whether there are 10 people or 10,000, what matters is that each one is being shown how to use their gifts to help build up the church.
A church is not successful because of the size, location, or beauty of its building. Though there’s nothing wrong with having buildings, and it only makes sense to try to make the building look nice, the building is simply a meeting place. It is not the church’s primary tool for evangelism. Jesus said “Go,” not “Get them to come to you” (Matthew 28:19). Instead, the building should be a launching point for the mission of the church, where we all gather together and then walk out with the purpose of spreading the Gospel message with our friends, neighbors, and co-workers. In other words, what matters isn’t the building that brings people in, but what happens in the building that sends people out.
A church is not successful simply because it has a calendar full of events. Once again, events aren’t necessarily good or bad in themselves. They can hinder true growth, though, when busyness is used as a substitute for growth. It’s good for the church to spend time together… but not at the exclusion of a community focus. It’s good for the church to have fun together… but not at the expense of service and evangelism. Instead, what matters is that the time spent together is used to build up the spiritual lives of the members (Acts 2:42-47), serve the needy (Matthew 25:31-46), and evangelize the community (Mark 16:15-16). 
The question has often been asked, “If your church were to close its doors tomorrow, would anybody outside of it notice?” It’s a fair question, and it’s a challenging question. Many ideas of what makes a church successful in terms of numbers and what goes on inside the doors can still leave the church invisible to the community. Truly successful churches will constantly be looking to strengthen their members so they can shine God’s light of love and truth to the people around them.