What are the signs of a successful church?

by Matt Slick

A successful church can be measured in different ways, but the obvious two are God's standard and man's standard.  Obviously, we should appeal to God's standard.  This is because God is the one who increases the church (Acts 2:47), and we as Christians are obligated to preach the truth of God according to the Scriptures (Acts 5:29; 1 Corinthians 4:6).  We should not measure success by how big a church gets, by how good the worship is, by how great the children's programs are, etc. We should measure the success of our local churches by how well God's word is preached, by how much the people are growing in their sanctification before Jesus, by if they are making disciples, and by how much they are honoring the Lord God through the person of Christ.  In other words, are they doing what they're supposed to be doing according to Scriptures, such as reaching the lost (Matthew 28:18-20), taking care of widows (1 Timothy 5:3, 16), visiting the people in prison (Hebrews 13:3), taking care of orphans (James 1:27), and of course preaching sound doctrine (1 Timothy 4:6; 6:3; 2 Timothy 4:3; Titus 1:9; 2:1)?  The last one is very important since a lot of churches are teaching false doctrines, such as saying that God always wanted us to be wealthy and healthy or that we are partially divine or that salvation is attained through being good and being faithful, etc.

Unfortunately, some people judge the success of a church based on how many books the pastor has written, if he has a popular radio or show, how many people attend the services, how much money is in the bank, or a combination of these.  This is a human-centered success model and should be avoided.  Pastors should never look to the number of people as a judgment of their success.  Instead, they should constantly be asking God to give them the knowledge and the ability to preach his word to the people of God regardless of how many attend.  He should seek to please God and judge the success of his ministry by how God is glorified, the word of God is preached in truth, and how the people in the congregation are growing in their obedience to Christ.

Now, there's nothing wrong with the pastor having a radio show, a TV show, or writing books.  These things are fine as long as they are biblically centered, glorify Christ, and bring the truth of God's word to the people of God.  But again, these things should not be the measure or standard of a successful church. 

A successful church . . .

  • Focuses on the work of Christ on the cross (1 Corinthians 1:23; Galatians 6:14).
  • Teaches grace and not legalism1 (Romans 6:14; 2 Timothy 1:9).
  • Teaches the truth of the word of God and its doctrine without compromise (1 Timothy 4:6;  6:3;  Titus 1:9; 2 Timothy 3:16).
  • Teaches the congregation to increase in sanctification (Galatians 5:16-18, 24; 5:22-23).
  • The elders are godly men who teach sound doctrine (Titus 1:5-9).
  • Promotes the increase in use of the spiritual gifts given to various individuals within the body (1 Corinthians 12:28; 1 Peter 4:10).
  • Does not let political correctness influence preaching and teaching (1 Corinthians 4:6).
  • Is evangelistic (Matthew 28:19-20).
  • Takes care of widows (1 Timothy 5:3, 16).
  • Visits people in prison (Hebrews 13:3).
  • Takes care of orphans (James 1:27).
  • 1. Legalism is the application of the law where the Christian is obligated to follow the law in order to be a "true" Christian. Sometimes other Christians judge people by how well they follow Old Testament law and how well they separate themselves from the world and don't do such things go to movies, dance, drink, or whatever else they might impose upon someone's spirituality.

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.