The National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) asked its Board of Directors, which includes denominational leaders, pastors and other evangelical leaders, for the main characteristics they notice in growing churches. Biblical teaching, an outward focus, and a strong vision or mission were the most common answers in the June Evangelical Leaders Survey. 

“Some say churches must have a dynamic pastor or an engaging worship band or the best technology for them to grow,” NAE President Leith Anderson said. “But there is no one golden ticket for church growth. There are some qualities — mostly things that aren’t easy fixes — that are very common among growing churches.”

Like many others, Carl Nelson, President of Transform Minnesota, observed that biblical truthfulness and authority are key. “Churches that faithfully and winsomely proclaim the hope of the gospel and hold true to biblical teaching are the churches that are growing. While not every church that upholds biblical authority is growing, it seems that very few — if any — churches that have abandoned biblical authority are seeing any conversion growth,” he said.

In addition to biblical teaching and an emphasis on Scripture, evangelical leaders said that an outward or others focus, demonstrated by the pastor or leadership team, is evidenced in growing congregations. Ken Hunn, Executive Director of The Brethren Church, said that churches with a shared outward vision are so focused on the needs of their community that they are not “touchy” about what might be lacking in meeting their own needs, and inward tension is minimized. People are attracted to people who care for them.

Evangelical leaders noted that growing churches not only serve those in their community, but also demonstrate a passion for evangelism and missions beyond their local ministry. Leaders emphasized the importance of a shared vision or mission to the health of the church, using phrases like “mission driven,” “visionary leadership,” “clarity on mission, values, vision, goals and strategy,” “clear vision” and “focus” to describe the characteristics of growing churches.

The Evangelical Leaders Survey is a monthly poll of the Board of Directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. They include the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.