1.1 Background of the Study
Church growth don’t just happens instantaneously, it requires that both leaders, pastors and members fulfill their responsibilities. The ideal church does not consist of the ordained clergy and the active few doing the work of ministry for the passive many. All are called to serve in the church of Christ. Paul an apostle of Christ describes what is expected of both leaders and members from a Christian community in his letter to the church in 1st and 2nd Thessalonian. In his final instruction to a young church it shows that relationships require responsibility (1stThessalonians 12-15). Verses 12 & 13 shows the church’s responsibility toward its leaders: “Know them; esteem them highly in love; and, live in peace with one another. These verses also show the leaders’ responsibilities toward the church: work hard; have charge over the church; and, admonish the church”. Verses 14 & 15 shows the church’s responsibility toward one another: Minister sensitively; and, live lovingly. The main point of the entire section (1 Thess. 5:12-24) is that “God will sanctify and inspire peace in His people that they may be blameless at Christ’s coming”.
This study sees the church as people, a unique people. Jesus Christ is the Lord of the church, and the church is Christ’s people, working together to build Christ’s Kingdom. If the call to Christianity is to be a people separated and committed solely to Christ, then each member has much importance and responsibility to love Christ and to serve him. Christians are to be doers of the Word and not hearers only; so then we must be studying the Scriptures, praying, worshipping, giving and serving. Only when every individual in the church is so involved can Christ’s church be alive and well.
When talking of church growth there are some factors to be considered, among such factors is the leaders’ relationship with the youths which forms the next generation church. It cannot be over emphasized that youths play a vital role in the life of a Church as they are the leaders of tomorrow and future of the church (Day & Kurtz, 2017). The elderly stands out but youth’s contributions have been shinning and have always been flag bearers of every Church. For any tangible growth to take place in any Christian community, the youth must be significant in that process of growth.
The New Testament present the entire Christian church as active participants in ministry. There was no professional clergy, as such, in the early days of the church. The apostle, Peter, made clear in 1 Peter 2:19, that all Christians have the access to God and power from God for ministry that the Old Testament priest claimed. The biblical basis of church membership is clear in Scripture. The Apostle Paul also uses the “member” metaphor to describe what every believer should be like in a local congregation. In 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Paul describes church members not by what they should receive in a local church, but by the ministry they should give. The solution to closing the back door, at least a major part of the solution, is therefore to move members from an entitlement mentality to a servant mentality.
True Church Leadership is exercising true authority (in Christ) with love and perseverance. Trained and experience church leaders tends to push the blame on untrained leaders forgetting that, God can use people with or without the natural ability and proper background. Yes! God can, and often chooses to, work with raw material. God prepares and empowers those He chooses to do His work so He does not need to call people into leadership who have the natural drive, training, or good models of leadership in their background. He does not need to use people who took the part or who are already popular. Quoting (1 Corinthians 1: 26 – 27), “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” The above scripture shows that God uses mean things to do great wonders in the world from time past. The disciples, who went on to be founding leaders of the church, were fishermen and tax-collectors by trade. They were not highly educated or from influential families. Some had strong, driven personalities but others did not.
Effective Church Leadership begins with knowing what to do in God’s sanctuary and doing same without being told. Ideally, church leaders are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for the church as seen in (Ephesians 2: 10). Leadership has become one of the primary foci for church growth in these days (Bridges, 1995). If the church wants to experience growth, it definitely should have excellent and appropriate leadership in the changing world. Zook (1993) addresses that the church really needs to have creative and effective leadership for leading through the change, uncertainty, and complexity of the given age.
There are a lot of theories and models, from natural born leader theory to psychosocial theories. Those are worthy to explain the relationship between church growth and leadership. Among them, one of the recent theories in explaining leadership is to mainly focus on leaders’ daily practice (Kouzes and Posner, 1995; Bennis 1989; Drucker, 1990). It is not about leaders’ personality, exceptional skills, or great intelligence, but about real daily practice in ministries (Bridges, 1995). Peter Drucker (1990) mentions “There are simply no such things as ‘leadership traits’ or leadership characteristics.’ Leadership isn’t just thinking great thoughts; it isn’t just charisma; it isn’t play-acting. It is doing” (18, 47). Kouzes and Posner (1995) define leadership practices as the customary or habitual behaviors of leaders while engaged in their work. In the respect, this literature review will be focused on leadership practices. The purpose of this present study is to review research dealing with the effect of individual practices on the growth of the church in Assemblies of God church.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Previous research has mainly focused on church growth in relation to the role of church leaders (Suh, 1996; Kim, 1998; Christopher, 2001). Most of the research on this topic has studied the leadership styles of church leaders, and revealed the relationship between its styles and church growth in relation to the number of people leaving the church on a daily basis But the real situation of the current church and its growth level differs; it is an undoubted fact that no research has appropriately dealt with the effect of individual practices on the growth of the church. The primary reason for these challenges is the constant shift of blames pertaining to church growth on pastors and church leaders only. Since individual practices consist of both pastors, church leaders and members, there is a tendency that members behavioural pattern do contribute positively or negatively to church growth. Therefore, individual practices are key issues in church growth and impact on the world. Most church members are faced with more challenges within and outside the church, while their fellow church members are good at monitoring their steps than supporting them. This study looks into the situation with individual practices in church with some views that will aid church growth.
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The primary objective for this study is to investigate the effect of individual practices on the growth of the church in Assemblies of God church, Rivers District. The specific objectives are:
- To investigate the role church members plays in the growth and development of the church.
- To examine the contributions of pastors to church growth and retention of members.
- To look into the challenges eroding between church deacons, members and pastors in Assemblies of God Church.
- To proffer possible solutions to the
challenges facing church growth in Assemblies of God Church, River State.
- Significance of the Study
At the completion of this study, the findings will educate the church leadership and the entire members on what Christians need to do or incorporate into the church to ensure growth and survival. It will provide valuable insights into existing relationship between individual practices and the growth of church in Assemblies of God church. The findings of this study will assist churches, ministries, pastors, etc in discovering the vital roles youths play in the life of a Church as they are the leaders of tomorrow and future of every church. From this research, we will discover what a healthy church is like and how each members can boost church growth. This research will also serve as a resource base to other scholars and researchers interested in carrying out further research in this field subsequently, if applied will go to an extent to provide new explanation to the topic.
1.6 Research Questions
The dimension which the study will follow will be based on these questions, which will help in creating an insight into the problem under investigation.
- Does individual practices play a major role in the growth and survival of the church?
- Do pastors contribute to church growth and retention of members in Assemblies of God church?
- Are there major challenges eroding between church deacons, members and pastors in Assemblies of God Church?
- Are individual practices in Assemblies of God church in accordance with biblical principle of servant hood?
1.7 Scope/Limitations of the Study
This study will cover the activities of churches with reference to individual practices in River State with special focus on the roles and duties of the church members in the growth of Assemblies of God church, River State. There were some constraint that tends to hinder the flow of this study, such limitations include:
Financial constraint– Insufficient fund tends to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire and interview).
Members Reluctance: In most cases the members of the church often feels reluctance over providing required information required by the researcher. This result in finding information where the structured questionnaires could not point out.
Researcher’s Commitment: The researcher, being of full time student spent most of her time on other academic activities such as test, class work, assignment, examination etc which takes average focus from this study.
Inadequate Materials: Scarcity of material is also a major hindrance. The researcher finds it difficult to lay hands on several required material which could contribute immensely to the success of this research work.
1.8 Definition of Terms
Practice: Practice or practise is the act of rehearsing a behavior over and over, or engaging in an activity again and again, for the purpose of improving or mastering it, as in the phrase “practice makes perfect”.
Leadership: Leadership is both a research area and a practical skill encompassing the ability of an individual or organization to “lead” or guide other individuals, teams, or entire organizations.
Church leaders: Church leaders include the following set of leaders in church: Senior Pastors, Worship Leaders, Youth Leaders, Outreach Leaders, and Children’s Ministry Leaders, Small Group Leaders.
Growth: growth is defined as the process of increasing in size or something that has grown or is growing.
Christian: Christianity is a religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, as described in the New Testament. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and savior of all people, who’s coming as the Messiah was prophesied in the Old Testament.
Church: Christian Church is an ecclesiological term generally used by Protestants to refer to the Church invisible, and/or whole group of people belonging to Christianity throughout the history of Christianity.