My wife, Ann, and I went to Murrieta on a balmy Southern California November Sunday morning to be part of a worship service of the Lamb’s Fellowship (now Centerpoint Church) to see if that would be where Jesus would want us to serve Him. We were both 29 years old and relatively inexperienced. Our firstborn son, Toby, was just a year old at the time; we checked him into the nursery and took our seats.
The service was not all that inspiring, but the 60 or so people there seemed to be full of faith, despite three years of steep decline. Ann and I looked at each other halfway through the service. Both of us nodded at each other and wept silently as we sat. We both knew this was where Jesus wanted us. Within a few short weeks of official conference proceedings, I was installed as the new lead pastor for the Murrieta church, with the charge from then-Superintendent Steve Fitch to relaunch this once-prevailing congregation.
Just 10 years later, we have grown from 60 people or so to a congregation with an average weekend attendance of 2,175 people. Over these 10 years, more than 1,000 people have come to Christ in our church. We currently have about 800 adults connecting in intentional discipleship groups, and 180 middle schoolers show up for our Tuesday night junior high student ministry gathering. For our recent MERCY outreach, nearly 100 volunteers from our church came out to serve the poor on a Tuesday night. This year alone, we have baptized 137 new believers. These are just a few highlights, but how does this happen? How does such fruitfulness come about in a local church?
So many rules are instituted in Leviticus that it’s hard to keep track of them all, but among the rules, God makes some promises. One promise is an assurance of what God desires to do for those who obey Him: “I will look on you with favor and make you fruitful and increase your numbers, and I will keep my covenant with you” (Leviticus 26:9). Fruitfulness comes from God. It is something to celebrate and something for which God always gets the ultimate glory. That being said, there are several distinct factors that have been a part of our experience of fruitfulness at Centerpoint Church: alignment with God’s desire for growth, deliberate attractiveness and inviting people to live the mission.
One of the five houses built in Mexico by Centerpoint Church in 2013 for families in need.
Be Fruitful and Increase
In Leviticus 26, God assures that His desire is to bring about fruitfulness that is specifically characterized by an increase in number. Throughout the Old Testament, this same thought is expressed as a mandate, description of desired outcome, or a blessing (Genesis 8:17, 9:1, 9:7, 17:20, 41:52, 47:27). This construct is used 36 times with the Hebrew word רָבָה (rabah) used to signify an increase, enlarging or multiplying of the sheer number of God’s people as the specific outcome of their fruitfulness. The mandate is expressed so well as God speaks to Jacob at Paddan Aram: “I am God Almighty; be fruitful and increase in number. A nation and a community of nations will come from you, and kings will be among your descendants” (Genesis 35:11).
Centerpoint Church worshipping on a Sunday morning.
These passages point to a specific time and place in the history of God’s chosen people, yet they also indicate the broad sweep of God’s intention for His called-out people. God’s desire for fruitfulness, which can be characterized by an increase in number, is further attested to in the New Testament where exponential growth in sheer numbers of believers is definitively celebrated as the first kind of fruitfulness God wanted (Acts 2:41, 2:47, 4:4, 5:14, 6:1, 21:20). This specific aspect of fruitfulness as an increase in the number of believers is something God brings about: “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).
Aligned With God’s Desire
The scriptural foundation strongly demonstrates that God desires His church to grow in number. As I came into a small church with a calling to relaunch it, I had to bear in mind this ultimate conviction: God’s desire was for the church to grow in number as people would come to know Him. Many of the people in the church just wanted their church to be good for them. We had to work together to come into alignment with God’s desire for His Church to be a growing gathering of people who are being saved.
Centerpoint’s new believers being baptized at Oceanside Beach.
I had to reconceive the role of pastor; I could not simply be a nice chaplain who would deliver a weekly homily. I had to be a shepherd — a pastor who would actively gather a flock and lead that flock toward God’s best, which includes numerical growth. From those earliest days 10 years ago, I felt a determination to offer people an opportunity to start following Jesus at every worship service. God has honored that fundamental act of alignment with His desire for growth by adding to our number those who are being saved.
Jesus designated his disciples as those who would be “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19 KJV). His idea was that His disciples — His Church — would catch people. Fishermen work hard to use the right bait, the correct hook and the appropriate nets to attract and then catch the fish. As a church that is living out the reality of being “fishers of men,” we deliberately do whatever we can to attract people to the goodness of life in community in Christ.
At Centerpoint Church, we approach our weekend services with our guests in mind. We preach at least half of the year on issues of felt needs — such as marriage, parenting, finances and emotional health — of the people outside the church in our area. As much as it has become cliché to disparage this kind of preaching as “therapeutic deism,” Scripture has much to say about these issues. It would be a disservice not to attract people through the power and life-giving wisdom of God’s Word in ways that are relevant.
John Hansen is the lead pastor of Centerpoint Church in Murrieta, Calif. (centerpointmurrieta.com). He previously served as a missionary in Asia. Read more from Hansen on his blog at johnhansen.tv or on Twitter @jvh74.
Invited to Live the Mission
As we have attracted people over the years, we have worked equally hard to engage people in a missional lifestyle. We work hard to move people into missional community through their LifeGroups, and we arrange all of our ministries around service and influence in the community. Attractional and missional are not meant to be dichotomous characteristics of a church. They are mutually integral.
Jesus gathered the crowd of 5,000, taught them and fed them (Matthew 14:13–21). He catered to their “consumerism” and then eventually also sent out the 12 and then the 72. We are attempting to follow Jesus in this regard. By creating opportunities for making a difference together, we are helping people to experience fulfillment in being part of the kingdom of God.
Over these 10 years in Murrieta, I have done what I can to lead our church in coming into alignment with God’s desire for growth. I’ve cultivated a deliberately attractive approach to our weekend services. I’ve invited people over and over again to live out the mission of Jesus. These factors have helped shape a culture by which a broad number of people have felt blessed and in which they have desired to continue to participate. In the end, however, this fruitfulness is the work of God in our midst.0