by | Oct 28, 2019 | Christianity Today | 14 comments

No matter how thin you slice baloney, it’s still baloney.  And, almost everything pastors are told about church growth is baloney. Most of it leads to frustration and disillusionment. Think about it.  Most pastors have taken those trendy courses on church growth. If that is true, then why are so few churches growing?

Here’s the big lie: Fix your organization, your brand, and your staff, if you want your church to grow.  And, hasn’t this worked in many cases?  In many cases? No.  But has it worked in some cases?   Yes, but only because even a blind dog finds a bone once in a while.

How then can we explain the overnight success of some church-plants? If what you mean is more like a franchise then, yeah, that’ll work—because they pour millions into establishing a franchise copy of an existing mega church.   Hello?  Is anyone offering you millions of dollars and vast expertise to help you build your church?

Given enough marketing money, I could get a thousand people to come watch yogurt mature. But is it a crowd you want, or is it a Holy Spirit-built army of Christ-following converts?  To paraphrase Paul, “If I master all the tricks in the how-to-fill-a-church seminar, but do not have a congregation who deeply loves Jesus, I am just another mega-church. If I have a room full of a thousand spoiled spectators, it profits me nothing.”

Some of our good friends shake their heads at the advertising we use for our tent crusades. Our cards say, “Come and experience the love and power of Jesus Christ.” Our friends almost feel sorry for our lack of salesmanship and seem embarrassed that we are being so obvious about our intentions. What they don’t see is what kind of crowd we want. We want people who are hungry for a miracle.  We are not trying to hide anything, and people are weary of being tricked. But more importantly, our cards are soaked in prayer. The crowds come for the right reason—because they have been drawn by the Holy Spirit.

I have many things to say about how churches can grow, but I am going to focus on my favorite factor in growth—one that is greatly underrated: THE EXCITEMENT OF THE PASTOR. Here are the reasons an excited leader is both powerful and crucial.


1. Excitement is infectious. A sincerely excited leader has an amazing impact on people. The electricity of a leader who is genuinely excited will draw the crowds without any gimmicks or hype.

Here is an example: Transit authorities in the Northeast have spent a lot of money on advertising, begging people to use their services, and they still can’t get commuters to use public transportation. Meanwhile, millions pour into Disneyland to ride trains that don’t go anywhere. The difference is excitement.

Fresh vision chases away depression. Even eloquence is at the mercy of excitement.  We don’t need more teaching seminars. I fear we’ve been taught to death. We need to pour gasoline on our sermons, and light them on fire.

2. Excitement finds a way. The changes in culture are dizzying. The challenge to build great works for God today is daunting. However, if you leave the challenge in the hands of genuinely excited vessels of God, they will find a way. They have the relentless will to conquer by the simple use of prayer and obedience.

3. Excitement doesn’t care about things that don’t matter. The excited leader is not just living their dream, they are a walking miracle. Imagine Lazarus the day after he was raised from the dead. You couldn’t offend him. You couldn’t scare him and you couldn’t make him feel insecure.

Beloved brother and sister in the ministry, we are not far from being a Lazarus! The truly excited pastor doesn’t care about criticism—doesn’t need the approval of men—doesn’t dread a lack of funds. Paul wrote, “Yea, in all these things we are more than conquerors…”

If an excited pastor is a boon to a church, then there is nothing more devastating than a discouraged and broken hearted shepherd. The last thing that leader ever needs to do is go to a church growth seminar. Any pastor who is wounded and broken from the thankless task of ministering to a fickle generation takes a terrible risk by going to a church growth seminar. Even if they get some growth from the shallow advice being given, it will gravely disappoint them because a wounded heart won’t feel any joy in success.  And, if they don’t see any growth, it could be devastating since it reinforces hopelessness and can lead to despair.

Have you ever broken a pastor’s heart? If so, the damage went far beyond what you realize.

Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give an account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.” Unprofitable to say the least!

If I could blend the fresh fire that is in the heart of a first year Bible college student with the wisdom of a pastor who has been forged in the crucible of battle, I would have a weapon that is guaranteed to shake the very timbers of hell!  Get your excitement back—by the power of the Holy Spirit—and church growth will happen!

Mario’s new book will awaken you to your assignment in God’s greatest work in the Earth. It’s $15 each or $12 for ten or more. Get a signed copy plus free shipping by clicking here. 



  1. Sandra Douglas

    This is so truly inspiring and wise
    Like a lightning bolt of truth !
    You are blessed to be a blessing !!

  2. Kerry Carmichael

    Just reading “This is that” by Aimee Semple MacPherson! California was taken by storm in the ‘20’s He will do it again in a tent the same way 100 years later as prophesied!!!!!! Don’t give up, don’t back down!

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Carolina

    Right on Mario!
    Over 20 years ago as a very involved congregant of the church in the mid-west hubby & I attended with a high profile nationally well known Pastor. I so remember after the new larger sanctuary blueprint plans had been revealed to us, how our church began to change.
    It started with a new “Branding” campaign, suddenly instead of the old brochure handouts (which) were just fine and lovely, there was a new look, with canned pictures of total strangers, people with smiling faces, people that none of us knew personally, who were all smiling like a Dental ad for a teeth whitening clinic. Brochures, handout ads, and commercials began all with the same fake faces. Soon our church was being called a Campus/Center instead of a church and before you could say “what’s up Doc!”… there were new rules for everything from parking to security, to lobby greeting. My husband & I accepted the changes because we were entrepreneurs and understood the worlds market-place and its approach all too well. However the “Branding” changes the Elders & Deacon board selected did indeed alter the sweet miraculous ways that the Holy Spirit previously had invaded our services for years. Previously God’s Presence would fill the old sanctuary (which was already quite large) time & again with HIS glory. Back then people literally saw and felt Holy Spirit like a misty wind rush through our closed building services, visiting Angles were seen lining the walls standing with us, this was seen by hundreds of our congregants, people in mass spoke in heavenly languages, while others interpreted, while some fell to the floor on their knees in repentance, many came forward for salvation confessing Christ as Lord, good women played their tambourines softly while praising God. In those days lives were changed instantly – people were filled with The Holy Spirit as a heavenly Aroma filled the halls where we were standing. That was how it grew and multiplied *before* the new ideas from some “media church culture company” came and invaded our church. Until then it was heaven that invaded it and the people. I loved that church and its Pastor, but we knew a wrong turn had been taken.
    We stayed 4 more years still serving, tithing, loving & praying for it just the same, but then completely moved out of that city saying good bye to them all for good.
    It makes me sad when I recall it, so I focus on the good days instead.?

  4. Mark Stripling, Ransomed Ministries

    I spent most of my adult life pastoring in a denomination that, when I began in ministry decades ago, emphasized ” the anointing of the Holy Spirit.” Everything was “the anointing.” We were one of the fastest growing denominations in the world. As John Maxwell came on the scene, the focus changed to “leadership.” Now everything became “leadership.” Instead of hearing, “That is one anointed preacher,” I began hearing, “He is a level five leader, there are not many of them.” Anointing comes by the Holy Spirit. “Leadership” comes by “training.” “Anyone can be trained,” they said. Then seminars began to be held “training” us for the latest fads, trends, and gimmicks. I was in a class where the instructor told us a backyard bar-b-q was as important on Sunday nights as a church service, because it built fellowship. He also said the “model” of Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night church services was over and done. We needed creativity and innovation. We were shown videos of church services going on while artists were at the front of the church doing paintings as the preaching was going on. Another video was of a man sitting in a bar drinking tea while “ministering” to men drinking alcohol. One video showed how church fellowship could be built by communal living in a big, multi-bedroom home. I left thinking, well, I guess my day is past because I will continue 3 weekly services in the church I pastor, I am not going to allow painters unless they are painting the church interior with a fresh coat of paint, and it ain’t happenin’ while church is going on, I’m not going into bars, and I will not ask my folks to buy a big home and all live together to build community. Something else happened along the way. The rapid church growth in the denomination stopped. More churches were being closed than new churches being opened. Few people in the denomination are baptized in the Holy Spirit than at any time in it’s history, and they were right about the 3 service model being over: only a handful return for the Sunday night or Wednesday night services anymore. Nothing takes the place of the Holy Spirit at work to build the church. The anointing does not come by training and seminars. It comes by prayer, by deep desire, by an unsatisfiable longing for His presence, by an expectation that His power must be among us when we gather, and the sense that we must be filled, fire must be fresh, and by the thought that we cannot go one step further without assurance He is going before us. God, please pour out your Spirit fresh and new, upon pastors and upon your church that you loved so much you gave your life for it.

    • Ann

      AMEN, Mark!

    • kingskid48

      Amen to that, Mark.

    • Bobbie

      Mark, did you ever see “Lord, Save Us From Your Followers” DVD by Dan Merchant? FED UP with the Gimmicks and Formula’s, what grew up with unfortunately while waiting for WORD, FASTING, PRAYING AND REPENTING let alone HUMILITY and being led by God! GREAT to meet Holiness people.

  5. Ron DeLouis

    Get Outlook for iOS ________________________________

  6. Darlene W

    It’s never a good idea to think we know more than God.

  7. Shoshanna

    A nationally known preacher’s offering was stolen one Sunday and they said, “they lost $600,000” one offering! Why would a going concern like this want the L-rd to bring in an awakening?
    The good news is their is coming a move of repentance and holiness that’s going to hit planet earth like a nuclear bomb an send shock waves around the earth.

  8. kingskid48

    It seems like pastors are desperately trying to fix what ain’t broken. When I came back to the Lord years back, I could only go on Sunday evenings because of my work schedule. The meetings were powerful. The Spirit was allowed to take over. People were saved, filled with the Spirit, and healed. Grown men fell to their knees in His Presence. The same happened on Sunday mornings. We have a great church late when I was able to attend on Sunday- but I have this nagging impression that something is missing. There is never a Word from the Lord any more. Worship is not deep and powerful like it used to be. When it does start to get close to becoming that way, it is ended and the program begins. We’re never allowed to stay focused on Him and continue in worship. I do not mean to be critical at all. If I am being that way, then I want the Lord to tell let me know.

    • Mark Stripling

      Kid, you have insight. Sunday nights used to be free of the morning expectation of getting through by noon to go eat. Worship was long, free, and joyous. Preaching was anointed and without time limit. Alter time came with anointed men and women praying for the seekers who came and knelt. Seeking the Holy Spirit, praying for healings, refillings, deliverances, salvations and on and on. Holy Spirit anointing fell, fire fell, cold hearts were re-ignited, backsliders reclaimed, renewal, repentance, restoration, some of us have known these days, and long to see God do it again. No tongues and interpretations any longer most places. Once fiery hearts have only a tiny glow left, if anything. Deep desire for all the Spirit has for us is gone. No one has time for tarrying expectantly at the alters any longer. You see correctly. But some of us will never quit seeking, never be satisfied, will not give up, and will labor until death for souls and for the kingdom. Bless you, sir.



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