Written in 1976, Your Church Can Grow: Seven Vital Signs of a Healthy Church by C. Peter Wagner is visiting as churches recover from a pandemic. Wagner defines church growth as "all that is involved in bringing men and women, who do not have a personal relationship to Jesus Christ, into fellowship with Him and to responsible church membership" (14). Understanding why some churches grow and others do not is elusive and complex. However, Wagner offered seven vital signs of church health that determine church growth. Seven vital signs include the pastor, the people of the church, church size, structure and functions, homogenous unit, methods, priorities. The health of a church determines church growth, and Wagner highlighted seven indicators to help determine potential growth.
Vital sign #1 "is having a pastor who is a possibility thinker and whose dynamic leadership can galvanize the entire church into action for growth." (63). Wagner saw this as a common denominator with all growing churches. The congregation has high regard for their pastor and his leadership. Vital sign #2 is a well mobilize laity. The ability to mobilize and motivate laypeople is critical. "Activating laypeople for church growth has become more essential than at any other time in recent church history" (78). Vital sign #3 is the church size. While Wagner does not want to give the impression that bigger means better, there is an appreciation for big and small churches. "But at the same time, I am embarrassed by some of the big churches, just as I am embarrassed by some of the smaller churches" (96). Regardless of the size, Wagner believed churches must meet people's needs, or they will leave or change churches. "The secret of success is to find a need and fill it" (96). The large church can optimize its impact in the community with various events, evangelistic opportunities, and financial resources to hire great people to lead ministries. A small church offers an intimate experience that is family-oriented and can be a preference for many people.
Vital sign #4 is church structure and function. In a church of up to 200 members, strangers should be identifiable. The larger churches (Wagner believed)have more challenges, and people can get lost in the masses. Vital sign #5 Wagner believes the principal works, and growth takes place better than churches that mix different people. Vital sign #6 is church methods "As I have studied growing churches in America, I have not struck upon any one method that is common to them all" (159). The methods used in growing churches offer something that meets the needs of people. Vital sign #7 are church priorities. Determining what people need to do is essential in church structure. "People are hungry for many things like food, employment, adequate housing, recreation, financial security, good health, stable marriages, and companionship" (174). However, Wagner believes that the one true function of the church, unlike any other, is to bring people into a closer relationship with God.
Your Church Can Grow: Seven Vital Signs of a Healthy Church offered practical approaches to helping churches evaluate where they are, where they would like to be, and where they are going. In today's church, growth lands at the feet of the pastor to figure out. However,
this book offers direction for pastors and church leaders frustrated by the lack of church growth. By reading this book, a better awareness of the possibilities, pitfalls, and priorities will guide any leader to a strategic plan for effective church growth.