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Is there an “X Factor” that makes a church successful?


X Factor (Netherlands)

I assume you are familiar with the term “The X Factor”? Simon Cowell has helped a bit with that. By definition, it is something you can’t quite describe that makes someone or some organization special and or successful. Some might call it the Midas touch – everything they do seems to turn to gold. But is there and “X Factor” that can make a church successful? I believe there is but it is not unknown, just not always correctly identified.

  • Is it clarity of the vision?
  • Is it the quality of the leadership?
  • Is it the excellence of the programs?
  • Is it the charisma of the senior pastor?
  • Is it the quality of the preaching?
  • Is it the way the church seeks to meet the needs of its people?

All of those play a greater or lesser role in making up a good church. But the Bible is clear that ultimately none of those are “The X Factor” of the church. They are important, and God uses them, but they are not “The X Factor”. They are not what ultimately make the church successful.

Well what is it? I believe the answer lies in (amongst other passages) John 16: 5 – 16. In John 13 – 17 Jesus spends some quality teaching time with his disciples preparing them for His sacrificial and substitutionary work on the cross for the sins of the world and their sacrificial gospel mission on earth to tell the world about what Jesus has done on the cross after He returns to heaven to His Father. Jesus makes it very clear that this gospel mission will be very tough for His disciples because although they know the good they will be doing, the world won’t see it that way and will hate them for it like they did Jesus. And in fact it becomes clear that the gospel mission that Jesus sends them out on is impossible for them to accomplish. They possess no X Factor that can turn the hearts of spiritually dead people who hate Him and His disciples into people who are spiritually alive and love Jesus and His disciples and are willing to sacrificially serve the world with the good news themselves. It is going to take a miracle to change spiritually dead people into spiritually alive people. And only God can do that. And so in John 16: 5 – 16 we see (and this is the main point of this blog entry) that the X Factor that makes any church successful in its gospel mission is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit and we have to depend on Him to do that and use us in the process.

So the X Factor that makes any church successful in its gospel mission is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. But that doesn’t mean we are not involved. We have to depend on Him to do that and use us in the process. And how do we depend on Him? Yes we get stuck into continuing the gospel mission given to the disciples doing whatever we can to be witnessing disciples for Jesus. But we must realise that unless the Holy Spirit works, all that we are and do will not achieve what will make the church successful in its mission.

But how do we show that dependency on the Holy Spirit? Just keeping these things in mind? Yes, we must keep this in mind, but the way we show our dependence is on God the Holy Spirit to is to PRAY! A helpful definition of prayer is “expressed dependency on God”. Read Ephesians 6: 10 – 20 to get a sense of that.

So how successful do we think our church are? And what I mean by that is how many people’s lives are we seeing being changed by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit through us? I suspect that while there are many good churches, there may not be too many successful churches. And I wonder if that is so because we do not pray for it to happen (as usual we have to live in the tension between God’s sovereignty and our action). But maybe we do not express to God just how dependant we are on Him for that to happen through us? Or express just how willing we are for that to happen through us? Also, however much we may pray privately and in small groups, but how often as God’s family do we pray together?

“I have seen many men work without praying, though I have never seen any good come out of it; but I have never seen a man pray without working.” James Hudson Taylor “We are too busy to pray, and so we are too busy to have power. We have a great deal of activity, but we accomplish little; many services but few conversions; much machinery but few results.” R. A. Torrey

“I would rather teach one man to pray than ten to preach.” Charles Spurgeon

Can our churches be successful? That is can we make a great gospel impact on our communities? Yes we can. Will it happen in the way we envisage it? Probably not. But one thing is for sure, if we don’t pray urgently for it we will never know!

Let’s pray for the Holy Spirit to pour out His power on and through us for gospel living and success. Let’s ask Him to:

  • Revive our hearts
  • Revive our families
  • Revive our churches
  • Save many in our neighborhoods, town, cities and countries through us
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