Happy Birthday, Donald McGavran! Five Lessons I’ve Learned and Applied – Part 1

imgresMany church leaders don’t know the founder of the modern church growth movement, Donald McGavran, and what we can apply from his teaching to our own ministry.

In honor of McGavrans’s birthday, I’d like to give you a glimpse of five motivational Donald McGavran quotes that have impacted what we do at The Journey. I hope they will challenge you to reclaim these biblical initiatives and apply them to your church as well.

  1. Missionary Eyes. “Christian mission is bringing people to repent of their sins, accept Jesus Christ as Savior, belong to His Body the Church, do as He commands, go out and spread the Good News, and multiply churches.” – Donald McGavran

    McGavran was a missionary in India when he developed this, but our challenge is to see our area as a mission field. Wherever you are in the world, you’re in a mission field with an unchurched population to reach. At the Journey NYC, I challenged my staff to see themselves as missionaries and try new things. We want to intentionally start churches in areas where the unchurched population is 80% or higher.
  2. Godly Goals. “Nothing focuses effort like setting a goal. As Christians seek to do effective evangelism, they need to set membership goals. Goal setting focuses their efforts on the main task.” – Donald McGavran

    One of the things we’ve lost in modern ministry is a priority on setting goals. At The Journey, doing this has focused our attention and driven us to grow in several different areas. Here are some goals we’ve set: 1,000,000 servant evangelism touches, 110% Growth Group participation, and seven-day-a-week community service by people in our church.
  3. The Power of Assimilation. “Church growth follows where Christians show faithfulness in finding the lost. The purpose is not to search, but to find…Church growth follows where the lost are not merely found but restored to normal life within the foldWhen existing Christians, marching obediently under the Lord’s command and filled with his compassion, fold in the wanders and feed the flock, then churches multiply.” – Donald McGavran

    After coaching 2,500 pastors, I can tell you that NOTHING will turn your church around faster than focusing on Assimilation. If there’s been one key to The Journey Church, it’s been our relentless, unending focus on the Assimilation System. In fact, our average assimilation rate is in the 30% range, which means that if I can get a first-time guest through the door, we have a 30% chance of getting them to return!

Later this week I’ll share the other two lessons I’ve learned from Donald McGavran. Stay tuned!

Your partner in ministry,


McGavran-graphicsP.S. – For an in-depth look into the life and work of Donald McGavran, pick up Dr. Gary Mcintosh’s latest work Donald A. McGavran: A Biography of the Twentieth Century’s Premier Missiologist.

Join Dr. McIntosh on a discovery of McGavran’s life and work; no other person so impacted the growth of the church in North America and around the world. When it comes to applicable truths concerning the growth of the Christian church, McGavran’s story reveals critical insights that many in ministry today have been missing for far too long.

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About Nelson Searcy

Nelson Searcy is an experienced church growth strategist, pastor, church planter and coach, consulting with churches around the world. As founder of Church Leader Insights and the Renegade Pastors Network, he has personally trained more than 3,500 church leaders in over 45 denominations through live events, seminars and monthly coaching. Nelson is also the Founding and Lead Pastor of The Journey Church, with locations across New York City and in Boca Raton, FL. Nelson and his church routinely appear on lists such as “The 50 Most Influential Churches” and “The 25 Most Innovative Leaders.” He is the author of over 100 church growth resources and 18+ books, including The Renegade Pastor: Abandoning Average in Your Life, Ministry and The Difference Maker: Using Your Everyday Life for Eternal Impact, and At the Cross with the People Who Were There. He and his wife, Kelley, have one son, Alexander.

Nelson SearcyBooks, Church Growth

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