Life Change: The Engine of Thriving Churches

The Silver Bullet of Church Success


The secret to a thriving church isn't hidden; it's simply "Life Change." Creating conditions for life change is the role of the church, and this post guides you on how to achieve it.

So what’s the secret to a thriving and growing church? It isn’t a magic formula or a charismatic leader. It’s something much more profound, yet simple: life change

In a way, there is a silver bullet.

This isn’t a bait-and-switch post or a tease for a course (although I will suggest a course and masterclass option if you’re interested).

There is one thing that generates nearly unstoppable momentum, attracts outsiders, and fully engages insiders.

So what’s the secret to a thriving and growing church?

Life change.

Life Change is the Silver Bullet for Church Success.

Think back to a moment in your pastoral or church journey when you experienced a sense of momentum. Isn’t it true that life change in the congregation and around the community was an integral part of that experience?

Unplanned revivals like we saw at Asbury earlier this year were fueled by life change.

The best years at Woodstock City Church (where I served as lead pastor for 13 years) were the seasons of faith decisions, baptisms, and stories of people trusting God.

When you are in a church experiencing momentum from life change, the church feels unstoppable, like an avalanche of faith.

So how do churches find this silver bullet?

So How Do Churches Fire this Silver Bullet?

If you want to start an avalanche, roll a snowball down a loosely packed snow hill.

So how does a church leader or pastor create an avalanche of faith?

When you survey the churches in your community, it can appear that God is arbitrarily blessing some and not others. Perhaps God does this occasionally, but I suspect that’s not the cause of our broader church problems. God’s blessings aren’t a scarce resource.

Some churches have momentum, while others don’t. What’s the difference?

I propose the difference is a church’s approach, not God’s willingness to engage and bless.

Churches Don’t Create Life Change.

First, let’s acknowledge that we can’t create life change. Life change is God’s job, not ours.

However, churches do have an important part to play. While we cannot change a life, we can create conditions conducive for God to do what only he can do.

Creating conducive conditions is the role of the local church.

Specifically, this means designing a movement-oriented journey where people are encouraged and equipped to take their best next step of faith.

In all my years of church leadership and ministry consulting, this one reality seems to be the greatest difference between thriving churches and dwindling bodies.

It all comes down to life change.

Creating Conducive Conditions for God to Change Lives.

If discipleship is a journey, then churches must create a ministry model that inspires and supports the incremental steps necessary for spiritual growth.

This means your church model must support the steps outsiders initially take all the way through the steps more mature followers need. The approach must be wide and deep.

Think of it like a moving sidewalk. No matter where you step on, the sidewalk moves you in a specific direction. This mental picture is exactly what we must create for all people.

We are talking about steps, not programs. Your church needs to create a first step towards God that incrementally and sequentially leads to another step that then gives way to another step.

Since people are not identical, each journey down the faith-moving sidewalk will be somewhat unique, too. But not to worry – just build a series of experiences and environments around conversations and connections that move people forward, even if slightly, towards deeper faith.

This is a Prescription.

Not a description. There is no “one way” to build a faith sidewalk. Yet there are principles that should be followed to ensure the journey offered feels achievable and profitable for each person considering a next step.

The journey fundamentals look something like this:


Discipleship is a relational journey because God is a relational entity. Moments are attractional, but relationships are sticky. Each incremental step along the journey must prioritize connection all along the way.


Small steps that move people in the direction of faith are a must in this model. For people to progress along the path, people must see incremental steps as logical, achievable, and helpful. People are asking, “What’s in this for me?” If the next best incremental steps can answer that question, odds are people will move forward.


This model must integrate in-person and online effectively. We don’t want to be “multi-channel,” but omnichannel.


EVERYTHING in the model is moving people forward along their journey. We aren’t creating moments but movement.

If you want to fire a church growth silver bullet, create a pathway that encourages and inspires people along a spiritual journey. You’ll find the ongoing celebrations of life change fuel more and more steps for everyone in your church and community.

P.S.  Just a few resources ideas before you go:

When I visited Auburn Community Church in May, I saw an example of a thriving, dynamic church. You can read more about my observations here: 7 Dynamics Making Auburn Community Church Dynamic

Also, if your church isn’t already built for movement and steps, this post may help: How to Recycle Your Strategy to Reset Your Life Cycle

Finally, as I said at the beginning, I offer a course and masterclass on this topic. Helping churches add more intention to their mission is the reason I coach and consult.