Jonathan Herron: ‘Laughter Is Universal’

“Seminary does not prepare you for reaching people far from God.”

We asked pastors of some of the nation’s largest churches to share their thoughts on church growth, discipleship, outreach and faithful ministry.

Jonathan Herron, Founding Pastor
Life Church Michigan
Saginaw, Michigan

The old formulas don’t work any more. We’re losing ground in North America because we’re doing ministry out of memory, trying to fit in and please men. Instead we need more mavericks to simply listen to God and do what he says.

First-time guests are looking for a reason to not return to your church. People must feel environmentally secure before they become theologically aware. Laughter is universal: It breaks the ice, and it’s a wink to your audience that everyone in the room is on the same page. If you want to reach Gen Z, stop trying to enforce the rules and instead become an outpost of grace.

As our church has exploded in growth, our staff team has literally shrunk by 50% due to bad hires and sending out church planters. Goodbyes always hurt, so laughter and levity heal. Jesus did promise that leading a growing church will always get harder, not easier.

Do not believe the lie that you’ve arrived or are entitled. That’s the beginning of the downward spiral. Leaders are learners. You have got to keep your edge by remaining hungry, humble and willing to hustle.

Seminary does not prepare you for reaching people far from God; it only shows you how to exegete ancient languages (which is important!) and how to maintain a small group (which is antithetical to the Great Commission).

I’m always reading three books at a time. I’m always listening to podcasts in the car. Vacations are my favorite because I’ll research a church I want to visit and study.

Choose what your church will be known for and amplify that. Example: Protesting at abortion clinics does not work. You know what does work? Caring for single unwed mothers, throwing parties for foster care families, and practicing what you preach. Do you really believe in taking care of orphans? Prove it. We’ve adopted five times, and it’s awesome. If every Christian family in North America would adopt just one child, the world would have no more orphans.

Read more candid conversations with Outreach 100 pastors »

Twitter: @HighFiveJon
Website: LifeChurchMichigan.com
Founded: 2013
Denomination: Nondenominational
Locations: 3
Attendance: 1,232
Fastest-Growing: 11