Dean Herman: ‘A Good Culture Creates Growth’

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

Dean Herman, Senior Pastor
5 Point Church
Easley, South Carolina

I am convinced that a church’s culture creates an atmosphere of growth. It starts the moment visitors enter our parking lot. A first-time guest will be greeted and have their hand shook a dozen times before they even enter our worship service. We want everyone to know that 5 Point Church is serious about loving people. It has been said that we are overly friendly, but I’m OK with that. We would rather love people to Jesus than push them away.

As a guest walks into our lobby, the first thing they will see is a large “Welcome Home” painted on the wall. We have worked hard to create this culture, and I am so proud of our staff for pouring this into all of our volunteers.

In order for a church to grow you must have first-time guests. To have those guests, your people must invite. As the pastor, I am an inviting machine. I invite everything with breath to 5 Point, and I have stressed the importance of this with our people. Our biggest asset for growth is our people inviting their unchurched friends, family and coworkers.

I work with a lot of pastors with smaller churches, and it amazes me how many do not invite people to their own church, and then wonder why they aren’t growing. I am convinced that to have an incredible culture, the pastor must set the culture. I invite constantly and expect our staff and people to do the same. If you are part of a church to which you are embarrassed to invite people to, it might be time to find a different church.

Just a few years ago we bought and renovated an 80,000-square-foot building. We started with a 700-seat auditorium in August 2017. This past June we finished renovations that allow us to expand to 1,200 seats. During this year, we have averaged 500 more people every Sunday than the same Sunday in 2018. What is amazing about this is 5 Point Church is located in a city of only 25,000 people. I’m blown away at how the Spirit and presence of God is falling among our people.

After pastoring for 14 years and talking to or training other pastors, I am totally convinced that one of the biggest barriers for any church is if the pastor can handle the pain and suffering you must go through to take your church to the next level. The pain is real. The suffering is real, but it is expected. My pain in crossing our 2,000-attendance barrier was much tougher than when we hit 200.

Comparison will kill you. I remember comparing our church to others and wondering why we weren’t growing as fast as they were. I doubted my leadership style, my teaching style and even my pastoral calling. But after a lengthy fast and a lot of time with God, Colossians 3:3 came alive in me: “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”

My destiny was inside of me, and not to be found in just imitating other pastors. I began being the man of God that he created me to be. Once I felt comfortable in who I was and my leadership style, our church truly began to grow. It is hard for anyone to lead others when they don’t even know themselves.

I am constantly reading leadership books or listening to leadership podcasts. I like to talk leadership with other leaders. Also, I surround myself with people who are at a level I am trying to get to. I ask what they did or how they achieved success. I also love talking with people who think differently than me because it stretches me. Any leader who wants to go to another level and take their organization to another level must continually learn from others, regardless of their methods.

The church likes to make things incredibly difficult. It needs to get back to the basics of loving people regardless of where they are. At 5 Point Church, we don’t look at people for who they are but for who they can be. The majority of broken people walking into a church are not seeking an incredible message or the performance of a talented worship team. They are looking to be loved through their hurt. They do not need to be told how sinful they are and how much they need to change. They already know that, which is why they came to church in the first place. Churches are full of self-righteous religious people who just want to point out others’ sin. We need people who are radically in love with Jesus, hurting for broken people as Jesus hurt, with a desire to help them through their sin and not condemn them for it.

We allow any hurting or sinful person into our doors. In fact, we’ve had people leave us because they disagreed with some of the people we allowed in. That is called religion. We are not about that—we are about loving people to the cross. Often times Christians forget what being lost felt like. I know it seems simple, but the church must be the one thing that remains the foundation for our cities. Our foundation is built on loving people regardless of where they’ve been. Until we as a church are willing to love people like this, how can we expect to change our communities and our cities?

Read more candid conversations with Outreach 100 pastors »

Twitter: @5PtDeanHerman
Founded: 2004
Denomination: Southern Baptist
Locations: 1
Attendance: 2,352
Fastest-Growing: 21

Lora Schrock
Lora Schrock

Lora Schrock is editor of Outreach magazine.