“The greatness of a church is not in her seating capacity, but in her sending capacity” ~Rick Warren.

I’ve heard this saying over and over again for the past 15 years or so from pastors and church leaders from all different perspectives of ministry. But I haven’t seen much about how to expand the SENDING capacity of a local church or a real change in strategy to developing SENDING capacity. Both are necessary for a missional movement.

Sending Capacity

How can we understand the difference and add real SENDING capacity to our strategies?

  • Seating capacity is about managing the movement of people into relationships. Sending capacity is about managing the movement of people into mission.
  • The mission that Jesus gave the church was a SENDING strategy. The Great Commission and the Acts 1:8 Challenge are foundational

Matthew 28:19 (NLT) – “go and make disciples of all the nations…”

Acts 1:8 (NLT) – “you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

  • Seating capacity is easier. Not cheaper, but easier. It’s easier to draw a big crowd than to send a lot of people into missional roles in the world. It takes longer & requires different things from the leaders.
  • Seating capacity is INSIDE. Sending capacity is OUTSIDE. Serving inside the church is great, but if the only mission opportunities we give people are inside, we fall short of a true  Acts 1:8 SENDING strategy.
  • Being SEATED is much more comfortable than being SENT. Going to church is for the majority of people, very safe, sanitary, & can be enjoyable. Being SENT requires sacrifice, risk, & a sometimes delayed reward for effort.
  • I can be SEATED in my own strength. Being SENT requires the power of the Spirit.
  • Being SEATED tends to make much of the leaders. Being SENT makes much of the mission. We hear a lot about the churches & leaders with the most SEATING capacity.
  • SEATING capacity is easier to track and clean up after. It’s more static. SENDING strategies are hard to control and can get messy.

Do you see any difference between SEATING capacity and SENDING capacity? How does your church include SENDING in its strategies? What resources do you know about to aid SENDING capacity and SEATING capacity?

“The greatness of a church is not in her seating capacity, but in her sending capacity” ~Rick Warren.

Now we know why seating and sending capacity are necessary for growth and Acts 1:8 kingdom expansion. So what do we do about it.

In a day of declining attendance and loss of Christian influence we desperately need both. More seems to be made by example and information of “The How” related to seating capacity than sending capacity.

The HOW is really found in the practices of Jesus and the early church & the truths of the Gospel:

4 Ways All Pastors Can Create More Sending Capacity

1. Share the Gospel – Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 3:5-7

Going/Sending/Serving/Obeying is an affect of people being transformed & regenerated by the gospel. The Bible says that Christians who are transformed are created “for good works” (Ephesians 2:10) and that one of the purposes of the Gospel was that God would have a people who were “eager to do good works” (Titus 2:14). The Holy Spirit gives power to serve and share the message to those transformed by the Gospel.

So if we’re sharing the Gospel & people are being saved then we will always have capacity to send these people who are being shaped by God and the Gospel to obediently Go in His power.

2. Listen to God – Acts 13:1-5

In Acts 13, the church was fasting, praying, and listening to God and guess what He said? “Go/Send.” Actually, he said, “set apart for me Barnabas & Saul for the work that I have called them” (Acts 13:2). This made since to the believers because the Lord had already told them to “Go into all the world…” Mt 28:19 and that they were to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). His instructions for the church haven’t changed. If we listen to God the call to obey, go, send will still be heard within every church. This call will make sense to believers who are listening.

3. Leaders that EQUIP the Saints – Ephesians 4:11-12

In Ephesians 4, Paul the Apostle, teaches us that God gives to the church apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, teachers and their job is “to EQUIP God’s people to do His work” (NLT). So two separate roles develop: Equippers and Ministers. Several attitudes in today’s church hinder these roles:

  • A “hire it done” mentality. Sending for us, means hiring a new staff member, so I can send him/her to the hospital or to the lost, etc.
  • A Mere Volunteer. Some leaders hinder sending by downplaying the power of God’s people doing his work. They are mere volunteers, that can’t really be depended on or trusted. To that I say, maybe that’s all you’ve equipped them to be.
  • Fear of Releasing.  Sending is not desired by some leaders, because their  end goal is to have more people this Sunday than last Sunday at any costs and to give opportunities for people to be sent may require people being elsewhere some or most Sunday’s.

Dennis Watson of Celebration Church says for a church to grow, the people have to give the leadership to the Pastor(s) and the Pastor(s) have to give the ministry to the people. For multiplication to happen, we must not fear equipping, releasing, sending people to fulfill their God given roles.

4. Lead like Jesus – Sending was part of his strategy – Matthew 9:35-10:5

“They’re just not ready yet.” This is a common refrain that I’ve heard and said about people in churches. But if you observe Jesus’ ministry, you’ll see him sending the “not yet ready” at a steady clip. Sending was part of his strategy to grow people and grow the kingdom. They weren’t ready, they made mistakes, but they learned, they developed faith, they were ready at the right time to multiply the church exponentially. If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be stuck in a holding pattern while the world’s population passes us by. Is that where we are today?

What is your ministries sending capacity? How are you intentionally releasing people to ministry? Does your attitude about ministry or people hinder sending capacity for your church?

Source: This post originally appeared as two posts by Lane Corley at his website: post one (conceptual) and post two (practical). 


Lane Corley is not only a contributor on the Malphurs Group blog but also a church planter and strategist for the Louisiana Baptist Convention. He is the husband to Heather and father to 3 children. || @LaneCorley || www. lanecorley.com ||