Monday, May 07, 2007

Is it church growth or faith growth?

I would have to say that "Church Growth" has been the most read about and studied topic in my ministry career, second only to the Word of God. It's still seems to be the number one topic in the religious world - certainly the Protestant/Christian world anyway. The volume of books, magazines, seminars, workshops, degrees, and experts is an industry unto itself. For those of us seeking to "be successful" in what we do, we can't help but feel that Church Growth, as a field of study, holds the secret to leading THE "Great church," a "Mega-church" that God wants us to build. But is that really the goal? Is that really what God wants? Is that what makes a ministry successful? I think not.
What would Paul think about "church growth" - the modern movement to build bigger churches? First, we'd have to explain to him how "church" has gone from being "the called out followers of Jesus" to an address, a building, and an institution. If we didn't, he'd probably just say that church growth was a child of God maturing in Christ. We all say that we aren't interested in numbers, just souls, but when was the last time the leader of a small group of Christians was called a church growth expert? The first century? I think Paul would define growth as every member of our church family becoming "mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of longer infants...builds itself up in love, as each part does it's work." (Eph.4:11-16)
So, why do we seek to be or build large church families? There are advantages and disadvantages to being large, just as there are for being small and intimate. But, the ONLY criterion that should be considered, the only driving force that guides our planning, preparing, and purposing should be "what helps us draw closer to Jesus." The tool, (church/assembly/christian togetherness) needs to be wisely and effectively used, structured, and organized to bring one another into a deeper relationship with Jesus. If "mega" makes it happen, then we better do what works best, but if spiritual relationships happen in smaller settings, who are we kidding (or impressing) by pushing bigger is better? Large and intimate do not have to be mutually exclusive, but the focus has to stay on drawing closer to Jesus and not buying into the world's definition of church growth.

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