It’s tiring being the weird one. Believe me . . . sometimes I wish that I could just go to church on Sundays, sit in the sanctuary, listen to a message, clap and sing praise songs, catch up with my friends, and go on my merry way.
- Why can’t I just enjoy the new worship center that is twice as big as before?
- Why can’t I be proud of the fact that droves of new people are coming in our doors on a regular basis?
- Why can’t I be excited about a church that looks so good from the outside?
- Why can’t I just get on board?
Lord knows that I have asked myself these questions many times. Why can’t I go back to the shallow end of the pool? Why do I have to dwell in the depths of the deep? Oh, I often contemplate it.
But, I know that I can’t go back. And, truth be told, I wouldn’t want to.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. John 6:68
According to one blog post, “Growth is ALWAYS the goal of the New Testament church.”
I disagree. I don’t believe church growth should be our gauge for success.
Because church growth with a big ‘C’ (Christ’s Church) does not always equal church growth with a little ‘c’ (1 specific church). And church growth with a little ‘c’ doesn’t necessarily translate into more disciples, which is the purpose of Christ’s Church.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19
There are 7 reasons why I don’t believe in church growth.
1. Not everyone can use their spiritual gifts
When you have a church with thousands of people, it is nearly impossible for everyone to use their spiritual gifts within the church. Only a select group will be able to.
What if there are 250 people at a church of 4,000 with the gift of preaching or pastoring? No church of any size has 250 pastors! That means that there are at least 240 people unable to use their spiritual gift.
God gives us all spiritual gifts, and we should all be using them within the ‘body of Christ’, the Church.
Is everyone using their spiritual gifts at large churches? The answer is likely ‘no’. It is more likely that there will be way more gifted people at a large church than can be utilized.
2. Small groups are no substitute for Church
Large churches answer the criticism of their size by saying, ‘we encourage everyone to join a small group’.
My husband and I have been in small groups off an on for twenty years. We have seldom experienced (C)hurch in any of them. Most small groups do not focus on scripture. They do not focus on the Holy Spirit and how He is moving in their lives. The majority of small groups are not about encouraging each other in boldness; or holding one another accountable to scripture.
Small groups are a social gathering.
“In the search for answers I began to attend a large church in our local town, but instead of answers, all I found was a sort of spiritual country club where the dues were a dollar a week in the offering plate.” ~Willaim Lane Craig
According to Randy White, “The (small) groups engage in fellowship time, then go on their way as biblically empty as when they arrived.”
Small groups are not a substitute for church.
3. The problem with the 25 year plan
About five years ago, our church went through a building campaign. This is when I learned that our church had a 25 year plan.
It is not just having a 25 year plan that bothers me, it is being bound to it that does.
How can a church be spirit-led if it is bound to a plan that we created? If God tells us to move, and it conflicts with our 25 year plan, then what? Are we open to a different plan that God may have for us at any moment?
Can having a 25 year plan breed arrogance and independence instead of DEPENDENCE on God?
I can’t help but think about the stories of God leading His people in the Old Testament. What faith Moses and Joshua had when God asked them to do some crazy things! Every move that they made came directly from God.
God was leading them daily with a cloud by day and fire by night.
And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night. Exodus 13:21
To my knowledge, God has never given anyone in scripture a 25 year plan. The closest thing to a ‘plan’ is prophecy. And, prophesy is not a plan; it is a hope; it is a promise of the grace and salvation to come through Jesus Christ.
We, as the church, must surrender our ‘plan’ to God and let HIM guide us.
4. Campaign strategies don’t belong at church
Many churches hire consultants or building campaign strategists to help with their church growth campaigns. Churches should never look to someone with the word ‘strategist’ in their title for guidance. The word strategist is code for ‘we’re going to use our plan, not God’s.’
The head of the church is Christ and Christ alone.
Is Jesus Christ not good enough to lead us? Is that really what we believe?
During the campaign, my husband and I were invited to participate in a building campaign meeting. I thought, ‘Ok, this is good, they want to know what we think about this.’ It ended up being a sales pitch.
We quickly realized that we were not there because they valued our opinions as brothers and sisters in Christ. They were recruiting us to be on their ‘sales team’.
A salesman, or ‘Building Campaign Consultant’ or whatever his title was, got up and started selling. The purpose of the meeting was to get people to advertise the building campaign to the church and the community. Lay people were not wanted for their insight about the direction of the church. They simply wanted bodies to make sales calls, to raise money or help with mass mailings.
I felt used. And rightly so, I was being used. Not cool at church.
5. Church growth causes us to be inward focused
During building campaigns, everything suddenly is about (fill in a church name). Pride, disguised as church growth, can sneak in.
We start innocently talking about our history and showing pictures. Then we pat ourselves on the back about how much we have grown. It’s a slippery slope to becoming all about ‘us’.
We have to remember that the (C)hurch is not just our (c)hurch. Christ’s church is so much bigger than this building or that address. It is the entire body of Christ.
6. A large church must be run like a business
Logistically speaking, any organization over a certain number of people must be run like a business or it will fall apart.
Church is not a business. Yet, we have cheapened it to this level.
The amount of staff that a church has is a good indication of this ‘business mentality’. A large church must run like a business to manage the staff, expenses/assets, programs & projects.
7. A large church requires a lot of staff
A large church often has a lot of staff.
If there is a lot of staff, then there are fewer opportunities for lay people to step up in ministry.
When this is the case, the church body and the staff become disconnected. Instead of the church being all of God’s people, the staff are seen as the church and the members are just patrons.
We are all the church . . . . every one of us! Large churches with a lot of paid staff must remember that church goers are as much ‘the Church’ as the paid staff.
God has given me a love for the Church. I am passionate about keeping it pure and holy.
However, Church is a tough one. Christ set the bar pretty high!
As mere mortals, the concept of Church is one that we can never fully grasp. The Church is made up of us, disciples of Christ, yet it is the body of our Lord and Savior. Church is both human and divine at the same time. Hard to grasp?! It definitely is!
Church is supernatural. It is beyond our understanding. I believe that is why there is so much strife in churches today and why we can’t seem to get it right.
Church was never meant to be a building with thousands of people. It was probably never meant to be about a building at all.
You and I are the (C)hurch. And as the (C)hurch, we must hold our (c)hurches accountable and be continually turning them back to Christ.