Is Church Growth off?

“He said to him, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’” Matthew 22:37 (HCSB)

For several years, I was a “church growth consultant” in Australia. I literally was considered an “expert!” But after helping many churches “grow” we came to the realization that we weren’t necessarily helping them mature in their faith or becoming more passionate about Jesus. These churches simply had more people. The church growth movement operates with an assumption of taking principles of management then packaging it in the church context and the result is growth. The primary indicator of success for many churches is numbers, whether dollars or people, or as a Southern Baptist church leader said decades ago, “nickels and noses!”

But sadly, the cost of all this has been a watering down of much of what Jesus commanded. His great commandment was for us to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20), not grow the church. He said He would build/grow the church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it (Matthew 16:18). We have made it easy for people to begin the journey with Christ, without bringing them to a place of absolute surrender to Jesus as Lord. Making converts was not what Jesus meant by the great commission.

In fact, much of what is thought to grow the church simply reinforces our consumer entitlement culture. We create atmospheres where people are comfortable, happy and not inconvenienced. But Jesus called His followers to come after Him and die. He said that we must lose our life to find it (Luke 9:23-24). This is not a seeker sensitive message!

When asked about the greatest commandment He responded, “Love God with all that you are” (Matthew 22:37)! God is looking for lovers not crowds! Everything we do should be about being lovers of God and helping others be the same. I believe that is the essence of evangelism, discipleship and mission.

Ask the Lord to realign your definition of a successful church with His – a community of lovers of Jesus! Ask God to work in your pastor to lay aside every “church growth resource” that is simply re-enforcing the consumer culture, or trusting in the world’s techniques to “gather crowds” rather than discipling lovers of Jesus. Ask God to build and grow your church to become a place where the gates of hell do not prevail! Ask Him to raise up men, women and children who would be willing to pick up their cross and follow Jesus wherever He leads, even if it is counter to what’s popular in the world!