…especially in the church.
We keep marks on our laundry room wall charting the growth of our two children and my son and daughter are both growing like weeds. To grow more, I could go the route of some major league baseball players and slip a little “juice” into their food.
They would grow, but that kind of growth isn’t healthy or natural. It’s forced and dangerous to their long-term vitality.
Maybe I should clarify the premise of this entry by saying, “Numeric growth without spiritual health is dangerous…especially in an era of cookie cutter churches.”
To all my friends in church leadership, you know this, but let me remind all of us that this labor of love we refer to as Kingdom building cannot be explained in algebraic equations. Personally, I’m thrilled by the growth of many churches today, but let’s not get swept up in the trendy euphoria of plugging in a formula to get people to come through the doors. Big screens, theatre seating, edgy music, jeans and shirts untucked, movie clips, and intelligent lighting…yada, yada, yada!
Overall, the church in the U.S. isn’t growing. It’s declining steadily and will continue if we don’t address what really needs to change, which is us…those of us who lead and those of us who participate…and not only in method but more importantly in mission.
I’m reading the same books you are on church growth and attending the same conferences you attend. And there are principles we can all apply and practices we can all learn from. But remember, one of the beauties of the church is autonomy and thank goodness no two churches or two church leaders are the same!
So if you are feeling pressured to keep up with the mega-church Jones’ of the world, don’t be! Remember there is only one church and it is global which makes it ‘mega!’ Ask God what he wants the church you are in to be and do, then obey that calling. Let the Spirit of God partner with your faithfulness to His Word and I promise you people will fight over chair space like kids scrambling for the last seat in musical chairs. And you won’t have to inject any “juice” or contrived man-made programs to expand it.
It seems, too many leaders today are interested in building crowds and not communities. The two are interrelated, but not interchangeable. There is something to be said for passionate patience; praying and actually following the leading of God as a movement of believers and doing it with great vigor, even though God may respond with “wait.” I hope this paragraph doesn’t sound cynical, because I’m one of the most optimistic people you will ever meet, but I do fear we are franchising the church…again. And we seem to be doing it under the alias of “relevance.”
In light of an eternal, never changing God, there is something about that word that seems slick to me…relevant…almost faddish and trendy, instead of holy and set apart…which is what Jesus, our leader, was. Was he in touch with the needs of those he was loving? Yes, but he didn’t lose his message or mission in the limited scope of methodology. And if the church is to be the body of Jesus on earth, I’m not so sure I want to be associated with anything that smacks of “cool”. The opposite is just as dangerous…legalism! Somewhere in the middle, where the church serves the poor (relationally, emotionally, spiritually, and financially) of this world is where I want to be and lead from.
So if big screens and movie clips and edgy music helps you accomplish the mission of Jesus to take as many people to heaven as possible, then great! Go for it! But if you are in a church where that won’t work, then take the road less traveled. At the end of the day, be faithful. Ask Noah and Paul, there’s a lot to be said for simple obedience.
I’ll continue to measure my kids as they grow, but I’m rethinking the metric system we use in the church—one of numeric size—and I want to exchange it for one that measures health.
It’s late at night on this one and I’ll probably need to re-visit some of these lines in the morning…