April 27, 2006

Health over Growth

Having grown up in a Fundamentalist (not fightin' fundy), Baptist (not big "B) church for most of my life, I have always believed that mega churches use unscriptural methods in order to grow. I have heard all the arguments used, normally consisting of casual dress (normally meaning women wear pants and the men don't wear ties...) and "contemporary" music. While broadbrushing the category is unwise, I would have to say that many complaints against the methodology of most mega churches is legit.

What troubles me, however, is not the big churches. What troubles me is that the "good" churches (generally smaller by comparison) condemn the mega church, but yet they buy into the same pragmatic thinking used by the liberals. I think it boils down to the simple truth that people, in general, are concerned and impressed by numbers. Society persuades us to believe that "small" is inferior to "BIG." Being small, by comparison, means that you are not as effective in methodology and execution as the "BIG."

A couple of quotes relating growth to the church:
  • "Numbers are important, because numbers represent people."
  • "The result of growth is not necessarily bad, but the goal of growth leads to pragmatism and compromise."
I would contend that the goal of the church should be health, not growth. (And for those of you that think I just made an egregious error by not stating that the goal should be the glory of God, I am including that idea in the word health.) Now do not misunderstand, health often leads to growth. Growth cannot be made to be wrong in and of itself. The 1st century church grew by leaps and bounds. However, the goal of a church cannot be growth. This reasoning makes me conclude that people should not write books relating the Church to a business. The goal of business is growth and gain. (sorry for the alliteration) The goal of the church is the glory of God through means of worship, evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, and ministry.

A church may have to become healthy before it begins to grow. It goes against all human logic to not experience "success" when we are doing things "correctly." This would have to go back to our definition of "success." When glorifying God as mentioned above is the goal, men do not count people on Sunday morning so that they can report on how bad the pastor is. This is man-centered, anti-Biblical thinking. I would tend to think that one reason a church may not be growing is because of the ones who are more concerned with attendance rather than worship.

For some good reading on this topic, check out Mark Dever's "9 Marks of a Healthy Church." (see the Solid Ground sidebar to go to 9Marks Ministries.