Having studied under McGavran and his protégés, I was amused on how often they would passionately express their theories, then a few years later radically change them and passionately extort them, and then change them again and so forth, while the truths of the Word remained stable. I followed their folly, as I changed and kept up with the latest church growth jargon and theories, only to see the churches that applied them fail. We changed the theories while ignoring the Word. The Bible was used as a mere buffet as we chose passages out of context to fit our thinking instead of going to Scripture and defusing what God calls us to do.
Another big mistake made was the concentration and overzealous adoration of numbers over discipleship. A bigger church meant a better church.
This is far from true. A better church is based on the spiritual maturity of its leadership and members and what they are doing with their call. A good church base is in the solid teachings of God’s Word, spiritual growth, and the response to both our Lord and to people. I have been to many mega churches that attract people because of the dynamics of the pastor and the entertainment of the service, but they were immature and undiscipled, a very sad sight. On the other hand, I have been to small churches that are on fire with the Word and their call from the Lord, growing in their faith. There are many reasons a church can grow that may not be from God’s blessings.
The perceived success and result of most of the church growth drivel in my 20 years of experience was in “sheep swapping.” People would flow to the “church of what was happening now (comedian Flip Wilson),” unconcerned with personal growth and obedience to Christ. As a result, these churches were not growing in the Biblical sense. I have seen churches that did not apply our methodologies, yet grew huge and influential like Calvary Chapel, the Friends movement in Southern California, and Saddleback (in its early years). Thus, the church growth community considered it a success when a particular church grew under their influence; yet, it was usually an ignominy and an anomaly to those who grew without their influence.
Most of those churches grew because the neighborhood grew and they were in the right place in the right time amongst disease-ridden churches that had isolated themselves.
The surrounding churches were not growing because they did not want to, and the people were not growing spiritually. They then flocked to the growing church, even though that church may not have been doing things God’s way. These have been successes in church growth, but only because the other churches were doing nothing. There are also those churches that were stagnating, and God used the church growth concepts to awaken them and cause them to re-examine themselves. If the big successful churches were not planted in massive growth areas, but rather in sections of the country where there was little to no population growth, they may have not survived. If Saddleback was planted in Huntington Beach or Pasadena, or anywhere in northern California instead of the massive growth areas of southern Orange County and Northern San Diego County, where the churches already in that area were mostly dead, then we would have never heard of it! A better wake up job can be found in Romans 13:11-14 rather than a CEO business approach. Incidentally, most of the church growth originations went under in the 90’s and most of those assumptions then dissipated. Only now are they reprising their ugly heads.
Filed under: Church Growth Paradigms | Tagged: better church, Biblical principles, bigger church, business approach, business paradigms, Church Growth, Church Growth movement, church growth principles, Church Leaders, comparative thinking, discipleship, McGavran, numbers, pastors, Scripture directs | Leave a comment »