The Problem with most Church Growth Paradigms V

God wants his lost sheep found? Of course, He does. However, if God is sovereign, and is truly God, are His sheep lost? This is of theological debate, but this is a Biblical and right emphasis for motivating the church. So far, so good!

Our choices of method must be based on fact. Yes, it is. However, what are the facts? Usually it is in the following of categories and not in His Word! Not so good!

Pour your resource into winning channels. What is working in one church must also work in yours. This is not true, because most churches fail under these principles! Numbers tell us that God is with us, but this is not true either! This is also not Biblical! Numbers can be misleading, and what we may see as a winner, God sees as pathetic and foolishness. Read the book of Proverbs! God looks for faith, devotion, love, and obedience, which are all missing from this church growth model! Strong leadership never means a strong willed personality, but a servant’s heart after God’s heart, which is contagious to others. That is God’s winner!

People like to stay with their own people: This is as far from the Bible as you can get without setting up alters to Satan! Yes, we do like to stay with our own people, but this is part of our fallen sinful nature that we are to change, not encourage! This is very bad!

Pragmatic research & Scientific research: Yes, we should look to good research so we can be the best at our programs and outreach (this is what we do at the Schaeffer Institute). However, let this never distract us from Biblical precepts. Always consider what God calls us to, not just what people want!

People movements: Go where the people are, yes, we are! However, we are to be the salt and light without being taken in and affected negatively by those people. We are to never take the philosophy and trends of the culture, rework them, and put a Jesus stamp on them when they are against Jesus’ teachings and character!

Social networks: This is one good aspect. We need to strive to be better at being a people, at modeling Christ-like behaviors, so we can be the people of God in the world!

Receptivity: YES! Christians can be cruel gossipers and filled with hypocrisy, and who do a much better job at turning people away from the gospel than a legion of demons. This is also a good aspect, one on which we have much work to do! 

Priority: Whose priority? This is perhaps the biggest problem in the North American Church. Our priorities are all skewed, chasing trends and ignoring our Savior and call! Are we being poured out to Christ, or to our way of thinking? Are we in church leadership roles to glorify God or make a name for ourselves? What are our true priorities and are they what God has directed?

Purpose:

…..Whose purpose? Is it God’s or yours?  

Did you notice what is missing? It is God and His purpose! Do you see what is emphasized? It is mostly unbiblical, slap-in-the-face-of-our-Lord drivel! Yes there are some good ideas and place we all need to grow. However, you cannot build His church by your means! All that you will accomplish is what a dog accomplishes when he chases his own tail. It may be fun and amusing for a while, but nothing is accomplished. It is good for a dog, but detrimental for a church! While we need to realize that God does want His church to grow, growth is found in spiritual maturity and in contagious obedience, sharing our Christian faith with others around us. Good research is essential as it can help us make our programs and paradigms better, but these are to be useful tools, not the point of our devotions and emphases. Of course we are to make people feel comfortable and at home, but do not forget that it is all about building the Kingdom of God and glorifying Him! This prime directive is absent from most church growth principles!

As a church growth consultant, I also propagated some of those principles for many years. I glanced over Scripture and conformed God’s Word to my ideas and those of others instead of really bowing to His Word. I shutter to think I asked questions to church boards such as, “Is the pastor a leader and not just a teacher? If not, you have to get rid of him because you must have a leader.” “Does the pastor really want the church to grow? Is he willing to pay the price for it?” I did not ask questions such as, “Is the pastor growing in his faith and practice, spending quality time in the Word for himself outside of sermon and teaching preparation?” “Is the pastor surrendered to the Word?” “Is the pastor following the precepts of 1 Timothy 3:1-9 and Titus 1:5-8?” What is real church growth? I believe Campus Crusade for Christ nailed it, as we will see in a bit.

 

The Problem with most Church Growth Paradigms IV

Do you have a hard time with what I am saying, does it go against what you have been taught or have presumed? Then, see for yourself.

What are the Premises and Principles of Church Growth?  

The premises that have been the heart of the church growth movement are four;

….that God wants his lost sheep found;  

…that our choices of methods must be based on fact;  

….we must pour our resources into winning channels,  

….and people like to stay with their own people — within cultural identities.  

The principles are sevenfold: pragmatic research, scientific research, people movements, social networks, receptivity, priority, and purpose.”

(quoted from, “Church Growth Principles at a Glance” which appeared in Ministry Advantage, Vol.7 No. 4, the hallmark and flagship newsletter of the church growth world)

Most of the principles seem sound – or do they? I used to think-so. Look carefully at each of the principles. Can you honestly see Christ teaching them? Can you find them in Scripture? 

Good luck with that!