Church Growth: Ur Doin it Wrong

We talk a lot about "church growth": how to grow churches in an increasingly secular society. Megachurches and growing churches abound. How can we sell enough donuts and books to get more people to come to church. Etc.

Given all this, how about a Case Study?

There once was a church that began small, gathered hundreds of people, then the pastor said things that insulted people and was arrested. At the end, the church had dwindled to a few dozen members, without a pastor to lead them.
On a church growth model...is that church a failure?

My friends...that's the church of Jesus.* Jesus had hundred of followers who came for the healings and miracles, then strayed away when the hard lessons came. At the end of the Passion, he had only a few dozen disciples (men and women)* following him.

It is this lesson that one of my new favorite bloggers, Jonathan Brink, reminds us:
One of the most dangerous things you can do as a Christian is to think really small and pour your love into twelve people. And the cool thing is that it doesn’t even require a license.
To take away from this post:
  • If you are a church that is dealing with being half-time or shrinking, remember that small groups are the basic building blocks of the kingdom of God. Strengthen them.
  • The next time you read a book on church growth, also check out Leonardo Boff's Ecclesiogenesis, a powerful short book on base communities. And you will value your church's size again.
Church growth experts? Maybe you are doing it wrong.

Your thoughts?

* of course, Jesus didn't come to start a church. But the parallel still works, so forgive me framing the Jesus movement in non-historical terms for the sake of making a point.
* thanks to T.L. Steinwert for reminding me that disciples are women AND men. This line has been re-written from its first version...the original language was "disciples and women"
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2 comments:

blake June 17, 2008 at 7:54 AM  

great post. i think one of my biggest pet peeves is that when people talking about "church growth" that are almost always talking about numbers and equating more bodies with more growth. which leads to more people, but also more people ignored. what about discipleship?

you bring up a good point. jesus wasn't intentionally about numbers. in fact, the case could be made that jesus wasn't about numbers at all. he was about people and relationships.

i understand that the church as an institution feels the need quantitatively measure "success" and "growth," i just wish we could get away from the numbers and move toward building relationships.

Matt Shafer June 17, 2008 at 10:23 AM  

It's nice to see someone recognizing that offending people is inherently bad. All too often, our modern culture equates offensiveness with evil. That attitude has already damaged the church.

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