“Church growth” is the current buzzword in the Christian community. It has generated a billion-dollar industry from the Purpose Driven best sellers to the multi-campus models, and everything in between. If you Google “church growth”, you will get pages and pages of books and videos, careful 3-step and 10-step strategies and instructions on how to “grow your church.” The Bible has a lot to say about “church growth”. It is called “evangelism”, “soul-winning”, and “discipleship.” But are we getting it right?
I fully understand and agree that we need to keep up with the century that we are living in. We cannot allow our traditions, no matter how dear, to remain so old-fashioned that we are unable to relate to or communicate with the generation we are trying to reach for Christ. I love a contemporary praise and worship service, and personally take no issue if the pastor is wearing jeans and tennis shoes. (Jesus never told anyone they had to change their clothes before coming to church, and neither should we. We are only instructed to dress “modestly”, as we should!)
However, we’ve recently watched pastors frantically spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in attempts to allure the masses. They have built enormous buildings, trendy pulpits and stage sets, complete with strobe lights and fog machines. Some of these mimic the very night clubs the Lord has delivered so many of us out of (myself included). Again, I love some powerful, contemporary praise songs, as most of them are pulled straight from scripture. I even love seeing the joy of Lord expressed in dancing before Him, in worship. But I come to bask in the presence of Almighty God and be fed His holy Word; I do not need to be entertained. It breaks my heart to see crosses removed from today’s houses of worship so as not to “offend” anyone. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the POWER of GOD.” (1 Corinthians 1:18) Sin is rarely addressed, and in some denominations, even promoted! But the Bible says, “… let it not be named among you, as is fitting for saints.” (Ephesians 5:3)
A precious pastor-friend of ours recently got caught up himself in the game of adding and removing chairs from Sunday to Sunday, trying to make the auditorium (we no longer call them sanctuaries) look full enough, yet not over-crowded. He said, “Well the statistics show…” Say what? Is this what “preparing for the service” has become?
Yes, the large mega-churches are bursting at the seams, but are people getting saved, delivered and set free? Are lives being changed? Are we growing/maturing in our Christian walk and faith? (1 Corinthians 3:1-3) Are we growing in grace and knowledge? (2 Peter 3:18) Are we winning souls for the kingdom (evangelizing our communities), and discipling them? (Matthew 28:19) Are we feeding the hungry and clothing the poor? (Matthew 25:35-40)
Evangelism is my first love, and my first call to ministry. I am overjoyed with true “church growth”. We should be praying earnestly for the real thing. The Bible has much to say about it! In fact, on the day of Pentacost they saw 3,000 people added to the church in one day! Again, “And the Lord added to the church DAILY those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:47) Despite the phenomenal number of mega-churches popping up all over, we have yet to witness these numbers that the early church accomplished. So, what was their secret? What was their “strategy”? They did not have fancy buildings – they met in people’s homes. They did not have elaborate stage sets, nor extravagant sound systems. And I can assure you, they did not use flashing lights nor fog machines.
The answer is simple. They preached the life-changing message of the Gospel that Jesus preached. The same message that Peter preached at Pentacost where 3,000 were saved: “Repent, believe, receive.” The Holy Spirit flowed freely, and miracles happened.
“Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were MULTIPLIED.” (Acts 9:31)
“And He said to them, `Go in to all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.'” (Mark 16:15)