Sunday, January 24, 2010

Church Growth 101

American churches have become obsessed with church growth and church growth techniques, which certainly sounds like a good thing. Obviously we should want our churches to grow, because, in theory, this means we are reaching more people for Christ. In many cases these techniques are filling buildings, but are they really reaching people for Christ?

A church in our area runs TV commercials that say things like, “What if church was a literacy program for homeless children…would you come?” Wow. To me this sounds like an insecure kid at school saying, “If I give you my pudding, will you be my friend?”

Now Al Gore, esteemed founder of the fraudulent man-made Global Warming hysteria, is on a campaign to have pastors “go green” and give special attention to saving the planet. As one pastor who is gung-ho about the idea put it, this is a great way for us to offer something that people are interested in (by the way, why does no one cry “Separation of Church and State” when a career politician tells pastors what to say from the pulpit?). Am I the only one that finds it sad that pastors are scratching their heads trying to come up with something that people are interested in?

Then there is the famous Rick Warren method of knocking on every door in the community, asking why people don’t go to church, then tailoring his church to their desires. That is what has led these churches to remove the cross, stained glass, songs about Jesus’ blood, and messages about sin. This has led to “bless me” music and feel good messages. Pastor Warren, do you really want to know why people don’t go to church? They don’t love Jesus! Tailoring church to the lost is doing them a disservice.

Why? Because church is not for the lost. “Church” means “called out ones.” Instead of making church comfortable for the lost, get the lost saved, then bring them to church!

If people love Jesus they will go to church. This is the same concept that makes a person who loves sports go to games, a person who loves to shop go to the sale, and a person who loves a musician go to the concert. A person who loves Jesus will gladly go to any church that lifts up the name of Jesus; after all, Jesus said where He is lifted up He will draw men to Himself.

So to all my pastor friends, please just lift up Jesus. Enough with the programs, the competitions, the brainstorming, and the idea-stealing. Preach the Gospel, the whole Gospel, and nothing but the Gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation. Remember, what you reach people with is what you keep people with.

If you reach them through a literacy program, going green, or removing the “religious relics,” then as soon as your program ends or another church develops a better program, those folks will be gone. But if you reach them with Jesus, as long as you continue to preach Jesus you will be OK.
Some people will be offended by this blog, I know. I’m not worried about that. I will just stick to preaching Jesus, but just maybe,

If I stop blogging…would you come to church?

Don’t bet on it.


Scott said...

I agree with your main point that the church cannot neglect, downplay, or hide the gospel in any form, but this blog brings up a few questions for me to think about. None of these are definite arguments, but just the initial thoughts I have...

1. While the Apostles would not neglect the ministry of the Word, they did assign the first deacons to serve tables. This seems somewhat like an organized church program.

2. Biblical church was not a weekly service disconnected from daily life. What did it look like biblically to get people saved and bring them to church, rather than programming the church to bring them in?
- What was the new convert's first connecting point in the church? In a preaching service, or at a dinner table?
- Should church programming be focused on equipping people for ministry (Eph. 4:11-12) and on doing outreach (Matt. 28:19-20) rather than cool youth groups and pot-lucks?

3. In third-world countries, the church is not only the preaching center for the Gospel, but also the biggest source of life saving charity from drilling wells, providing food, offering healthcare, giving basic education, etc. In America, doing the equivalent to some of these may be seen as church growth strategy, but we are commanded to "do good to everyone..." (Gal. 6:10).
- The cultural mandate on God's people seems to tell us not to imitate culture, but to influence it. Of course, the proclamation of the Word is the primary form of influence, but I don't see a biblical argument against teaching homeless kids how to read. Rather, those 'programs' would seemingly validate the message that is preached.
- The priority level of the Gospel must be clearly emphasized or else we may unintentionally revert people to the social justice gospel of the '60s or the rise of liberalism of the early 1900's. However, this must be done without the church again becoming the irrelevant outsider that only yells at the culture without having any influence on it. (Dare I use this example: J. Frank Norris actually impacting the culture around him, versus the current A.B.C. which only criticizes without any real effect...)

Again, these were just initial thoughts, they aren't really developed, but maybe it'll get the conversation going...

Tommy Mann Ministries said...

Thanks for getting the conversation going. I always enjoy your point of view.

I do want to point out, though, that I am not against church programs (ministries sounds like a better word than programs though). I am also not opposed to teaching children how to read. However, I am against marketing the church based on what it offers to people instead of what we can do for the Lord.
To amend JFK's quote, "Ask not what the church can do for you, ask what you can do for the church."
The church should do all it can to teach those children, but it should be done because we love our neighbor, not as a church growth strategy.

Tommy Mann Ministries said...

Just a follow up thought, but I also believe that if Jesus is lifted up, He will draw people to Himself.

The best church growth strategy is simply to brag on Jesus from start to fininsh.