I hear a lot about church growth consultants. You know, the guys who come into a church and advise them on how to grow bigger and gain more people. They are the ones who suggest slogans like “Your Family Church” and hold training sessions on branding and social media.
Now, please believe me, I’m not questioning the sincerity of those in the “church growth” profession, nor the motives of churches that want to grow. I believe they are well meaning folks. I am, however, questioning the validity of the very concept of church growth as a strategy.
I believe large numbers can actually be the enemy of authentic faith in Christ. When you break Christianity down to its essence, it is individuals living in a close bond of love, encouraging one another on to faith and good works. The larger our group gets, the harder that becomes to accomplish.
As groups grow, a building becomes necessary. Money that should go to care for the poor among us now is dedicated to the care and upkeep of the building. As we grow, pastors who should be shepherding the flock entrusted to them by God become administrators and CEO’s, often too busy for the very people they are called to lead.
And the worst side effect of growth is what it does to individuals. As growth occurs, we find less connection, less intimacy, less care for God’s people. People fall through the cracks. I can show up on Sunday morning, sit in a pew, listen to the sermon and go home and nobody has to know that I’m dying inside. Nobody has to know that my marriage is failing or that I’m struggling with an addiction.
Then, in an effort to correct its deficiencies, a church will formulate a plan to break back down to small groups. But if that’s where people are finding their authentic sense of community, then why don’t we just dump the big church and go back to the original model? You know, small groups meeting in homes, intimately bonded together in love and mission. Pastors who are one of us, living life together with us, being the shepherds God has called them to be. Kinda like how they did it in the 1st century.
Come to think of it, I am knocking our church growth strategies. I’m begging the American church to stop it. Stop wasting money on buildings that will eventually decay and crumble. Stop spending the resources of the kingdom on silly programs designed to attract selfish Americans who are just looking for a self-image boost. Please stop it! The church is not a business, it’s not a corporation. It’s the kingdom of God. It’s the living body of Christ, called to be His hands reaching out.
There’s a world that’s broken and dying out there. 1 in 5 American children live in poverty, not to mention the 24,000 kids under five who are dying from poverty around the world each day. Families are a disaster and our culture is spiraling out of control.
And reaching out to that world with the love of Christ doesn’t require a building or a staff or a strategy. It doesn’t even cost a lot of money. It simply requires followers of Jesus whose lives have been broken and rebuilt by His love, allowing themselves to be vulnerable and humble enough to love. Unconditionally, unequivocally, wholeheartedly.
Or we could hire a consultant.