The summer issue of Leadership, arriving in mailboxes in July, focuses on the impact of consumerism on ministry. Some people have equated the church growth movement with the rise of "consumer Christianity." Others believe the church growth philosophy has brought innovation and health to ministry.
Our friends at ChurchMarketingStinks.com are hosting an interesting conversation on the blessing/curse of the church growth movement. Here is a sample.
Start talking about church growth and things can get ugly. Eyebrows raise. Tempers flare. Comments explode. Just ask any blogging pastor who has broached the subject. It's as if growing your church is taking the on-ramp to the highway to hell.
The New Testament church grew daily (Acts 2:47). I think it's hard to deny that the purpose of the church is to grow, to bring in new people and increase numbers.
And perhaps that's the rub. Some people are concerned with motivation or focus, thinking numbers have suddenly become supreme. Others wonder if a successful church always has to be growing. Others ask if it's ever healthy for a church to be declining. Some might just be jealous.
In Part 2 of the discussion, Rick Warren chimes in with his 9 myths about church growth:
Myth #1: The only thing that large churches care about is attendance.
"The truth is, you won't grow large if that is all you care about" (48)
Myth #2: All large churches grow at the expense of smaller churches.
This may be true for some churches, but not all, and it's certainly not a good sign of growth. Warren calls it "reshuffling the card deck". (For the record, 80% of Saddleback's members became Christians at Saddleback.)
Myth #3: You must choose between quality and quantity in your church.
Every church should want both, and they feed on each other. Quality produces quantity (do it well and people will come) and quantity produces quality (if you have more people, you'll have more skilled people).
Myth #4: You must compromise the message and the mission of the church in order to grow.
I never understand this critique. Somehow the church is selling out because people are coming. There are some churches that have watered down the message, but painting every church in such broad strokes like this is so wrong. It always seems like a bit of petty jealousy to me - that church is growing and mine isn't, so they must be doing something wrong.
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