The vast majority of the leaders in the church growth movement are good, godly, passionate people who truly want to advance Christ’s kingdom and be a blessing to other churches.
They write books and speak at conferences because they have a passion to share what they’ve learned with others. And they teach great principles that I continue to learn a lot from.
But there’s a subsection of them, just like there is in any group – a very small, but very loud subsection – who give church growth a bad name. They’re not interested in sharing valid principles as much selling their latest book or conference.
They make promises like “I grew my church from 3 to 3,000 in three years, and if you follow my Seven Simple Steps, you can too!”
No you didn’t.
And no I can’t.
Start And End With Scripture
When it comes to church growth and health, we need to lower the volume and listen with both discernment and faith.
Discernment, not cynicism. Faith, not naïveté.
When we do that, we can use the church growth ideas that apply to our context and toss the rest. We need to realize that not every principle that worked in someone else’s church will work in ours. And that’s okay. Some ideas are universal. But most are not.
The only principles we can be sure are universal are the ones found in scripture. Everything else varies by circumstance.
I’m a big fan of learning everything I can from every source I can. Even (especially) sources that I didn’t expect to learn from. Sometimes the best lessons come from the most unlikely places. There truly is wisdom in a multitude of counselors.
But that doesn’t mean we should believe promises when they seem too good to be true.
Hype Sells, But Principles Work
Hype will die. Principles will live.
Churches that try to grow through hyped-upped ideas may get bigger (although usually not) but they’ll never be healthy. And they’ll be gone as quickly as they came.
So how do you tell the difference between those teaching solid principles and those selling a hyped-up product?
- Promotes “a brand new idea no one ever saw before!”
- Makes promises about how big you can get and how fast you can get there
- Puts down churches that don’t use their ideas
- Inflates your ego – and theirs
- Are about numbers more than discipleship
- Are based on the Bible
- Elevate Jesus
- Emphasize health more than numbers
- Offer ideas, not promises
- Acknowledge that there will be challenges
- Grow disciples, not just crowds
- Work in churches of all types and sizes
Hopeful And Healthy
Again, let me state what I said at the start. Most church growth leaders/teachers are interested in sharing principles, not hyping a product. But the voices of the small minority of hucksters are loud.
Don’t let a few loud voices make you so cynical that you can’t learn valid principles from legitimate church growth leaders.
Seek church health first.
Be curious. Remain teachable.
And stay hopeful.
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