Saturday, October 27, 2007

A Thought on "Church Growth"...

There is an interesting quote from John MacArthur over at Old Truth today, which is worth digesting (It's called "Synthetic Church Growth Is Like Cancer"). I especially was struck by the following posted comment comment:
"A year ago September I was Providentially led to a small independent community church in our community. (We live 3 blocks from it.) The church had just hired a new Calvinistic pastor who isn’t afraid to preach the Word. We have gone from two services to one, and people are leaving in droves. At the same time we are having great Bible studies, and the people who are left are growing spiritually. Which model for church growth is better? Water the Word down to get the maximum number of people in the pews, or preach the whole council of God straight up with no apologies and let the chips fall where they lay?

Posted by: Dan R. on Friday, October 26, 2007"

My reaction is that "truth" and "growth" don't necessarily have to be mutually exclusive, but "truth" ought to be the goal and that, while there are happy exceptions, the normal experience of Jesus' ministry and the Church is that when the whole counsel of God is preached without apology, the crowds thin.

I think that the primary corporate focus of God's family ought to be on the clear proclamation of the whole Truth as taught in Scripture. The "good news" of the Gospel is only seen clearly when one understands the "bad news" of our lost condition. Why do churches try to "reach" lost people by self-help type messages, better life messages or otherwise "focusing on the positive" messages? (As if truth has electrical properties!) The answer seems self-evident: It's what they want (or are at least willing) to hear. Where are the "seeker-sensitive" messages about their real need - their totally lost condition, the reality of an eternal hell waiting for them apart from Christ, their total inability to do anything to address their problem - and their absolute dependence on a God who may or may not save them? Where are the seeker messages who warn the lost people to seek the Lord while He may be found? Where are the messages which leave the listener in awe of a most Holy God who is under no obligation at all to do anything for them?

Growth is great... it's important because it is people - but if God is responsible for the growth (1 Corinthians 3:7), can't we trust Him for it? Can't it be His message, His way that we preach? Said another way, why is so much attention placed in today's church on methodology? I think it is very telling that churches today seem to put a very high value "creativity" in methodology, and (at best) assume fidity to doctrinal truth. What other explanation can be given for the loss of esteem for formal training for the ministry? Would you go to a doctor who has been training in marketing, but hadn't gone through medical school?

I'm not saying that seminary is the answer to all of our problems. But the fact that it isn't even viewed by many as a requirement any more is an indication of how little Truth we view as essential. A cursory reading of publications like Christianity Today show that almost everything is viewed as "non-essential" these days. And so, we become a movement of style without substance, and the crowds may come - but for what? Jesus had a comment about this "growth strategy" too:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. Matthew 23:15

My guess is that 99% of all evangelicals would think Dan R.'s comment represents an insulated, selfish point of view, and wouldn't see any merit in his comment at all. I agree with him. What do you think? Tell me why I'm wrong. Comments are open.


Rob Willmann said...

"Water the Word down to get the maximum number of people in the pews, or preach the whole council of God straight up with no apologies and let the chips fall where they lay?"

- That to me is the crux of the issue. It's currently happening in my church as well.

Billy Graham stated that the vast majority of people in our pews are not saved, even though they proclaim to be. Why is that?

It's due to the wrong Gospel message being presented. When a church gets a new pastor who preaches this Word, this often results in many of the unsaved church members leaving, all the while saying deprecating remarks about the pastor who brings the unadulterated truth.



Anonymous said...

What is truth?

Doulos Christou said...


Thanks for visiting! I found your blog very interesting as well... I'm be praying for you in your plans to move to Wales. I've found great encouragement in the accounts of the revival there in 1904 - perhaps again?


That's a helpful question!


Anonymous said...

That's a helpful question . . . come on doulos . . . you can do better than that.

Doulos Christou said...

Anon - you're right!

Doulos Christou said...


Ok, so maybe I'm not being fair with my Brian Urlacher-like responses to your question. At which level would you like me to answer?

Anonymous said...

thanks for the apology . . . i forgive you for your harsh and abrasive tone. That's what scares me about christians. i'm really interested in a conversation with some christian who could help me find truth . . . or as evangelicals always say Truth (with a capital T). What does that mean? while we're on the topic of truth do you have any thoughts about who killed jfk?