CHURCH GROWTH VERSES KINGDOM EXPANSION – WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
CHURCH GROWTH WILL BE THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL PAGE IN THIS BLOG BECAUSE IT WILL SEEM TO ATTACK A “SACRED COW” IN OUR RELIGIOUS SYSTEM !!
God is not interested in Church growth that is building large congregations or large super-churches. His plan is to birth people into His family all over the earth and to enable them to grow to maturity in union with Him. He is not limited to building a facility in which to house Himself and develop what we call a congregation, or a church. He will not make a building His home on this earth; He did that only in the Old Covenant. We live under a New Covenant in which God’s home is inside of people that have been born again. When we spend our time, efforts, and energies inside a building we call “the church” we fundamentally lose our influence on those who do not know Jesus. The “Church” that Jesus said He would build does not need Sunday morning meetings, or Sunday night meetings, or midweek meetings, or youth ministries, or children’s ministries, or men’s and women’s ministries, or great singing, or great speeches to the same people week after week. These type of activities do not create the Church growth Jesus wants. What God wants is people to live like a family and love one another and relate to one another and do about 30 one another’s as recorded in Scripture.
God has a plan for reaching and redeeming all the people’s on this planet. The amazing fact is that if we do it God’s way, it could be done in less than a generation. If this statement is true, then why hasn’t it already been done? Let’s start looking and see if we can the answer to that question.
In order to properly think about what growth in the Church really is we need to define the term “growth”. Growth can be viewed in two ways:
- Growing in numbers in the congregation, or
- Growing in spiritual attributes, character, and understanding.
I believe the primary emphasis that I have seen in the church world over the past 43 years when talking about growth has been, ‘How do we get more members in the congregation?’ We talk about growing spiritually, but the real emphasis in our churches seems to be on getting the numbers, doesn’t it? If this is the primary emphasis for church growth, then we need to examine the motives behind this quest.
The simplest answer to the question in this pages title is “MOTIVE”.
WHAT IS THE MOTIVE FOR CHURCH GROWTH?
Let’s start by defining what a motive is. It can simply be defined as “why” we do what we do. In other words, or why do we want what we want?
The next issue is the “who” behind the growth question. Who is it that is really concerned about the congregational growth?
Let’s look at the first issue — the “who”.
As a member of a local congregation are you currently doing everything in your ability to bring more people to the church meetings, or are you simply happy if someone else does all the work?
Are you trying to bring people “to church”, or are you actively involved with people working to introduce them to your greatest friend, Jesus?
Is increasing children in God’s family important to you or is the membership of the congregation really something that is priority for you?
Are you simply wanting to increase membership of your church, or children in God’s family?
My experience with this issue finds that the person most desirous of growing the Church is the pastor. The pastor is the one who primarily focuses on growing the congregation because it is “his” church. Have you ever noticed that when people refer to a church group many times they refer to that group as Pastor Bumfellow’s’s church, or Pastor Bloom’s church, or Reverend Brown’s church? Or when you see the church sign it says “so and so church” along with the pastor’s name as though it is his/hers? I was always under the impression that the Church belonged to Jesus, not a pastor. After all, who is the main draw in any congregation? Jesus, or the pastor?
I believe the issue of Church growth has to do with a wrong motive in many cases. Let me explain.
“Why” do we want church growth?
Most people I know are not really concerned about church growth as long as they are comfortable in their local congregation. If you have friends in the group you go to, and you are involved in a few activities, you’re not really concerned if it grows much. But if you are the pastor, you want the congregation to grow because that is a sign, or measure, of success. If the group is small in numbers the pastor does not feel successful and many times begins to prod the congregation to invite people to “come to church”, or to have special activities to draw visitors.
The meetings of the Church are not a place to invite visitors, it is a place for “the Church” (the “ekklesia – called out ones) to meet. Introduce your visitors to Jesus in your homes, then you can bring them to meetings of the Church because they now are the Church. This is what creates Church growth.
Have you every seen signs out in front of church facilities saying things like “Come grow with us”? Jesus never asked us to invite people to come to a meeting of the Church in order to hear a pastor deliver a speech. He has given us personal responsibility as His ambassadors in fulfilling some very specific commands concerning the growth of His Church.
If the congregation is large, then normally the pastor takes on a role similar to a CEO of a company. He’s busy with a staff to oversee the congregation, and to coordinate the church calendar, and to be involved in district functions, and to be involved in building bigger buildings, etc. I know this because I have been there and done that. The motive for Church growth becomes misplaced when we see growth in this manner.
Our focus or motive for church growth is wrong. We think that we are responsible for the church growing. That is not true. We are responsible to be in obedience to the Lord Jesus Christ and simply do what He tells us to do. If we do what we have been instructed to do, He will cause people to be added to His Church.
After all, isn’t it His Church and not our church?
GOD’S VIEW OF CHURCH GROWTH IS MUCH DIFFERENT THAN OURS
To understand God’s view of growth we first need to understand what is the “Church” as far as He is concerned. I believe He sees the Church in a much different way than we do.
What is the “ekklesia“?
* Those called out of the kingdom of darkness and are born again
What are the main functions of the Church from God’s point of view?
- Develop community
- Equip the saints to do the work of the ministry
- Reach out to those in the kingdom of darkness
You see, it’s a matter of changing our perspective and seeing things from God’s point of view. How do we do this?
Two things are involved:
- See what the Bible, or God’s Word, has to say, and
- Let the Holy Spirit “open the eyes of our understanding” to see the kingdom of God.
Jesus said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto Me.”
He also said, “We are seek first the kingdom of God”.
Jesus also said, “I will build My Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
He also said, “…unless one is truly born again, he CANNOT SEE the kingdom of God.”And, “…unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he CANNOT ENTER the kingdom of God.”
In Acts 2:47 when the Church was performing its three main functions “the Lord was adding to their numbers day by day those who were being saved.” In other words, when the Church was doing what it supposed to do it grows because the Lord God is adding people to it in His designed way. The followers of Jesus are enthusiastically enjoying their “LIFE relationship” with Jesus and anything that has “LIFE” grows. Does it not? If your church is not growing, you need to see if there is life in that congregation of people and then see what you’re not doing that is stopping the growth from happening.
I don’t think it gets any clearer than this:
- If we lift up Jesus
- seek first the kingdom of God
- and do the three main functions of the Church
- then Jesus simply adds to His Church and the Church grows
There is a big difference between what we add to our churches and what Jesus adds to His Church! It starts with understanding the difference between the Church and the kingdom.