Thursday, April 7, 2016

Church Growth?

Free stock photo of hands, people, crowd, event

When I mention the term "church growth" when talking to pastors today, I usually get one of two reactions.  Some pastors have fire in their eyes as they talk about new plans for outreach, new set design for the Sunday morning stage, and new staff additions needed to help grow their church. Other pastors grimace when thinking about the weekly grind of programming, the never ending pressure of providing programs to mollify demanding church members, and the struggles to get their church to care deeply about their community.

"Church growth" can be a lightning-rod term.  And maybe it's a bit dated.  Perhaps it's time to re-frame the conversation.  Church growth for many still implies institution.  It focuses the thinking on attendance, programs, people flow, and closing the proverbial back door.  But as some are starting to realize, folks can join our churches, get involved, stay busy, and yet still reflect very little of Jesus in their lives, not to mention the lack of personal missional engagement in their own spheres of influence.

What if we looked through a different lens?  What if we focused the conversation around making disciples instead of church growth?  Even one of the great pioneers of church growth, Peter Wagner, said this: "Notice that the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19-20 contains four action verbs: go, make disciples, baptize, and teach.  In the original Greek, three of them, go, baptize and teach, are participles or helping verbs.  Only one, make disciples, is an imperative verb.  It is clear exegetically that the goal of the Great Commission is to make disciples" (original author's emphasis, Wagner, Church Growth and the Whole Gospel).

What might happen if we re-think the paradigm?
  • How might our thinking as pastors and church leaders shift if we asked questions about how to make disciples rather than just how to grow our churches?  Are they one and the same?  
  • What would it look like to emphasize the conversion, growth, maturing, and replicating of disciples instead of church programming?  What might change?
  • How would our churches look, feel, and behave if making disciples (learners of Jesus) who can make disciples, was the emphasis?  What would our communities be like?
I'm proud to be part of the reFocusing Team at CRM.  Our team's mission is to help pastors and churches get focused on missional engagement in their communities and teach disciples of Jesus how to make disciples who make disciples.  

If you are curious about this approach, take a look at the "reFocusing" tab at the top this this website and watch the Missional Pathway video.

Let's make disciples of Jesus together,