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Archive for September 30th, 2008

Church Growth

Are all churches supposed to have 300+ members in them?  Why is it that if a church has around 100 (or less) people regularly attending that it is assumed that they are dying churches?

Some are dying but some people also like small churches.  Not for “sick’ reasons like needing a place to have power and control, but for the close-knit community.  Is that really a bad thing?

I’m not a person concerned with “saving souls.”  I just don’t see that as part of my job.  God saves souls–not me.  However, I do see myself as a harbinger of hope.  That’s my job–to point to Jesus, to create a place where people can have hope in Christ.  Hopefully a place where they can experience God’s grace.  That is what I understand my duty as pastor and Christian to be–harbinger of hope.

So what does that have to do with church growth?  Well, just like most evangelists who are into saving souls; I too want to offer this hope in Christ to the most people I possibly can.  I’m not opposed to church growth at all, however I do wonder if that should even be our goal. 

It seems that the books “out there” which have been reccomended for pastors in our conference to read have intros that brag about “we went into church X that had 50 people and when we left it was 500 and still growing exponentially.”  I would laugh at seminary when pastors on campus would announce similiar things in classes. 

As a new pastor at a church where attendence has surged with my coming I understand how that can be a big ego boost but I also understand that it’s not really about me.  I’m guessing that attendence will go back down at some point and I don’t think that will mean I’m a failure. 

I don’t think people who pastor small churches are necessarily failures.  If a person has a pattern of leaving churches considerably smaller than when they started then that’s worth looking into but it doesn’t neccessarily mean that the pastor is a failure.

I hope to pastor churches and bring new people in–leading them to grow in Christ, to lean on the hope that God has provided for us.  I want to share this hope and faith that I’ve found (or has found me) with everyone.  I think it would change our world for the better. 

I hope that I can help churches to become more active in their communities and understand that this activity comes directly out of their faith–it’s not another “have to” or “should” but a blessing they get to share with others.  I hope to offer support and hope to those both in and outside of my church when they come to me in need.  I also hope those in the church will take care of one another. 

But I don’t have hopes that these churches I get to pastor are huge–that they grow from 50 to 500 people.  I don’t want them grouped into little categories so that they can be with others who look and think just like themselves.  I think we grow most when we are with others unlike us, in diverse groups we have more opportunity to learn and communicate with one another.  Yes, this can be hard work but isn’t this what Jesus did?  Didn’t Jesus hang with the low-lifes and talk with the holy authorities?  Didn’t he attempt to bring them together?

Why can’t my success story read something like “When I first went to the church this is what they were doing, _____.  Before I left we moved beyond just _____ and began to ______, and this____.  We grew spiritually and also reached out to many others. 

Yes, I too would hope and expect that some of the numbers would rise.  It seems fitting that numerical growth comes out of doing the rest.  But I question that having numerical growth as our goal is a positive thing.  If we’re talking numbers doesn’t that diminish the soul, the person?

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