by Clint Brown
One thing that dominates the thinking of most of our brethren today is the drive for church growth. Many books have been written over the past few years in an effort to "enlighten" us on how to increase the numbers in our congregations. The books give insight into the social circumstances and felt-needs of the people around us and set forth methods of evangelism that promise to "bring in the big numbers." They tell us that in order for our churches to grow we must have such things as: (1) a preacher who has a dynamic personality and who is a "motivator," (2) a dynamic, inspirational song leader, (3) a warm, tolerant, accepting, "no questions asked" environment, and so on.
I'm sure these "church growth experts" have spent many hours researching the attitudes and aims of the people around us, but I have a question: Where do these "experts" get the idea that we should seek the increase of the church anyway? "The Bible," you say. That's right! So you mean that God gives us the obligation to seek the growth of His kingdom, but fails to instruct us in how that is to be accomplished? The truth is, the only way to fulfill this duty is by the ways God has set out in His word. So how do the findings of the "church growth experts" compare with God's view of church growth?
We are to be gospel centered, not entertainment centered. When we seek to accommodate the "felt needs" of people, the first thing to go out the window is the pure gospel. We are to meet the real needs of the people, not their felt needs and the true gospel is the only cure (Rom. 1:16; Jn. 8:32). People today seek entertainment centered religion in order to satisfy their carnal appetites. They look for churches that offer sporting and recreational activities with a "fun" environment for the kids. They go "church hunting" rather than "truth hunting" and wind up hearing a weak message from the pulpit that doesn't meet their greatest need – the salvation of the soul. Meeting the "felt needs" of the people may increase our attendance role but it certainly won't fill the Lamb's Book of Life.
We are to be Christ centered, not self-centered. At the heart of the "church growth" fallacy is a deeper problem. When we bypass the instructions of God in order to increase our number, we are seeking our own glory, not God's. If we truly love Him we will keep His commandments (Jn. 14:21). This involves preaching the Word and not accommodating the "itching ears" of the society around us (II Tim. 4:2-5). A so-called "no questions asked" environment is not in the best interest of the lost soul, nor the glory of Christ.
We are to be quality centered, not quantity centered. There's certainly nothing wrong with a concern for the numerical growth of the church. However, the Bible teaches that our emphasis should center on quality, while God takes care of the quantity (I Cor. 3:5-6). Paul and Apollos were merely ministers of the truth while God gave the numerical increase. They certainly didn't stress the need to be "dynamic or inspirational motivators" in their ministries as our present "experts" stress. Rather, Paul taught the exact opposite. His preaching was not with excellence of speech or persuasive words of human wisdom (I Cor. 2:1-4). That kind of method was a mark of the false teachers (Col. 2:4, 8, 23). The only way to truly increase quantitatively is to preach qualitatively.
We would do well to consider what God's word says concerning "church growth." Instead of placing such emphasis in the wisdom of men, we should let God "give the increase" (I Cor. 3:6).
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