In examining the philosophy related to congregation size and growth, and in proposing a focus on the Lord rather than the numbers, questions will invariably arises concerning ‘essential’ programs. If size and growth are not to be an issue, aside from an after effect in which to rejoice with new believers, and if the numbers are not be a goal, then how does this affect our view of whatever programs we might hold near and dear?
Clearly, if the number considerations are off the front burner, then this will likely have an effect on the delivery of programs that require financial (and likely human) resources. In essence, it is a simple equation: less people = less money = less programs and initiatives. Also, different starting points will have different concerns – a start-up congregation would have very different needs than an established one.
It is unrealistic for me to look at all senarios in all congregation sizes and it would just be a distraction from the real issue. The concern I have is with the emergence of ‘growth focus’ and the conviction that it is simply not appropriate, nor supported biblically. Even when theis approach might produce results, the slide into worldly values is far to easy and fast. Being a people apart does not exclude the way we approach growth.
The business the “grow or die” credo is both pervasive and persuasive as a model for profit generation. Is any form or derivative of this applicable to the church situation? I would strongly argue that the answer is no. We are back again to why we grow. We do not grow to provide services or profits. We grow indirectly and not of by our own hand, by sharing the Gospel and seeking the Lord through His Word. The growth is up to Him, very literally.
This post has turned out to be a challenge. The discussion of programs is huge and varies dramatically across congregations. Each different type of congregation has different needs and priorities on the practical level. The temptation is to be diverted from the real concern into operational specifics. No matter how significant they may appear, this is a diversion. The point to be made is that the growth of the congregation is not the goal. It can be couched in many forms, with many laudible bensfits, but it is still not the appropriate focus.
The purpose of the God’s people is to glorify Him. The fundamentals are worship (including prayer) and the sharing of the Gospel (which can include many forms). As the Lord calls new believers to faith, the body of believers grows. If, as part of that growth, the number of a particular congregation increases (as surely they will), then that is cause for celebration with those new brothers and sisters. Other benefits may come but they are not an appropriate rationale for any change in focus. The reverse of this paradigm, where growth in the church is sought, even if the Gospel is shared as ‘part’ of the program and new believers result, is error.
Someone will surely call me unrealistic, but that’s okay.
Let us worship Him, seek Him in the Word, and share the Gospel together, leaving the rest to Him.