Church growth had been the big buzz word at the turn of the 21st century. There are books written about it, conferences convened for it, round tables discussing it, and here I am blogging about it. It seems obvious that a pastor of a large church would talk about church growth but I have always thought this from my first days of church attendance as a teenager. To me it was simple. Finding life in Jesus as a teenager awakened me to the friendship of God in a way that I thought was the best kept secret of the world. If the word was to get out, churches everywhere would fill up!
As the years rolled on it seemed to be more complicated than automatic growth. It seemed as if our personalities got in the way. That leadership was also rife with the desperate need to be validated by peers. This became more obvious to me once I became a pastor of a local church. Growth is not always automatic and when it’s absent it becomes way too easy to turn inward and clutch for anything that will make it happen. We can unintentionally cut corners, coerce involvement or simply use the pulpit as a megaphone for our own frustrations. There is no doubt that the external growth of our churches is inextricably linked to the internal health of our motivations. Put it simply, healthy churches grow!
Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my church.” The word build means to be a house builder. Metaphorically it speaks of rebuilding a person with Christian wisdom, affection, grace, virtue, holiness and blessedness. A church builder in the purest sense is one who sets out to build people. We should build every person into the fullness of God. The more a person is fully formed in Christ, the more that person will influence their sphere with the love of Jesus.
So let’s ask the big separating question:
How big should your church be?
Jesus declares that He will build His church. And He uses the word build metaphorically as a house builder. So maybe we should ask the question another way…
How big should your family home be?
When Julia and I got married in 1993, we lived in a small half house for a while. As our lives grew our house got bigger (in that we moved). A bigger family needs a bigger house. Whilst I admire the house that my neighbour lives in, I don’t want to destroy my family by trying to compare myself with another family. Learning to be content and appreciate all that God bestows upon us is one of life’s great virtues. The size of my house does not determine the value of my family! Is the church of 1500 better than the church of 120? What size do you need to get to before you will be happy with your progress? More importantly, what size does your church need to be before God is happy with what you are doing?
For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.
– Hebrews 3:4
Why should churches grow?
Not because it will make me feel better as a leader or more significant in a conference line up. Churches should grow simply because its people are becoming more and more like Jesus, and people all around us are drawn to His undeniable grace and relentless love!