A Megashift in Church Growth Methodology

In my last post (that I just edited so correct the color of most of the text) I ended with this thought:

“I can’t help but think of the infant church, birthed at Pentecost, and whether or not Peter’s vision for the new church was to create a place that ‘unchurched people love to attend’. There seems to be a disconnect between the church growth strategy of our author and the NT model. At the same time the ‘give them a place they will love to attend’ seems to be the prevailing model in today’s evangelical culture.”

Even a casual reader of the book of Acts, the history of the New Testament church, will pick up on the huge difference between the NT model for church growth and what prevails in our time.

First of all, I’m not at all sure there was a ‘model’ followed by the NT church. Those early Jewish believers were mostly ecstatic that they had found the Messiah they had longed for and went about sharing the great news! Add Holy Spirit power to their joyous testimony and the church just grew as ‘the Lord added to it daily those who were being saved’ (Acts 2:47). There no gimmicks to attract nonbelievers, no offerings of worldly entertainment or promises of prosperity and success in this life. There was just a simple message of having found the Messiah, devotion to sound doctrine, prayer and fellowship. (Acts 2:42). The purpose of the church was the equipping believers to live lives worthy of the One who had saved them and prepare them to ‘go and make disciples of all nations’ (Matt 28:19). When persecution arose, they scattered and just kept on preaching the good news!  They didn’t have time to develop ‘models’ and ‘methods’. They just did what came naturally (NEW naturally, that is).

These days some pastors want to give the ‘unchurched’ (nonbelievers) a church they will love to attend. Some have even told the folks in the theater seats that the church is NOT for them, but FOR the lost! Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for nonbelievers coming through the doors of the Chapel we attend, but should we have as a goal creating a place they would rather come than say, watching the latest NFL pregame show?

The big question here, as I see it, is this: “Why and how did church growth change from Jesus adding to the church ‘those who were being saved’, to us adding to the church those we can convince that our church is a really cool place?” 

I think I know, but this isn’t about what I think I know. If you are reading this, I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

7 responses to “A Megashift in Church Growth Methodology

  1. There isn’t much I can add to what you say. It’s an excellent observation and makes me long even the more for a church whose heart and substance are God.

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  2. There is only one place in the N.T. Scriptures that mentions unbelievers entering the assembly of believers, and even there it is mentioned as something that would have been unusual. Paul wrote in 1 Cor 14:23 -25, “If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.” “Church” is to be geared toward the instruction, edification, and encouragement of believers. Evangelism is to occur outside the assembly. If “church” is done right, the unregenerate should feel uncomfortable in the assembly. I am not suggesting they should not attend, but simply if they do, it should be to see how Christians worship our God.

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  3. The question of why/how did the New Testament church growth ‘model’ being stood on its head is, for me, an interesting one. I have no doubt that today’s model is at least 180 degrees out-of-phase, to use an old radio communications expression. At the same time there are those who would swear by the ‘give them the Jesus they will go gaga over’ approach who will at the same time play the Jesus never changes card to satisfy their lust for signs and wonders. So I ask, ‘What gives?’

    Also, I am not in a position to personally criticize anyone for his/her opinion concerning church growth. There are always folks who read this sort of blog and immediately accuse the author of being judgmental in some way. I think that’s the work of the ‘enemy’ to distract us from dealing with really important questions.
    I read a lot, pay attention to what’s going on in our evangelical community, and ask questions when I see a disconnect. I’ll ponder it awhile and try and come up with an answer. But rather than assume I’m right, I seek other opinions, from some pretty smart dead guys, today’s shakers and movers in the church, and other ordinary folks like me.

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