The Shadow Side of Church Growth
The disgraced megachurch pastor Mark Driscoll once described his church’s growth by saying that there was “a pile of dead bodies behind the Mars Hill bus.” As if that wasn’t bad enough, he added, “and, by God’s grace, it’ll be a mountain by the time we’re done.” Though Mars Hill would close not too many years after Driscoll spoke those awful words, his remarks map quite neatly onto a post-Trumpian evangelicalism that has left behind its first love and instead embraced a gospel of power and wealth. And there is indeed a mountain of bodies in its wake. Many of them are known to me.
…It is about the broader question of how we build flourishing communities shaped by the truths taught in the Christian faith. The goal is not merely to see the faith passed on to our children but also to see others enter the community and similarly be nourished and in time drawn to Christ themselves. And much of that has to do with the question of place, home, and the daily practices that shape those places.
Taken from: In Search of the Common Good: Christian Fidelity in a Fractured World by Jake Meador Copyright (c) 2019 by Jake Meador. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com
The Two Essentials
The only “church growth formula” the early church possessed was the body of truth flowing with the blood of grace. They drew thousands to Jesus by being like Jesus. But what does it mean to “be like Jesus”? We could come up with long lists of His character qualities. But the longer the list, the less we can wrap our minds around it. (I can’t even juggle three balls. How could I juggle dozens?) But what if the character of Christ was reducible to two ingredients? In fact, it is:… Jesus is full of two things: grace and truth.
We’ve Added Color!
I was taking a tour of the Church of Scotland’s beautiful Glasgow Cathedral, which is technically the High Kirk of Glasgow. It is estimated that over 50,000 university students live within walking distance of this extraordinary building. The congregation of the church itself is down to a remnant of less than two hundred people. So I purposely asked the docent leading the tour, “If this building still houses an active congregation, what is being done to reach these 50,000 students with the good news of Jesus?”
Her response was stunning. “The people we have who are active in this church are mostly old. And as you may well know,” she said, “young people these days are not that interested in religion. But we’re trying and we’re making adjustments. For example, the Church of Scotland has historically used black or dark vestments for our clergy. But recently, to be more relevant, we’ve added color!” I was so stunned I could barely contain myself.
What Church Growth Ought to Look Like
In smaller congregations any growth is usually highly prized, but wise pastors realize that not all growth is good growth. Also, missional pastors know that the best growth is conversion growth. A healthy congregation grows through the process of reproduction.
Still Looking for inspiration?
Consider checking out our quotes page on Church Growth. Don’t forget, sometimes a great quote is an illustration in itself!