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Do you want your church to grow?
I hope your answer to this question is a resounding "yes". Because if it isn't, seriously - what gives?
Of course, you may be skeptical about the church-growth movement with its "seeker-sensitive" approach and that's OK. You don't have to like that model. But you should still want your church to grow - not for the sake of measuring numbers like some corporate entity, but because God himself wants this. The apostle Peter makes this clear when he said,
God wants to save everyone! So should we.
But here is where things get weird. Regardless of how Adventists relate to "church growth" there seems to be a set of myths that accompany us when it comes to this topic. So in today's post, I want to talk about the top 3 I encounter in the many conversations I have on this topic.
Myth #1: God doesn't care about quantity, he cares about quality.
The idea behind this myth is that God isn't interested in numbers joining the church but in true disciples who are walking with him. While this is true, the main problem with this statement is that it posits an "either-or" mentality. The truth is, God is interested in numbers as well! In fact, as we saw above he wants to save everyone. And the Bible uses growth language repeatedly to reflect this:
- Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. (Acts 2:41)
- The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:47)
- But many who heard the message believed, and the number of men grew to about five thousand. (Acts 4:4)
- After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. (Revelation 7:9)
Of course, God doesn't care about numbers in the sense that a corporate marketing department does. He cares for each of us personally. We are not metrics to him, but family. However, there is a sense in which he cares about the growth of the church and celebrates it. So here is the truth: God cares about both quantity and quality. So should we.
Myth #2: My church can't grow because its too traditional.
This myth is often accompanied by a series of other myths such as:
- We need a contemporary church service or we wont grow
- The people in this church are too conservative. Until they change the church will stay stuck.
- If only we could modernize our music and service style, the church would grow.
- Our youth are leaving because they find the service boring. We need to make it more hip.
You get the point. And here is the problem with this myth. First of all, after reviewing lots of different surveys conducted by Barna Research and Natural Church Development I have found zero correlation between contemporary music and church growth. Youth retention studies have also found that the issue of music doesn't even make it to the top ten reasons why youth leave or stay. Seriously, you don't need a contemporary church service to grow. There is no conclusive evidence to demonstrate that (and this is coming from a guy who loves contemporary worship).
The other problem with this myth is that it creates a practically unsolvable problem. Unless we can somehow convince every single Adventist on the planet that they need to be contemporary then we simply wont grow. If we tried that approach, the church would be locked in ideological warfare for the next 100 years. Seriously, the worship wars of the 90's are so over. Contemporary worship is nice, but it's not a hill worth dying on. You can grow your church without it.
I am currently pastoring two traditional churches. While the work there has only just begun both churches are showing signs of revival and growth. And we haven't changed a thing about their traditional culture. Instead, we have focused on what really matters: peoples lives. So here is the truth: When you focus on developing a positive and inspiring culture that impacts the lives of people, your church will awaken and grow.
Myth #3: All we have to do is be faithful to the truth and God will take care of the growth.
Yes and no. Yes. We have to be faithful to the truth. But no, God will not magically grow the church just because we are being faithful to the truth. I don't know how many Adventist churches I have been to with this mentality and rather than growing they are dwindling.
The fact is, God gave the administration of the church over to human-kind. He blesses it, leads it, guides it and empowers it. Without him at the helm, we can do nothing. But when it comes to administering our resources and reaching the lost - he gave that task to us. We are the ones that have to plan, devise methods, develop strategies and put in the hard yard to get the work done. Yes, be faithful to the truth. But do more than that. Develop a simple and effective plan for how you are going to reach your community and get to work. Here is the truth: God is not going to administrate the church for you, that's your job. Your church clerk is not going to receive an email from heaven with a detailed community outreach plan for your church. You have to do it. And if you don't, get ready to age and die.
These are the top 3 Adventist church growth myths I have encountered. What myths have you encountered? Share them in the comments below.