By churchsaversites, Jun 11 2018 07:48PM
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Over and over again, my email inbox is flooded with methods, groups, ideas, events, conferences and organizations all opining about how to fix the problem of "How do I grow my church into a mega church?", while simultaneously insinuating that anyone with less than 1000 followers is a failure who needs to rethink their life.
Pastoring a church is hard enough without the added burden of unrealized expectations. Many times, we get saddled with standards that are simply too difficult to live up to. But the area of church growth seems to be one that is placed on us by our own ambitious designs for the work God has called us to.
"Why isn't the church growing the way I envisioned? What am I doing wrong? How do I identify and remove the hindrances to world wide domination?"
This seems to be a regular theme among so many that are called to lead God's flock. But is God asking that question? IS it His design to see every church become a behemoth of monstrous size? Or could it be that WE are asking it for our own prideful lusts?
We know that some are called to lead large groups. But that is statistically a very few. Most churches average between 50 and 80 members, depending on whose stats you look at. That means for every mega church of 1000 or more, there are dozens of small churches numbering in the tens or even less. So are the majority of pastors failing at their God-given calling? Is there a flaw so prevalent in Christian leadership that only a handful of special people have figured out the secret to overcoming it?
My answer is unequivocally NO!
All throughout Scripture we are told to seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and "all these things will be added unto you". We are told that God's Kingdom is not what we see with our eyes, but that it is within us. Yet, like David, we are tempted to number the people and evaluate our relative success or failure by how many people are around. Yet, like David, I don't think God is pleased with us when we do that.
Some are given one talent, some 5 and some 10. Yet the parable says that the one talent sevant was not judged for only having one talent, but for misusing that talent. My belief is that multitudes of ministers are leading lives of depression and feel like failures because they look on with envy at those who have been given more "talents" than themselves. But God is the One who grows His church. And God is the one who calls men and women to towns and hamlets and neighborhoods, just like He calls certain individuals to cities and nations. Instead of judging one another by the size of our congregations, perhaps we should begin using the same standard that God uses: faithfulness.
The great T.F. Tenney (who recently passed on to his reward, God rest his soul) once said "God has not called you to be successful, He has called you to be faithful!" True words from a wise man, indeed. When God sends someone into a place, He does so with knowledge that His word will not return void. Jesus tells us of four different kinds of soil, and only one is called good. So, if even the Lord Himself had opposition to His message, how can we expect that every person we witness to or every sermon we preach will be received gladly?
What it comes down to is faith. What are we placing our faith in? What is the foundation on which we are building the church? Is it the Gospel as delivered by the apostles, Jesus Himself being the chief cornerstone? Or are we building it upon methods and music and finances?
Truthfully, I felt like God clarified this for me several weeks ago. While speaking to a friend of mine, we were discussing how the church he serves in was having contests for fundraising and focused on what he considered to be gimmicks to get people to like the church. He lamented that it just felt like a lot of hype and not much substance in their gatherings of late. This resonated with me, as we have visited many churches since moving to Eastern Kentucky and found that the gospel takes a back seat to church dogma and identifying with a denomination in many places. That is when my friend said the words that have stuck with me: "Why isnt the Gospel enough?"
I was immediately convicted. So many times I have been like the 10 faithless spies who went into Canaan and came back saying "We are like grasshoppers in our own sight". They saw the obstacles, rather than having faith in the God who Overcomes. And so it is with each of us in our lives and ministries. Obstacles will ALWAYS be present. The Gospel is enough. People will ALWAYS be a problem. The Gospel is enough. Answers may not come when we want them to. The Gospel is enough.
We must put our faith in the Gospel, not in methodology, marketing strategies or discipleship classes. We will see God's results when we rely on God's work. All growth is not godly growth. Cancers metastacize. Ungodly groups can gather a following. Numbers are not the undisputed tool of evaluation. If we lead small groups, if we lead large groups, if we only lead our family, as long as we are making the Gospel of Jesus our foundation and staying faithful to His words of life and truth, we cannot fail.