Most church leaders I know would love to see church growth.
Similarly, most leaders I’ve met want their church to grow for what we might call the ‘right’ reasons: They sincerely want more people to encounter the love of Jesus Christ.
And yet there’s a strong reaction against growing churches by many leaders.
For some reason, many people love to take pot-shots at growing churches and large churches.
Some are categorical denouncements.
I don’t know what to do with those. Sometimes I sense that underneath the anger are jealousy and resentment on the part of leaders whose churches aren’t growing.
Conversely, I also know many church leaders of small and even stuck or declining churches who don’t define themselves by attacking other churches that are growing. There’s a beauty and a grace in that kind of security. Someone else’s success should never make you feel like a failure.
Other times, I sense the critics are those who have been hurt by an unhealthy growing church. I have a lot of empathy for that. Read on below.
Inevitably, someone in the discussion will say what we need are not growing churches, but healthy churches.
But in the midst of it all is a polarized and often unhealthy conversation about church growth.
So here’s my bias: When you see baptism after baptism and hear life-change story after life-change story, it’s hard to be against church growth. Why would you stand against the expanding mission of the local church?
And yet the emotional debate continues.
As you plan ahead for your church, here are five hard truths to keep in mind about healthy church growth. The discussion is nuanced at times, but I hope the nuance is worth it in the end.
I imagine some church leaders can’t even have a simple conversation with some of their staff, volunteers or elder board about church growth without it becoming volatile.
Externally, most of us have colleagues who have strong opinions for or against. It can lead to a very frustrating dialogue. Or none at all.
I hope these truths will help frame the discussion in less emotional, more realistic, terms and hopefully help your team and your colleagues get closer to the same page.
Maybe we can agree more and better work on the mission together.
1. Healthy Churches Grow. But Not All Growing Churches Are Healthy Churches.
You’ve heard the line before “Healthy things grow.” Fundamentally, I believe that’s true.
But even as someone who wants to see every local church thrive, I would agree that not all growing churches are healthy churches.
I think that’s where the conversation gets messed up.
Yes, healthy churches do grow. But not all growing churches are healthy.
I want to be careful what I say here because I don’t want this taken out of context, but sometimes unhealthy things grow too; like cancer.
Just because a church is growing doesn’t mean it’s healthy.