Here’s an Idea: What If We Leave Church Growth to God?

What If…

What if we’d spent at least some of our time in the past few decades preparing ministry students for the likelihood that they’ll be pastoring a Small Church for some, if not most, of their ministries?

What if we’d taught them how to pastor those Small Churches well, instead of insisting they had to make the church bigger?

What if all the money that’s been lost in failed building projects and big events had gone into local church outreach and quality ministry?

How many church startups failed because they expected a level of numerical growth that 80-90 percent of churches will never reach?

How many pastors have quit in discouragement because they weren’t able to measure up to a church growth ideal that God may never have been calling them to?

How many big churches have collapsed, and may yet collapse, because they weren’t able to transition from the dynamic church-building pastor to the next generation of leadership?

How many Small Churches close every day because they never were healthy to begin with?

What Would a Health-Based Church Look Like?

If we’d concentrated our efforts on health, and let God take care of the growth, what would the evangelical church look like today?

No one knows, of course, but here’s what I suspect:

  1. We’d probably have about the same percentage of mega to big to Small Churches that we have today, but there would be a lot more healthy ones—of all sizes.
  2. Fewer pastors would have left the ministry in discouragement.
  3. Fewer churches would have been ruined by pastors trying to push them to reach numerical goals they were never meant to pursue.
  4. Fewer congregation members would have felt overlooked by a pastor in pursuit of “the next big thing”, and would be serving God with greater joy.
  5. More Small Churches would be healthy, innovative and vibrant instead of poor, struggling and discouraged.
  6. There would be more cooperation and less competition between churches.
  7. Unchurched people would have a greater variety of outward-looking, healthy churches to choose from. Of all denominations, styles and sizes.

Here’s a Crazy Idea

If health really does bring growth, why don’t we concentrate on church health and let God take care of the growth?.

We gave church growth principles a 40-year test drive. Some good things—and churches—have come from it. And some not so good.

What if we gave church health principles the next 40 years? I say we give it a shot.

So what do you think? Have you ever thought about the idea that if we concentrate on health, God will bring the growth? How does this affect the way you minister?  

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Karl Vaters
Karl Vaters is the author of The Grasshopper Myth: Big Churches, Small Churches and the Small Thinking That Divides Us. He’s been in pastoral ministry for over 30 years and has been the lead pastor of Cornerstone Christian Fellowship in Fountain Valley, California for over 20 years. He’s also the founder of, a blog that encourages, connects and equips innovative Small Church pastors

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