It’s inevitable. Every time I write or speak on the topic of “church growth,” people react with defensiveness and pseudo-spiritual comments. Everyone seems quick to point out that “it’s not about numbers,” “bigger doesn’t mean better,” and “my small church matters just as much as your big church.”
Yes. We know. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a small church.
Small churches do awesome things for the kingdom and for their communities. And Pastors of churches of fifty people can have just as much integrity and just as much of God’s blessing as Pastors of churches of five thousand. Transfer growth is not a net gain for the church – we need to talk about conversion growth. All true.
Some go even further to imply that if you’re big, you must have gotten big by compromising the gospel or watering down God’s truth. You must be one of “those megachurches” that is just a big box version of the church designed to cater to consumers.
Here’s the problem. When we celebrate smallness as though growth is optional, we show that we think of the world around us as if our churches exist separately from it.
With little regard to the fact that population growth is outrunning us and we’re failing to effectively fulfill the Great Commission in America, we assume that as long as my own experience at church on Sunday is a good one, we’re fine.
We need to talk about church growth because it’s a matter of life-and-death, eternal consequences for millions and billions of people. That’s why we should challenge our churches to grow by sharing the gospel. That’s why we should celebrate stories of growth instead of being overly skeptical and critical. That’s why we should focus on the spiritual needs of those who are outside the church instead of the emotional comfort of those inside it.
I’m leading a church plant that is just a couple hundred strong and often someone will visit and say, “We wanted to find a smaller church to be part of.” My reply is almost always, “Welcome! But we hope to disappoint you soon.” Then we always throw in how we’re big fans of the church they’re already attending (assuming it’s a truth-teaching church).
I love churches of all shapes and sizes. But I get excited when I hear of a church experiencing growth at any rate because it means more people can be rescued for eternity. Don’t apologize for it, minimize it, or shame anyone for sharing the victory of growth. I want my church to grow, your church to grow, and every church that honors Jesus and teaches a biblical gospel to grow.
When a church stops growing, instead of settling for “good enough,” maybe we should diagnose the situation. It’s possible that we could depend on God more, pray harder, preach more relevantly or passionately, love families better, organize to reach new people, etc.
For the sake of the souls of people, let’s keep talking about church growth!