- Gary Thomas
As one who teaches pastors and those considering ministry, I often have students ask, â€œWhat is the best model of doing church?â€ They go on to inquire about the emerging church model, the emergent church, and/or the cell church. â€œWhat is G12?â€ they say, or â€œIs the seeker model still viable?â€
Such statements flow from the presumption that the question of how to do church is the most important consideration of all.
Church growth conferences tend to reinforce this. They showcase mega-churches that have experienced skyrocketing growth. They offer workshops on ways to do music, methods of small group ministry, techniques of teaching, processes for assimilating new members, etc. At the risk of being labeled someone against large churches and the value of numeric growth (which I am not) and in contrast to the focus of such conferences, my study of and experience in mega-churches leads me to the conclusion that they have not grown primarily as a result of the way they do church. I believe most large churches (most certainly all the ones I know personally) have â€œgrownâ€ primarily as a result of the person, persona and/or personality of the pastor- but thatâ€™s another discussion for another day.
In ministry, growth almost unequivocally means more in numbers. In fact, we really donâ€™t have to clarify what we mean when we say the word growth. Itâ€™s now assumed to mean numeric increase. Thus, in a wholesale way weâ€™ve come to measure success very much like the world. The conclusion is that because a church has grown numerically it is effective at reaching lost people- which of course may or may not be true. Also, just because a church has many people and programs does not mean that it is making disciples. Activity does not equal productivity and growing good church attendees does not necessarily equate to developing authentic disciples of Jesus. In fact, some might argue that in the Western world these are polar opposites.
So if the primary goal is gaining more people who attend church (and letâ€™s face it- that is the goal for most pastors) then how to get them there would logically be front and center. But that focus misses the most important consideration of all and I believe pastors dismiss this more critical matter way too quickly. Instead of how, the first consideration should be why... Why are we doing this thing called church?
When was the last time you went to a conference where there was a workshop on that?