A lot of Christians eat breakfast in the same restaurant where I do. Sitting alone at a booth with no one to talk to, it’s almost impossible not to hear the conversation in the next booth.
The two men sitting there were familiar faces, although I don’t know them. I see them both in there from time to time, and they almost always talk about their church. One of them is apparently seeking a job as a pastor, and they often discuss churches where he has applied.
Today, the subject of their discussion was church growth. They were talking about how to grow a small church into a medium-size church, a medium-sized church into a large one, and a large one into a mega-church.
While they talked I wondered, as I frequently do, what God thinks about such things. Does God really care which church is the biggest? Which church has the biggest offerings? Which pastor makes the most money? I think not.
I read a statement some time ago that God doesn’t care about the growth of the number of people in the church—He cares about the growth of the people in the church. To me, this statement nails it.
If there are only a dozen people in the church but they are growing in their faith, their relationships with God, their knowledge and understanding of His word, I think God receives more glory from that than from a church that grows astronomically but doesn’t have the time to tend to the growth of the individual members. I believe that’s what church should be about.
We live in a culture that loves to brag about size and growth. My city is bigger than yours. My house is bigger than yours. My ego is bigger than yours. Oops, we don’t say that last one, but that’s what we’re really saying when we put all this emphasis of size and growth.
My church is actually a Sunday School class. We only have 15 to 20 people in attendance on a typical Sunday, but we all love one another, and we have good solid teaching, and we all know God. Not just know about Him, but know Him. He’s real to us. Our relationships with Jesus Christ are real. The Holy Spirit in us is real.
The church our class is a part of, on the other hand, has several thousand members. I’m not sure of the exact definition of a mega-church, but I imagine ours would qualify. Most of the members sit in the sanctuary—which looks more like a rock venue than a sanctuary, so we can attract more young people to the church—and listen to the sermon and then go home. There’s a small core of people who know one another and truly fellowship, but most duck out to avoid having to establish personal relationships. I don’t think that’s what God wants in a church, and that’s why my church is the Sunday School class.
Whether it’s the two men I overheard in the restaurant or the staff and elders of my church—or those of your church either—we need to direct our attention and efforts to the care and feeding and growth of the souls of the people within our churches rather than how to get more members. Let’s leave our egos at home. Let’s quit measuring ourselves by the world’s standards. Let’s be the body of Christ that God wants us to be. Let’s build mega-Christians instead of mega-churches.
Where’s the emphasis in your church? Is the primary emphasis feeding the sheep, or is it feeding the growth of the size of the church?
If you abide in Me and My word abides in you, then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.
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Very well said, David. we were discussing your blog at our Bible Class this morning and how we appreciate it. Peter enjoins us to “..grow in Grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”,(II Pet. 3:18)– not merely to grow in numbers. Blessings, D.S.
Thanks, Don. I consider you a true Bible scholar and really appreciate your comments.
I love this post! I have been attending a church that feels the same way. It’s small, and although the pastor would like more church members, she concentrates on the loyal members she has. Her focus is on feeding our spirituality and not how much we should donate every week. I love my church, and I would never miss a Sunday or a Wednesday Bible Study.
Thanks, Carole. I love that you’ve found a church that apparently wants to be what God wants instead of what man wants.
I agree with you: most important for the church is to tend its sheep and enable them to grow closer to the Lord.