Chase Faithfulness, Not Growth

I often hear church-growth gurus say “we have to care about the numbers, because those numbers represent real people.” This sounds well and good on the surface, but ultimately, I recommend ignoring that advice. Why? Because you first need to ask what price you’ll pay.

The nature of setting a goal is that you make sacrifices to achieve it. If you want to lose a few kilos, you will either have to sacrifice a few sweet treats, or else sacrifice your morning sleep-in to hit the gym. If you decide to set your ministry a goal in terms of numeric growth, what will you sacrifice to get it?

We’d probably like to think our only sacrifices would be the ineffective ministry activities we would drop to make room for better ones. But is that the reality? Once you’re about the numbers, you’re really trying to serve two masters: growth and faithfulness. The great mistake of the church-growth gurus is believing that growth and faithfulness will always go together. If we’re faithful, there will be growth. If there’s no growth, we must not be ministering in a way that is fully faithful.

But that kind of thinking is nonsense. Some of the world’s worst theologians preach in the world’s biggest churches. Joel Osteen, Rob Bell, Benny Hinn and Bill Johnson all come to mind. On the other hand, the best gospel preachers the world has ever seen have been met with terrible rejection at times. George Whitfield, Charles Spurgeon, Stephen in Acts 7 and Jesus himself in Matthew 11 and Luke 4. The relationship between growth and faithfulness is a tenuous one at best!

A man cannot serve two masters, he will love one and despise the other. Will your decisions be made to chase growth or faithfulness?

Of Prawns and Pride Parades

This is a question I get pretty often, in different forms.  Sometimes it’s an atheist who thinks they’ve found a grave inconsistency in Christianity.  They also seem to assume that it’s never occurred to Christians as they read the Bible, for the last two thousand years.

But it does occur to Christians, and so I sometimes get it in a more thoughtful form.  They ask about Matthew 5:17-19:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Read more