10 Old Wives’ Tales about Church Growth

Some views about church are downright superstitious and, at times, dangerous to the church

Preaching is extremely important, but having a charismatic and gifted speaker is not the stand-alone element you need to grow your church—or turn it around. Preaching is a core element of the church, but focusing on preaching alone—or trying to find a talented communicator—is not the answer to church growth.

 

 

There’s a lot of discussion that goes on about church growth: what causes it; how to generate it; prepare for it; launch it; build it; cultivate it and even, to some degree, manufacture it. Many of the discussions are helpful, but there are a number of subtle beliefs that still creep up that aren’t healthy. In fact, they’re downright superstitious and, at times, dangerous to the church.

I’ve collected these myths over many conversations, coffees and lunches with church leaders and I’d like to share them with you.

1. If You’re Not Growing, Something’s Wrong

If growth and a bigger crowd is “always” the result of obedience then some of the OT prophets will have some serious explaining to do.

Of course, if you’re not growing—or you’re declining—I think it is cause to evaluate what you’re doing, but it’s not a given that something is always “wrong.”

God could be doing something different—more Jeremiah and less Peter.

Also, while we’re at it, let’s stop using the Acts 2 passage as a normative prescription for every church today. It’s an amazing description of something special God was doing in history to launch his church, but it’s not a church growth manual. A casual reading of the NT will show churches of all different shapes and sizes, and never once is there a declarative statement that the church should be growing faster than it was—more obedience, yes; helping the poor, yes; staying true to the Gospel, yes; practicing the Lord’s Supper and baptism, yes.

2. The More You Grow, the Healthier You Are

We would love to believe this one. It certainly feels good to have a bigger crowd. There’s a built-in justification for ministry leaders when more people show up, I know. However, just because your church has more people attending doesn’t mean your church is completely healthy. In fact, it might be cause to closely evaluate the message the crowd is hearing.

Growth can be healthy, and it can be a very good thing—it’s just not an automatic four-stars for healthy spirituality. Large numbers are no more an indicator of health than great wealth is an automatic indicator of wisdom. You can be wealthy or impoverished and still be wise or a fool. The same goes for church growth. You can have a lot of people or a little and still be healthy/unhealthy. Health deals more with what’s going on below the surface. Growth tells us something’s going on, but whether it’s good or bad, that’s another issue.

3. Contemporary Music Will Save Your Church

It can help at times—depending on the community and the people you’re trying to reach—but it’s not always a help. In fact, sometimes it’s an obstacle.

Changing your music and the feel of your worship gathering should have a reason bigger than, “We want to reach young people!” or, “We want to stay hip.” Hopefully, the music you sing is an authentic expression of your distinct makeup as both a church and a community and not a grasp at straws for church growth. Bottom line: Contemporary music is not the salvation of the American church.

4. Church Growth Can Be Manufactured

5. If Your Church Grows, Your Leader Is “Anointed”

6. If Your Church Doesn’t Grow, It’s a Problem with the Leader

7. Good Preaching Is the Answer to Growing Your Church

8. You Will Retain a Large Percentage of Your Visitors on Special Days

9. The More Programs You Offer, the More Your Church Will Grow

10. If You Build It, They Will Come

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