Healthy Church Growth

… or how to shrink your church.

This blog post by Tim Suttle on Huffington Post has spread like wildfire amongst my Facebook friends—and quite right, too! I would not phrase everything quite the same way, but the basic point is spot-on:

The church’s task is to be faithful, not to grow—to be, not to do. That’s frequently not a recipe for success in terms we normally recognise: numerical expansion, popularity, wealth. But it comes with far greater rewards: the crown of life!

Here are a couple of extracts:

Success is a slippery subject when it comes to the Church. That our ultimate picture of success is a crucified Messiah means any conversation about success will be incompatible with a “bigger is better” mentality. Yet, bigger and better is exactly what most churches seem to be pursuing these days: a pursuit which typically comes in the form of sentimentality and pragmatism.

The fundamental problem with the one-two punch of sentimentality and pragmatism is, of course, the church’s job is not to affirm people’s lives, but to allow the gospel to continually call our lives into question. The church’s job is not to grow — not even to survive. The church’s job is to die — continually — on behalf of the world, believing that with every death there is a resurrection. God’s part is to grow whatever God wishes to grow. Growing a church isn’t hard … being faithful as the church, that’s a different story.

And the closing prayer:

So, God save us from the successful church. Give us churches who shun sentimentality and pragmatism and aren’t afraid to face the inevitable shrinkage which comes as a result of following Jesus. God save us from church leadership strategies. After all, it takes zero faith to follow a strategy, but incredible faith to pursue the kingdom of God and leave the rest in God’s hands. If I’ve learned anything as a pastor, it is this: faithfulness flies in the face of sentimentality and pragmatism, and if you pursue it you have to expect small numbers.

Amen and amen!

Read the whole thing here.

HT: Juha Santala et al.

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