I do not have a green thumb. I like for my lawn to look good every year, but I hardly ever put the time into it that I need to. Needless to say, every year when Spring comes around, these yellow flowers spring up in my yard called dandelions. In my backyard, I have a dandelion garden that my daughter loves because she can go pick pretty yellow flowers. And, then as summer comes along, I get clover growing in my yard.
You know what is the hardest to get to grow in my yard? Grass.
Grass needs watering, fertilizer, aerating (especially in Utah), and sunlight. But, also too much of the above can actually kill the grass.
Healthy Things Grow
There’s a phrase when it comes to church and ministry that says, “Healthy things grow.” If you’re one of the healthy churches, you’ll grow. Many who use this quote equate numerical growth with spiritual health. And, many times they are right. If a church is healthy, it will probably increase in size numerically. However, not all the time will a healthy church grow numerically. I do believe that healthy churches grow, but what if the growth that is taking place is not so much numerical growth but spiritual growth? If it’s spiritual health we are after, then spiritual growth should be what we get.
Weeds and Tumors
The fallacy in equating numerical growth with spiritual health is that many times unhealthy things grow faster than healthier ones. Think about weeds in my lawn or tumorous cancers. Cancer can devastate a body by growing rapidly, but you don’t want anything to do with it.
The Prosperity Gospel Can Grow a Church Pretty Large
There are churches all across the country that are loaded full of people, but I believe they are terribly unhealthy. The prosperity Gospel is all over Africa telling impoverished people that if they come to Jesus they’ll get the finances of their dreams. Hummers. Mansions. Money. Yet, most will never receive those things. And, yet those churches who preach those lies are growing (numerically) like crazy.
In Houston, the old Houston Rockets stadium was bought out by Joel Osteen and seats over 40,000 people. Osteen writes books with titles such as, “Every Day A Friday” or “Your Best Life Now.” There’s nothing about the message that is biblical or Christ-centered. And yet, thousands of people will clamber to hear him speak.
What’s the Quality of the Disciples Being Made?
Churches may grow rapidly in size, but that doesn’t mean they are healthy. However, churches may grow rapidly in size, and they may very well be healthy. Size should not be the indicator of church health. What then should be the indicator of church health?
I think the question that should be asked is, “What is the result of those who are being discipled in those environments?” Are disciples hungry, humble, bold followers of Jesus? Or, are they shallow consumers? Healthy churches are churches that are more concerned with the quality of the disciple being made rather than the quantity. For example, for our own church one of our indicators of health for us is our sending capacity. We want to be sending people out as mature missionaries who are centered around the Gospel. We hope that we grow numerically, but our concern is more about the kingdom of God than establishing our own little kingdom.
Better Before Bigger
I heard a pretty cool story about Truett Cathy one time. Truett Cathy was the founder of Chickfila and helped make it what it is today. Early on in Chickfila’s history when it was growing like crazy, the executive staff was arguing about getting more Chickfila stores out as quickly as possible. They wanted to keep up with some of their competitors who were churning out new stores left and right. As Truett Cathy listened to the debate, he quietly silences the crowd and tells them, “If we get better, our customers will demand that we get bigger.” He was more concerned with the quality of what they made rather than how many stores were started.
Instead of fighting for numerical growth, let’s fight for spiritual growth. Let’s try to get our churches to be passionate about the Gospel, practicing genuine Christian unity, providing community and family, teaching the Bible, and making disciples of all the world. Numerical growth may be a by-product of those things, but it might not be the main result.
What type of growth do you want?