Dr. Phillip Mills writes about the current infatuation with many of the current-popular church growth approaches. Certainly we can question whether it is God’s intention that every church turn into a Mega Church which I sincerely doubt. But what Mills does is question whether we are worrying about the quality of growth as much as simply growing at all costs.
Some have talked about this when speaking about our low-retention rate as well as our proclivity to equate success to putting church hoppers in seats while the total number of adherents to the Second Advent Movement remains the same in the city, but we shuffle folks around. Mills addresses these issues in his helpful way that only a physician could do.
He notes that there are many ways to grow that are not good. For example, there is Girth Growth. This is where our midsection’s simply grow out. This is not “fitness but fatness.” Could our desire to placate to the whims of the unconverted produce people who simply want what they want rather than desire the transforming power of God? Is it valuable to have a church full of consumers of our religious entertainment? Girth growth happens when we simply want people in the seats at all costs. We don’t train them as we should. We don’t love them as we should. We don’t strengthen them as we should. And we don’t expect them to use their gifts for the kingdom as we should. We just are happy with more “behinds in the seats.”
Another means of growth, spoken of by Mills, is Forced Growth. This happens when you grow out of balance. This is like when some weightlifters grow their muscle by any means necessary, without doing the other things that are necessary for health. In our religious life, we can do this by ignoring certain fundamentals that we all need to hear as Christians. When we emphasize justification, love, and salvation, but don’t also emphasize justice, sanctification, and the necessary works that a Christ produced life will bring.
Another type of growth is Neoplastic Growth. Cancer is a growth. We don’t want it, we shouldn’t want it, but some growths are cancers. They often grow fast. They take over good tissue and cause great problems. We can have such growth in our churches when we have more and more members who are not producing. We may grow fast, but what good has it done?
Stature growth is another type of growth. This is the true growth that comes when we are true followers of the most high. When we seek to teach the full counsel of God and growth happens. It is important to note, that not all churches will become mega churches, but they can all grow into the measure of Christ. That is our goal.
In the end, we must recognize that all churches are not supposed to become 20K bohemouths. We need to get out of the trap of thinking that the success of our movement is gaged in number of people sitting in front of us. In addition, we need to see our movement as being more than our local congregation and see it as a integral part of the full Advent movement whose mission has always been “The Advent Message To All The World In This Generation.” We do have a mission! Next, we need to stop judging our ministers and our people by measures that will simply promote some of these unhealthy kinds of growth.