Is All Growth Good?

fatman2Dr. 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.

Unchurched and the Third Angel's Message

800px-Calvary_baptist_church_lex_kyThere is a new word that has begun to arise amongst us.  It is the word “unchurched.”  The word is meant to imply that we should stop trying to preach to the “churched” who presumably already have God, and spend all of our efforts (or at least most of them) on the “unchurched.”   It sounds all right on the surface, but is it really our calling?

First of all, the word “churched” is not a Biblical word.  We have all heard the preachers tell us that just because you are a member of a church does not mean that you are converted.  But then some of these same people will change gears when talking about evangelism and speak about addressing the unchurched.  Simply put, we are told to preach to the world.  Whether Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, and yes even Adventist, we cannot assume that someone is in a saved relationship with God simply becuase they are “churched.”  We cannot assume that we have no message to take to someone simply becuase they are “churched.”

But more than that, we Adventists have taking our self identity from the Revelation 14 which we have thought was a message of warning to the entire world.  We are telling everyone to not get caught up with Revelation thirteen’s Sea Beast system.  (Revelation 14:6-12).   We are to warn the entire world which presumably includes “chruched” and “unchurched” of the great deception that will be put on humanity.  If that is our identity, to only look at a segment of the world is to betray our mission.

I have not done a scientific study of many of these mega churches, but from my interaction with members, I find that many of the members have simply moved from other churches in town.  They do reach some “unchurched” members, but they also reach a whole lot of “churched” members.  So in a practical sense, why is it that they grow on the basis of transfers and then want to tell you to only address “unchurched” and some want to even follow the idea.

So in a real sense, the whole idea of “unchurched” is against our mission.  On top of it all, who really follows that idea and refuses to engage in what they call “sheep stealing?”  No one, well maybe those few who have bought into the idea…

Shallow Worship Materials

A Royal On Pastor Ryan Bell’s blog he has a discussion of the difficulty of preaching on the subject of worship. That discussion made me think about certain worship services that I have attended. I began to think specifically about the transition from theological songs to a lot of the “praise” songs that are sung in many churches today.

I can remember when a church I attended once moved from using Gospel songs for praise to the common praise songs. I can remember the transition from “Power in the Blood” or even “Through it All” to songs were the total lyrical content is in the title. ?Lord you are Holy, Yes You Are Holy, You are so holy to me. Lord you are Holy, Yes you are holy, Holy you are and holy you?ll be.? Then the word ?Holy? is changed to ?Righteous? and the whole song is sung again. Then sung successively through 3 other words and finally closes with ?All-That.? People are not told about the Christian meta-narrative. We are not formed in the knowledge of what God has done for us or for others…

Marva Dawn said ?shallow…worship materials?will not reveal the truth about God. Instead, these shallow materials will shape shallow theology and form us superficially.? Much better songs would help to place us in the ?meta-narrative.? I hasten to add that I am not talking about worship style. Before that move to praise songs some of the songs that were sung were contemporary Gospel songs about God’s work on our behalf and for others. Some spoke of some theological underpinings of the Christian faith. But somehow we joined the larger movement in the Christian world towards trivial songs with very little theological or even pastoral content.

Can the Christian church that is used to singing about the trinity, the power of God on our behalf, the grace of the Cross be changed by singing songs that just Praise God but never talk about why or who the God is we praise? Will the lyrical content change make us more shallow as Dawn has suggested? Does the fact that many churches of many denominational groups are singing these shallow songs mean that we have some difficult days ahead as a Christian church?

What do you Think?