Monday, November 26, 2007

A Growing Church

James Meeks is the senior pastor of Salem Baptist Church of Chicago and it started in 1985 with 200 people (wow). They now have over 22,000 members (double wow).
Meeks has stated "We can all have growing churches."

Meeks has preach that the kingdom of GOD is compared in the parable to planting and growing. Everything that is planted is supposed to grow. If a church is in the Kingdom of God, then a church is supposed to grow. Now, this thought gets me thinking. There are huge ramifications to this thought.

But since we are walking through Ephesians as a church, and we recognize the reality of spiritual warfare, and our battle is not flesh and blood….Here are some enemies of a growing church according to James Meeks.

1. Lack of faith -- We must believe growth can happen. We have to expect it. "I would be ready to quit if there were no conversions."

2. Lack of knowledge -- We don't know that church growth is possible. We haven't been exposed to the principles of church growth. People perish because of a lack of knowledge. What you don't know can kill you. What you don't know can stifle your church's growth.

3. Failure to realize that God is no respecter of persons -- God doesn't love just a select group of people. God told Joshua, "As I was with Moses, so I will be with you." You will be anointed also.

4. Failure to realize growth is always the goal of a new testament church -- It doesn't matter how small your town is--your church is supposed to grow. "The city doesn't need to be big if the church has big ideas." People have cars. They will drive to your church. See John 15:5. If it's not growing, it's not healthy. People are afraid to count because they don't want to know how bad things are.

5. An unsure pastor -- You have to demonstrate that you're in control. People are looking to you as the person with answers. You have to be sure about your leadership. We lead with too much ambiguity. We have too many politically correct pastors. We don't say what the Bible says. We're afraid to offend people.

6. Failure to build upon small victories -- Small victories lead to bigger victories. David killed a lion and a bear before he killed Goliath. When a church gets used to victories, it will have no doubt that there isn't anything too big for God.

7. Failure to preach the announcements -- Whatever you want the masses to know, it can't be announced--it must be preached. It has to be a sermon. After the message, you give an invitation to involvement.

8. Lack of corporate fasting and prayer -- Some things will only come about through fasting and prayer.

9. Failure to get started -- "Go with the going crowd." If you can't influence anyone, you're in the wrong profession.

10. Poor motive -- Why do you want a big church? You should want it. You have to want it for the right reason. God knows your heart. Church growth should be about bringing glory and honor to God. If God is not pleased and satisfied, it doesn't make a difference.



novice said...

I guess if your priority is church growth then there are a lot of ways to achieve it. People will rush to a church if it tells them exactly what they want to hear. After all, 22,000 people can't be wrong can they? :p

Anonymous said...

You forgot ...lack of space or a building. LOL

SoulPastor said...


Now, now.

Misty B said...

I read this a few hours ago and it made me (I was going to say uncomfortable but really it made me mad.) I know I am a little uncomfortable with mega churches but I always try to temper that with I don't know everything. However is growth of a single church a good goal for every church to have? Yes the capital C church was growing in the New Testament but do we really need to see hordes of people in order to know we are 'successful' as a church? If you substituted growth with seeing lives changed and seeing God move I would agree with most of what is said here. If growth happens as a result of seeing where God is at work and joining Him and having faith that God will show us where He wants us to go that is a wonderful thing.

SoulPastor said...

I wonder what would happen if I made this post without the numbers? Would that change people's feelings.

Misty, I hear your fear of Mega...I feel it as well! The fact is people in our society want the feel of a small church with the resources of a mega!

To me, "growth" is "seeing lives changed and seeing GOD move" and that should result in more people being a part of the local church!

SoulPastor said...

Personally, I like what Meeks has to say….especially point number 4.
So I look at where Soul Sanctuary is at a church, as we consider forming another gathering…Why? Because people show up and then walk out because they find it too crowded….is that a good problem??!!!??…..did you know that when a room is full, people stop:
• inviting friends
• talking to guests
• attending regularly

So I have to ask 2 questions….

Does GOD want our church to grow?

Does I (you) want our church to grow?

“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” -- Acts 2:46 – 47

Did you know that once a church grows beyond about 60 people you don’t know everyone?

Two things every person needs to stay connected in a church:
• A relationship/friend
• A responsibility
Just attending the Sunday Service is not enough!

There is a lot to think about here. Even with the news that some Mega churches feel that they have missed the mark. So, then how can we redo or redefine what it means to be the church and what a gathering is all about?

Just some ramblings of where I find myself this week!

Love to hear your thoughts!

novice said...

SP - I toned down my response from my initial reaction to Meeks, which involved the words "steaming" and "pile". :) It's not about anything or anyone in particular - solely a reaction to the list of points in the original post. I don't have a problem with churches of 22,000 people - I really have a problem with worshipping the numbers.

I could spend time on each of Meeks' points, but here's my rationale on a handful of them...

1. "We must believe growth can happen. We have to expect it. 'I would be ready to quit if there were no conversions.'" Sometimes faith toils in obscurity, following God's call without ever seeing the results.

4. "Failure to realize growth is always the goal of a new testament church" - I guess I am still failing to realize that. And I just can't see John 15:5 as referring to numbers. Maybe growth as defined elsewhere in the comments... but not the numbers-driven stuff Meeks talks about.

7. "Preach the announcements"? Everything you want to communicate is a sermon? I've seen that practiced. No, thanks.

9. "If you can't influence anyone, you're in the wrong profession." Like #1, this seems really short-sighted.

10. "Why do you want a big church? You should want it." That's a big leap - I have yet to see anything to convince me I should want it.

SP, you added the comment that to you growth means "seeing lives changed and seeing GOD move" - fair enough. I think anyone would want to see that happen and see more people brought into a place where that was happening.

I find it very hard to give Meeks the benefit of the doubt based on what he's written in these points. He's talking about numbers. He says it in point 10, "big church".

And when you pursue a goal like having a big church (point 4) you are not singlemindedly following Christ. You are trying to serve both God and math.

I don't think big churches are bad any more than I think small churches are necessarily good. I don't have an issue with mega churches existing - I probably would never choose to attend one, but that's about personality not faith.

Where I have problems with what Meeks has written here is that he sets numbers as a goal and uses (to my reading) some questionable theology to back it up.

Bottom line - if the goal is to get a big church then what other "goals" are being neglected?

SoulPastor said...

Good post!

I cannot comment on Meeks' theology or heart behind the issue, but it is interesting to me how people (even myself) read into things.

For instance point # 10

10. Poor motive -- Why do you want a big church? You should want it. You have to want it for the right reason. God knows your heart. Church growth should be about bringing glory and honor to God. If God is not pleased and satisfied, it doesn't make a difference.

Now, granted the first question seems hard to swallow...but I love the qualifier..."You should want it for the RIGHT REASON. GOD KNOWS YOUR HEART. CHURCH GROWTH SHOULD BE ABOUT BRINGING GLORY AND HONOR TO GOD. I love that part.

Again I think that if people are growing in thier spiritual life, would not the gathering of people grow as well? Just some thoughts...getting tired....going to be now....

Manetheren said...

"The fact is people in our society want the feel of a small church with the resources of a mega!"

Hmmm, that pretty much sums up what I would like out of a church (just being a little too honest). The church I grew up in was about 500 people; you could simply attend and fade into the background (my parents were quite involved though). My wife grew up in a church of about 80 and loved the community feel of it. I grew to love that feel too when we started attending a church of 120 after we got married. After ten years of that I didn't think I ever wanted to attend a church of more than 200, hence part of my reluctance to come to Soul. I like the interpretation of "growth" as applied to not just physical numbers.

I find point 4 to be somewhat offensive. How far do we honestly expect people to drive just so that a small rural church can be continue to feel "healthy"?

Point 5 is darkly funny since it talks about the pastor needing to be in control, and in the last few days I've been leafing through some books on Jim Jones. I also just remembered Gerry mentioning something about drinking the kool-aid a few weeks ago. Uh oh.

Misty B said...

SP - you have a point about starting out with the numbers. If I hadn't encountered it I may not have read it with such a bias. Mind you one needs some context to give the list credibility:-) I guess it's a catch 22. Mind you the 'big church' comment in #10 kind of gives it away.

What do you mean by mega church resources?

SoulPastor said...


In my research, what people are looking for when it comes to being a part of a community/church is a few things. Many people are straying away from the Mega church model where people feel lost when they walk into the doors. They want a place that is small enough to know their name, but big enough that they can get lost in if need be.

Most people in a church context do not know more than 60 people. Some people say that the tipping point for relationships is about 150. I feel if a church is about 300 in number than it still has a small feel for some and a big feel for others. A win/win situation.

Then next issue I find is that many people want a smaller community, but do not want the financial strain that goes with it. Most people want the resources that a Mega church can offer (insert numerous examples here) but they want the feeling/atmosphere/connection that a smaller community provides. So, the question for me is how can we grow smaller?

Misty B said...

I used to go to a fairly large church. Thinking back I can't discount that I did have an authentic experience of community there. For me it was about having a soft place to land. After all if you are going to take a leap of faith of some sort it is pretty important to know that those around you will catch you.

As far as growing bigger smaller I think it is important to hold leaders accountable for shepherding those on their teams (or in their small groups.) I know it is hard and there are some contexts that doesn't happen easily. It is just my experience that in a large church where I didn't have access to a pastor I found that kind of community in the ministries I served in.

I know this isn't the only answer and it oversimplifies a complicated dilemma. It is just what comes to mind when you ask the question.

Rachel H. said...

Hey SP! How goes it?

Just two thoughts and they come after being sick for now 21 days so possibly not too-coherent.....

If a person IS going to focus on numbers, then I think it should be from new conversions, not just 'attraction of the masses' (as you so well reiterated quoting "...... And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved" Acts 2:46 – 47.) If the love of Jesus in a congregation is out reaching its community, loving them, serving them and seeing them come back with questions seeking answers, then I think you're on to something.

And second, if and when a church reaches that number *insert your own here* that starts to feel too big, then small groups are where it's at. Even beforehand but definitely at this point. People start to find community within the smaller communities of the bigger church. And I think this is when the concept of mentoring and shepherding and releasing really sees great fruit in the way of raising up new leaders and encouraging the gifts that God has given his people.

.....Back to the Tylenol!

(an out-of-towner from SP's past! whatup?)