I enjoyed this article What is Church for?
It's a challenging read. Our thoughts on church growth etc are so much compromised by ego for those of us in ministry (or married to ministers).
You should read it. A couple of things that have come out of it for me:
Belonging vs believing.
PDJ argues that the current church growth theories that tell us to get people into church first, let them belong first, and then believe later, are wrong. The church doesn’t give us the gospel; the gospel gives us the church. The church is built by people coming to faith.
This was certainly my experience. I came to faith in Christ (through a SU camp) and immediately felt I was part of the church. So I set out to find a congregation to attend and be a part of. It was natural - and things like size and musical style didn't matter. I was looking for people who believed to learn the bible and pray with.
In the last ten years I think I've had much too much a focus on getting people into (my) church. Belonging has been what I've been aiming at, hoping that believing would follow. And there's been quite a few people who have come along. How it's generally worked (with exceptions) is that they've come along for a while (a year or two even). People have tried to make them feel welcome but eventually they've drifted out. And I've beaten myself up because I mustn't have made enough effort to integrate them. But there was no hunger for God's word there. They were not part of the church because there was no faith in Christ.
I need to do better with this.
Our church uses a connect, grow, serve model for how things are meant to work. It's tidy but flawed. Conversion is hinted at and hoped for somewhere between connect and grow. And also, what did we train for at theological college? To be socially lubricating people who can build a group of people around ourselves?
Of course there's nothing new here. But I need to refocus.
"There’s any number of people who are very keen to plant churches, but they’re not actually planting churches; what they’re doing is founding their own church, which they are going to stay in for the rest of their life as it grows bigger and bigger into a megachurch."
Ungenerous? Truthful? What do you think?
Building my church vs building the church
Accordingly, we shouldn’t be too concerned about which local or earthly gathering is ‘built’ by our efforts. If I evangelize someone and (by God’s Spirit) he is gathered into Christ’s heavenly assembly, it doesn’t really matter which earthly assembly he ends up in (so long as it is one in which he will continue to be built). Or if I pour time into someone to help them grow and develop and mature, and they take their gifts and do their building work somewhere else (not in church), what does it matter?
Yeah. I think that this is where a ministry like AFES is at advantage to us in suburban churches. With uni ministry you only expect to keep people for a few years. We expect to keep them and so our desire to see God's kingdom increase is muddied with our desire to see our church increase. Teaching RE is good for me in this. It's a ministry that I can pour myself into, praying for increase in God's kingdom without having any expectation of short term increase in my own church.
Did you read it? Any thoughts?