CHURCH BUILDER. Try it, when you talk to a pastor today about church growth, you’d probably be talking about the following:
- How to increase church membership
- Strategies to increase membership
- Effective church planting
- How to attract people to church
All the above are good and relevant topics but my problem with them is that Jesus never concerned himself with them, especially not in the way a lot of pastors concern themselves about these things today. And with the way they talk about them, most pastors sound more like corporate managers than servants of God–not in the way Jesus talked about ministries in his time. He said, “I will build my church” [Matthew 16] but he never once talked about hitting numerical goals.
“Okay, guys, by the end of 3 years, we need to have 120 people signed up to our membership.” You never heard Jesus say anything like this. And about strategies to increase membership? I don’t remember him discussing any with his disciples. All he said was, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” His attitude with people was take it or leave it. He never pursued them.
But how about the shepherd who pursued one lost sheep and left the 99 others? The question here is, do you have sheep in your congregation? I mean genuine sheep who hear the Shepherd’s voice and follow Him? But lots of pastors pursue after goats–because these goats are big tithers.
I can point out verses where Jesus discouraged some people from following him–something pastors would never do today. It’s not good strategy, they’d say. The demon possessed guy Jesus dealt with at Gadarenes was excited to go with him after getting well but Jesus dissuaded him. In effect, the Master merely said, “Just go home and tell your folks what happened to you.”
Today, it’s smart ministry sense to immediately take that guy into membership because he’d prove to be powerful promotion for the church. Here’s the fellow that got healed miraculous from demon possession through our ministry and he’s now part of our church! That would attract hundreds of new people to church or probably start a whole new church altogether. Even a super mega church. Letting go of such potential or opportunity would be a grave ministry mistake. That’s how pastors today would see it.
But not Jesus. He let go of the great opportunity for ministry expansion just like that!
In fact, Jesus never thought about how to “attract” people to church. He did a lot of unpopular things that would have shooed off people from his ministry–broke the Sabbath law, touched the unclean, called God his Father (which was blasphemy then), declared that he was the I Am, talked to a Samaritan woman and talked to pagans. He even took in an ex-prostitute as “member” and ate with tax collectors. These were surefire ways to piss off people and make them stay away from your church.
Most pastors today zero in on the good things people want to hear from the bible. “God won’t reject you,” they’d stress, even to unrepentant sinners. And they wouldn’t dare tell errant members (especially givers) that “there’s a way that seems right but it ends in death.” Thus, preaching on prosperity and the so-called “extreme grace” fill up mega churches to capacity, or even more. “You have no choice but to get saved!” You ever heard of that?
But Jesus talked differently–“Not all who say ‘Lord, Lord!’ would enter heaven” [Matthew 7.21]. And, “Many are invited but few are chosen,” [Matthew 22.14]. Have you ever heard a pastor say to sinning church members, “Yup, we have lots of members but only few of you are real children of God”? They won’t dare say it because it won’t attract people. Worse, they’d be kicked out. And anyway, I doubt if they’d admit to it.
Indeed, it’s different how lots of pastors talk about church growth today than how Jesus talked about it.