I know you read the title and say that does not make any sense what so ever. How can church growth kill kingdom growth? Aren’t they the same thing? Well, I believe church growth can be a paradox that can build a church up while tearing the kingdom down. Let me explain where I came up with this way of thinking and maybe it will make more sense to you.
I was in one of the administrative offices fixing a computer problem and was surfing the net to make sure it would connect to our network. Just by chance, I browsed over the website of a mega church here in the south. As I did I notice that this church was starting a new campus in one of the major cities here in Alabama. As I looked I noticed that they had many campuses but I also noticed that all of them were in major or, at least, big cities. As I looked at that it hit me, why is it that mega churches are starting a new campus in cities that already have a great church presence in them? I mean the city in which the megachurch was moving has many mid-size churches (under 1000) within the city that are teaching in the same fashion that they are. I mean why would they move into an area where there is already such a growing gospel presence.
While most of the churches in the United States have an average worship attendance of under a 100, 59% according to Hartford Institute for Religion Research, we also are seeing the decline in the mid-size church (500-999) in the last few years. Now, this makes me wonder is the decline because people are leaving the church or is because they are just moving to the church with the latest and greatest light show down the road. When we move into an area that already has a great gospel presence what are we trying to accomplish? There are fewer people going to church than ever before in our country, so we have to take a collective step back and say what we are doing is not working. Doesn’t it make sense that when we place a campus down the street that we are saying if you people come to my church it is not my fault? The question we must ask is, is it really kingdom building when a congregation moves from one church to another? The Apostle Paul even shares with us that he did not build where another man was doing the work because his goal was to take the gospel to the lost that had never heard it. Yet today it seems as if we are not different than the national retail chain that moves in next to their competition and tries to take all their customers. They do this so they stock will rise because one of the ways to have rising stock is to make more locations. Is that the mentality that we have in the church today? Have we, as the church, came to the place where the only way we can be successful is to have a campus in every major city even if that means emptying other churches.
Who are we competing with?
I wonder when did the church stop competing with our enemy and began to compete with one another? Now do not get me wrong, I love the mega-church and believe they can do awesome things for the kingdom that others cannot. But just imagine that you pastor a mid-size church and wake up one day and find out that two blocks down the road this church of 10,000 is placing a campus there. They have all the resources; they have the money to make the location state of the art. They can bring in big names, great musicians and all the extras that your church doesn’t have. Now, not the committed people of the church, but those that you have worked so hard to bring in the core, what if you lose half of them and other churches lose half of theirs. The next thing you know this campus is declared a success because the attendance is through the roof. Is that really a success? I mean yes, you have built a church, but you have weakened the kingdom. By building one church you have weakened four, five, six or more. Is that good for the kingdom? I mean isn’t the devil having a field day watching us feed on one another. All we are doing is moving sheep from one pasture to the next and, let’s be honest, we always lose a few of them in the transition.
When did the purpose of the church become only about building its own numbers with no concern with who we hurt in the process? Now I am not saying that pastors or even members of the mega-church are thinking like this. I don’t mean to imply that they are sitting there trying to think up ways to empty churches out. My point is that as pastors we are so pressured to think more is better and the only way that we can be successful is by having more and more and more. We have come to believe that we have to be the one that pastor these people and that our church is the only one that can do it right. There is pressure to move forward, be like the other mega church, and having multiple locations is the new way to measure success with others. We use to say how large is your congregation but now we say how many locations do you have?
Multi Locations can be a great thing
Now I am not saying that multi-location is a bad thing. Quite the contrary, I believe is a biblical way to grow the kingdom of God and I believe that the mega churches are the ones that can bring that about. I think, what we need is to rethink how we define success. In the rural areas of our country, e have places that have no gospel presence. The people in those areas that go to church either one, travel or two, go to small churches, which some are doing a great work, but others are doing very little to evangelize their community. What if a mega-church went to those areas? I mean as for Church of God pastors, there are areas in North Alabama that have no Pentecostal church presence at all. If a mega-church went into those areas with the resource they have they could make an impact that could change the entire community. They could build a facility that could reach out to the young and adults of the area and bring people that don’t go to church at all because of the drive or because the churches in their area have nothing they like. All of the sudden the campus would be winning new people to the Kingdom not just the church.
Now the truth is that this would not be a congregation of thousands and maybe not even hundreds but it could still be a church with an impact in that small community. Many times we say things like, well we are a city church, we cannot relate to country people. The truth is with the rise of the Internet, Facebook, Twitter and other social sites, the differences between those in the city and the country is not as much as it once was. Yes the campus may not be as large for the local church, but it would be much larger for the Kingdom of God and isn’t that the point of all this. That might not be church growth but it would be kingdom growth.