Church Growth Warnings

This is an old message that I found in my archives, about a church I used to attend. While it isn't appropriate for a present circumstance, I still agree with much of what I've said and believe it could still be a useful post to include here, with names changed. Church politics is a very real thing in the organized Christian church that few will want to admit, much less address. It's to be found in the smallest congregations and the largest associations. Churches and their members need to remember that it is Christ's church and do what is necessary to make Christ the head. Avoid worldly church growth philosophy meant to baloon the size of a congregation. After all, He called the few.

Background

About a year ago, our Church's pastor suddenly resigned from that position. A little later we find out that his "resignation came about to a significant degree because of leadership issues, and our [elders] conviction that a different 'mode of operating' was necessary for our church to move forward." This coming sunday a new pastor will be making his appearance at our church.

The Message

Last sunday, at the last service before the forecast arrival of the new pastor of our church, a visiting minister gave a special message. Following the normal procession of coverage of John through chapter 11, he spoke on the raising of Lazarus, pointing out the many times that God's ways are not our ways, God's timing is not our timing. But coming to the end of the passage, with a bold voice and a quick twist of the scripture, he declared "This is my message to you.." and went on to say that we should unbind the new pastor and get behind him and support him, or leave.

Taking the glory from Jesus, for which the event of raising Lazarus was intended, he uses it to defend a new leader. The message was not one of encouragement to work together in peace, but to agree with what was done or leave. It's characteristic of other dominating people in other organizations. We're in charge now, so you better like it or leave. You can be replaced. 

It's certainly not unlike the message of elders to prospective leaders that the current elders are committed to certain things and in order to be considered the prospects had to think the same way. It's all consistent with the new body building principles of major church-growth plans where, instead of all members of the body being necessary (I Cor. 12), the leaders will have the option of hiring and firing members of the body as he sees fit in the process of building the church and congregation. Asking members to leave if they don't like it and firing those who don't perform seems more like a way to tear a church down, rather than build one up. More like the construction of a shopping center, where profit is the determining factor.

"God can work through anybody"

In further defense of the new pastor, the minister insisted that "God can work through anybody up here. Give him a chance." Nothing was said in defense of what others were saying, and no Biblical basis for his request (or demand) was presented. It is true that God can work through anybody, but he prefers to work through his chosen and instructs us to consider the character of those he does work in choosing leaders. Similarly, the scriptures tell us to disassociate ourselves from certain ones living in rebellion to God's word. Universal acceptance, permissiveness and passivity seems to be the message here, a message that can only be attributed to Satan himself.

Just as grace and forgiveness is central to the gospel of Jesus Christ, so permissiveness is central to the message of Satan. "Surely God will not..." (Gen.). And just as the kingdom of God is made of righteousness, there will be those who disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness, servants that want to serve your "needs", those who promise freedom and who are themselves slaves. It's not a new problem. Paul had a similar problem.

"And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve." II Cor. 11:12-15

Church Growth

The hypocrisy of this speaker's message is that it doesn't matter who's up there and yet he demonstrates boldly that we should accept him. Why the demand for acceptance? Not only was Jesus robbed of the glory for which the raising of Lazarus occured, (John 11:4, 42) but then the recognition was passed on to the new pastor of our church. I missed seeing or hearing the pastor so I've not had any criticism for him, nor have I heard any real critical remarks about him. The criticism has been for the plans to implement proven church-growth tactics in building our church. If it's like other church-growth fellowships, I'm sure we'll soon see the gospel and teaching of the scriptures largely replaced with a series of seminars on sociological, psychological, financial and social services like, 

  • Recognizing and Controlling Stress in Children
  • How to talk with Kids so They'll listen ...
  • Self Esteem: What is it? How can I Develop It? ...
  • How to Talk with Your Spouse so He/She Will Listen ...
  • Family Budgeting
  • Talking to Kids About Sex
  • Positive Discipline
  • Helping Children Make Good Choices: Preventing Overload
  • Finding a Healthy Balance Between God, Home and Career
  • I'm All Alone in a Crowded World! (Building Friendships)
  • Help! My Child is Turning into a Teenager!

It might be strange to think such a battery of seminars, with the only mention of God in the titles being in reference to balancing Him with Home and Career, would be featured by a evangelical church. But it has happened in Tyler. If all the professionals involved in the seminars were paid for their services it was likely a profitable venture. All the while, recognition of God's hand, and consideration of his words in all of life's matters has been superceded by the advice of professionals with social concerns.

So, what do you do? First, when you see deception, twisting of the scripture, and conspiracy, think about it. Is it from God? Second, remember the wheat and the tares. The tares look like wheat. False teachers look like Christians. Patience. "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith..." I Pet. 5:8-9