To become a part of the Next Level for Church Growth Pastors Group (a private Facebook Group), a pastor has to answer three questions. Question #2 is about Church Growth. It’s always amused me (not Ha Ha amusement) when some pastor pushes back and accuses me (and The Effective Church Group) about being one of those church growth firms that’s only interested in the numbers and not about discipleship.
So, I had one of those conversations today. A pastor nicely suggested that all our focus on numbers wasn’t biblical … and that all those church growth people are only interested in attendance and finances and that he’d rather have 10 faithful members than 1500 pew-sitters.
I agree. And I disagree. Seriously.
Below is my response …
“Please be careful with generalizations. When most people speak about church growth and numbers, they’re not talking about just getting butts in seats so they can have bucks in the bank. In fact, I’ve been in the church growth biz for over 40 years and I’ve never actually spoken to a single pastor who’s had that attitude. BUT it seems like there’s a lot of people out there who hear “numbers” and they immediately think exactly that. Every pastor I know personally on some level, and that’s a LOT of pastors, would agree with you 100%. It’s not about butts and bucks, it’s about hearts and faithfulness.
“Having said that, one of the reasons why there’s so much pushback against numbers is because there are a lot of pastors out there who don’t want to be honest about their “numbers” because their numbers are terrible. They have zeros in baptisms (with the exception of babies or 9-year-olds who were raised in the church … but no conversion baptisms). They have zeros in spiritual conversations they’ve had with unbelievers over the past 10 days. They have declining churches because the pastors aren’t leading the charge in evangelism and disciple making, mistakenly thinking that all that is the “congregation’s job, not mine.” (The Great Commission was given to the Pastors first …)
“I agree with you. I’d rather have 10 faithful disciples that 1500 .. because those 10 faithful will be making more disciples because they’re sharing their faith regularly – that’s what faithful disciples do. And those 10 will become 20 will become 40 will become 80 … you can do the math. The problem is, most “faithful” members are sitting on their blessed assurance, writing checks, and expecting the pastor to teach them some other factoid about the Bible … rather than pushing them out the door to share their faith as Neighborhood Missionaries. No doubt they’re church members, but faithful disciples?Sadly, most “faithful” members are sitting on their blessed assurance, writing checks, and expecting the pastor to teach them some other factoid about the Bible. Click To Tweet
“Lastly, just a point of clarification. Numbers counted in the early church … so we have a pretty clear model to follow. I’ll include a “brief” list at the end of this discussion … 🙂
“Your point is well taken. Numbers for numbers sake is pure hubris. But my ministry is to make disciples … always has been. I had a hand as pastor, evangelist, co-pastor, and church planter in church plants from Atlanta to Seattle. I’ve helped turn several congregations from decline to growth. And I’ve been training churches and pastors how to turn unbelievers into disciple-making Christians for over 40 years … and the training I do is from experience, not books or blogs. So, when I ask about your church’s growth, it’s to ask, ‘Are you serious about reaching more people for Jesus Christ, or are you a chaplain taking care of the members?’ I ask because when it comes to working with church leaders, I only work with those committed to disciple making and are willing to break out of the Pastoral Care model to do it.
“And now, about those numbers …
- Jesus fasted for 40 days
- He had 12 apostles
- He fed 5000
- He fed the 5000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish
- They picked up 12 baskets of leftovers when everyone was through
- He fed 4000 on another occasion
- The apostles caught 153 fish
- Jesus appeared to more than 500 people post-Easter
- There were 120 at the first post-resurrection prayer meeting
- 3000 were baptized after Peter’s Pentecost preaching
- The next wave of growth took the church to 5000
- The scrolls burned were worth 50,000 drachmas
- And don’t EVEN get me started about the book of Revelation!
“And those are just a few of the New Testament numbers. The point is, the early church counted numbers. They tracked everything. Because every one of those numbers was a soul who could be discipled (well, with the possible exception of those fish!).
“Hope this has clarified my questions and my passion :-)”
So, that leaves me one question for you, dear reader. Are you serious about reaching unbelievers for Jesus or are you too busy taking care of your members (who aren’t making more disciples!)? Pastor, if you’re serious about the former, you would probably do well in my Growing Church Network – a 90 day training immersion that will walk you through a process that will turn you into a Church Growth Catalyst for your congregation.
If you’re a North American Pastor, then let’s talk about your goals, you challenges, and your commitment level. If there’s a match, I’ll invite you to be a part of the Network. If not, we’ll have had a good conversation about your church’s future and you’ll leave knowing what your next steps are.