Church Growth: Good or Bad??

May 04 2006
In this post, I want to look at an issue that I have personally been reflecting on lately, the issue of church growth. In today's churches, we have "church growth movements" seminary departments titled, "department of church growth" and pastors and lay leaders alike obsessed with the idea of church growth. Just from making observations, it seems that there are two extremes here.

In one camp--the bigger the better. If your church is growing, then you must be doing something right. In this camp resides most of America's mega-churches and their high-profile pastors. Some of these guys believe that because of their positive self-improvement message, their nice, well lit auditoriums, and their refusal to offend anyone with the truth of sin and their personal responsibility to it, that God must be blessing them because they have droves of people coming every week.

In the other camp--resides the over-zealous "fundy" KJV Bible beating pastors with their churches smaller than some Mormon families. They boast that they have the most doctrinally pure congregations and that they have the "most faithful church" not the "largest church." Don't get me wrong, there are actually quite large churches in this camp, but this is due in part to their strong political affiliations and attraction of right wing affiliates. You don't see too many of these churches in some of the more "liberal" parts of the country; here, they exist as tiny congregations escaping the evils of the world and those in it.

My prayer for America's church is the emergence of a third camp, which I have seen demonstrated by several churches I have recently studied. I believe a church can explode in numerical growth for all the right or all the wrong reasons. While I do believe that God expects not only faithfulness, but fruitfulness--this "fruitfulness" is not always measured in terms of numerical growth. Let me explain. God's utmost concern is not church growth. Rather, His utmost agenda is His glory among all nations, peoples, tribes, and tongues. Therefore, we need to ask the question, "how can I personally and how can my church meet this concern--to spread the supremacy of God to all nations for the joy of all peoples?" Sometimes that is church growth; other times its not. In David Garrison's Church Planting Movements, he explores the explosion of the church, primarily in India and East Asia. Among churches caught in the movement, the prayer is not, "Lord grow our church"; rather, it's "Lord, multiply our church". And He does!!!

Jesus says these words in John 12, "I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." Jesus was obviously talking about the gospel here; He was about to die, and the only way we could live is if He dies. However, as His followers this applies to us personally and as a church. If we want to be used by God in a missional lifestyle, we have to die to ourselves! We have no choice. As a church, we have to put aside our personal agendas as Christian leaders, aspiring pastors, or lay leaders. In many cases, the "dying" that needs to take place is the longing to have a huge church and be famous. My prayer for America is that we would see an explosion of new churches much like other places in the world, that Christian leaders (me included) would die to the desire to become famous, and that God would use our generation to redeem millions and billions of people.

For further reading (these books have shaped my personal view on missions and the church):

Church Planting Movements, by David Garrison
Radical Reformission, by Mark Driscoll
Let the Nations Be Glad, by John Piper
Planting Missional Churches, by Ed Stetzer

a question for your church

March 13 2006

Come Ye Saints??

Welcome everyone to the first content post of this blog: theology for your everyday life. Before I begin, I want to thank you for checking this out. A little about myself: I am a 23 year old student pastor in New Jersey, struggling through what it looks like to do ministry in this context, how to truly live a missional life, and how to lead my family: my amazing wife, and my -6 month old hanging out inside my wife.

If you have grown up in the church or you have been to a church worship service, chances are you have heard the hymn, "Come ye Sinners" by Joseph Hart. Chances are, you have heard the remake Robbie Seay, worship pastor at Ecclesia in Houston, did a few years ago. It's a great song and one of my favorite to sing especially the way Robbie does it. The song embraces the idea of Isaiah 55:1, "come to Me, all who are thirsty." Everyone is thirsty and needs to be changed and satisfied by Jesus. The song also says, "if you tarry, until you're better, you will never come at all..." The idea is that you can't fix yourself and then come to God. It just doesn't work that way. The Bible clear teaches that salvation is a work totally of God and that as a depraved sinner, you have no ability to "fix" yourself (Romans 3:9-12, John 6:44, Ephesians 2:8,9).

Here's the disconnect. How many churches in the United States today teach this truth, but in reality act very differently? Instead of challenging our members to live life on mission, we encourage them to invite others to a Sunday morning church service. Instead of calling believers to radically turn from sin, we enlist them in programs: i.e. choir, drama team, cooking for church member fellowships. By the way, I have no idea what i.e. means-it just sounds scholarly. Instead of focusing on transforming the world, we focus on church growth (not that church growth is bad in any way, but it is a means to an end, not the end itself). Instead of engaging anyone who is thirsty, we tend to focus on the economically privileged, because that is who most of the contributing members are. Instead of focusing on how we can equip our members to be sent out, we think about how we can "close the back door." Instead of calling believers to spend their life on the calling of the gospel, we encourage them to lead "quiet lives, horribly misquoting a passage in 1 Thessalonians. Instead of thinking about the community God has called us to and placed us in (Acts 17:26,27) we tend focus on our members and their needs.

The biggest problem I see with the current evangelism strategy of many churches is that it says, "come ye sinners" but means "come ye saints". Very few church services are truly places where sinners can come. Have you ever seen a stripper get off work Saturday night and come to church the next morning? I'm sure it's happened but the stripper probably concealed her identity.

In conclusion, this is the message that most churches are sending to non-Christians before they ever step into a church building: Come ye sinner, but fix yourself first. Take off your Budweiser t-shirt and put on a suit; shave and look happy, smiling the whole time you are there. Drink a whole bottle of mouth wash to hide the smell of smoke on your breath. When asked how you are, replace "I feel like s--- because I have a hang over" with "brother, I'm blessed". Even if you don't believe anything you see or hear, act like you do. Church is not a place for doubters, atheists, agnostics, homosexuals, and democrats, so don't be honest. Come ye saint...


March 13 2006


We want to take this opportunity to let everyone know that we are having a baby!!! We found out a few weeks ago; Angela is 9 weeks along and will be due in September! We have told many of you already, but we want to let everyone know! Please keep our family in your prayers during this time.

You will hear more from us very soon.

for His glory,

justin and angela

A New Addition

September 29 2005
Hey everyone,

We have some exciting news! We have a new puppy! Her name is Kyleigh (pronounced ky-lee)and she is an 8 week old beagle puppy. We picked her up on Friday, so the last few days have been crazy trying to train her, get her adjusted to her new home, and take care of her. She likes to howl around 3 a.m. and chew on shoes.

In other news, The Well is going strong. We are through our third week of weekly gatherings and halfway through our teaching series, "what is love?" It's been a lot of fun and hard work. The Lord is certainly blessing it as we recently have seen two Well attendees give their life to the Lord. We have also have seen a core group of people get excited about spiritual transformation of a community(s) around them. Last week, we took the first step in reaching out as we handed out about 750 "rave cards" to students at Felician College nearby. If nothing else was gained, our students are beginning to catch a vision for what we see here in NJ.

Angela is into her fourth week as a 1st grade teacher and going strong. Please pray that she would get some rest before long. Our biggest prayer request right now is just for our time and energy. It seems that the busiest time of my week is Saturday and Sunday and hers is the rest of the week and so it is hard for her to recoop on the weekends like other teachers.

To add to the time strain, I began seminary classes about two weeks ago and am already behind. Fortunately, my self-paced online class is taking fall break so there are no new assignments this week, so i can use the next week to play catch up.

We love you guys. Thank you for your commitment to our ministry and our lives. We know that God is answering prayers for us and for this place and for our church.

For His glory,

justin and angela