Tuesday, August 28, 2012

5 American Myths and Successful Churches and Ministries

I thought this was quite interesting. I just discovered Joseph's blog thanks to Scot McKnight, so what a great first introduction. I hope you find this as interesting as I did. Or not.


The picture just made me laugh.

In my reading of the Word of God over the past 34 years I have noticed a keen difference between the biblical measure of success and the way many American churches seem to measure success.

Many of the ways American churches measures success are in fact direct violations of the teachings of Jesus in Matthew 23. In this passage Jesus speaks against people loving titles, celebrity status, and desiring prominent places in public events. Through the centuries theology and church practice have been greatly influenced by the surrounding cultures. The following are my opinions regarding five myths for success that have crept into the church from American culture.

MYTH #1: The Size of the Church Shows Success.

There are some churches in the USA that have grown by the thousands within the first few years of their existence. That may not seem odd in certain parts of the world where the Spirit of the Lord is blowing upon a nation for true revival and evangelism (for example, Brazil, Africa, Indonesia). Unfortunately, most of the time in America, churches that number in the thousands after only a year or two of existence usually have grown so large via “transfer growth” (people who are already saved jumping from one church to another).

This happens usually in two ways: either a celebrity church (a church with an already established worldwide name brand) with a lot of money plants a church, or a celebrity leader (well-known TV personality) with a large following and mailing list opens up a church. In some cases a church without a prior name brand explodes in growth because of their talented worship team, great administrative ability, marketing schemes, or charismatic preacher, and happens to be planted in an area in the midst of many small congregations that don’t offer the same level of excitement through its programs, marketing and presentation.

When churches grow like this I usually don’t fault the pastors of megachurches unless they are specifically targeting a Christian audience in their marketing and even service times. For example, when they advertise on Christian media outlets or choose a time on Sunday to initially meet when most churches don’t have church services, like 6 p.m.

Megachurch pastors can’t be blamed for people leaving other churches if they have not been properly discipled or rooted and grounded in the faith. However, at the same time I do not hold up these churches as models for church growth because they are not growing organically through converting the lost, and because most likely they are gathering an uncommitted crowd rather than a true church that has members relating to one another as a family of families. (There is also a lot of turnover in these kinds of megachurches, with a different crowd every year.)

In megachurches even much of the pastoral staff eventually gets hired from outside the church because many times they do not have the capacity to develop their own leaders fast enough to keep up with their rapid growth! This can perpetuate a cycle of having a hireling and/or a professional mentality among the key staff who are not committed to long-term tenure and to the community they presently serve.

Unfortunately many saints with low self-esteem or ego need to attend one of these “successful” churches because they feel it gives them status. This is a far cry from the early church that numbered in the thousands after the Day of Pentecost because of mass conversions and the contemporary persecuted church (for example, in Muslim nations) who often meet from house-to-house, break bread, and covenant with one another as brothers and sisters, and are willing to risk their lives for the gospel by being baptized!

I am all for explosive church growth: the kind of church growth that involves mostly new converts rather than transfer growth.

I am not necessarily opposed to quick megachurch growth but neither am I enthralled by it or hold it up as a model for true revival or church expansion.
For the four other points, enjoy them HERE.


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