BUT THERE’S GROWTH AND THERE’S GROWTH
It is hard for pastors NOT to be mesmerized by church growth. Who doesn’t want their church congregation to grow? I would love to preach to 500 rather than 50 anytime on Sunday. Who doesn’t want to see numbers and budgets increasing year by year? And who isn’t greatly interested when the latest growth model comes along–the latest research, the latest insight that promises us the key to such growth? If the pastor is worth his salt he is interested (my opinion only).
But there’s growth and there’s growth.
For every example of a church that is larger for the wrong reason, I could give you an example of a small church (less than an hundred) that is small for the wrong reasons. What’s my point?
So what are the points in which a larger church can be biblically larger and a smaller church being biblically small?
I don’t know many pastors/elders who set out to see that their church does not grow.
We are sitting in a Seminary class room: Church Building 101. I am sitting in Christian Education at Hyles Anderson College. How Should Church Ministry Be? I go to the Super Conference at Thomas Road Baptist Church, in Lynchburg, Virginia: "Building a Bus/Children’s Ministry." Of course, there were a number of conferences. The Pastor’s School at Hammond, Indiana. "How To GO Soul-Winning." Only to name a few Bible/Church conferences I have attended over the years. Hyles/Falwell/Roberson/Rice/Malone/ I could mention others.
Young preachers coming out of independent Baptist schools have a desire to serve the Lord. We were Baptist only preachers, who did not know Reformed preachers existed. (1947-1980).
Now in those days, starting a church in a town was what preachers were encouraged to do. You would go to a town, find a building and then start knocking on doors inviting people to come visit the new church. Sometimes you also inviting them to come to Christ. There were many preachers who did just that.
Today in those same Seminaries and Colleges, they still teach the same idea of Church Ministry.
I don’t remember if in any of those classes the point was "How To Build A Church of 1000 People." We believed if we did what we were taught, we would have a church of a 1000.
Of course more of us never saw 500 in our churches. Of course, that was so disappointing to us. We had yet to learn why we were pastors/teachers, I think.
I never went to a Pastor’s/Church Conference where that local church had 200 in attendance. Can you imagine going to a Church Conference where the attendance was 50 in Sunday School?
You were always challenged to go back to your church and town and build a church like theirs.
I remember being in Hyles-Anderson College and First Baptist Church, and I left to go pastor a church in Altoona, Kansas, the First Baptist Church, on Main Street. I was rather excited that first Sunday. The church building was the size of one of the Sunday School classes at Hammond. The town had a total of about 500 people. I had to have a mindset adjustment.
I had seen 20,000 people come to church on one Sunday, and the next Sunday there were only 12,000 in the whole 40 square mile county!. I had to have an alignment in my brain cells. I could leave this town and church or find a way to do ministry in a different way.
My mindset adjustment came when I attended my first Shepherd’s Conference at Grace Community Church. The Conference in 1983 and in 1990 took only 250 men in those years. I remember that first year and in the first session, the speaker said, "If you are here to learn how to build a larger church you are in the wrong conference." I said, "Did I come to the wrong conference? This is why I am here-- to learn to build a large church." Grace Community was a very large church. So what was the point of coming to this Conference?.
The main idea of the Shepherd’s Conference was this. How To Be A Godly Pastor/Teacher. The idea was not how to build a large church but how to have a church ministry that is pleasing to the Lord. What kind of Church ministry does the Lord teach that we should have?
You be the kind of person you should be, you do the kind of ministry that the Lord has called you to do, you preach/teach the way the Lord called you to do it, and then you allow the Lord to do the rest in the place you are called to minister. Oh! That works!!
So I went back to Altoona, Kansas thinking "Oh, this is what kind of person I should be, doing this kind of ministry, and then we will see what the Lord will do!" I can tell you that was scarey. Because my mindset about ministry was nothing like what I had learned at the Shepherd’s Conference. From Jack Hyles/.Jerry Falwell to John MacArthur, are you kidding!
First I had to change my idea of what kind of preaching I should do. Hyles or MacArthur? What kind of ministry should we have. Soul Winning or Church Discipleship? You mean no more contests to see how many we could get to come to Sunday School! You mean no more giving away hats to kids to ride the bus? What would the church become? And maybe we would never have 1000 in Sunday School. (Let alone 200).
The primary focus may not have been on "numbers" but you desired to see new people come to the church. You were there in that town with a purpose, and since in Altoona, there were only three churches in the first place, we were interested in reaching people with the Word .
I think the difference in my mindset was this: The purpose of the local church was for the discipling of believers, for the fellowship of believers, and the worshiping of believers. So what we did on the inside of the church was for believers.
My focus as a pastor/teacher became the teaching of the Word of God, and the training of believers in the church. The focus was off getting a crowd, and on building believers up to do the work of the ministry: (Ephesians 4:12-16).
Drafted by Charles E. Whisnant and Proof Checked by Charity Whisnant May 21, 2007