Church Growth, Health…or Survival?

I came across a quote by a long-time pastor that was in a newspaper and it said this: “In the first five years of ministry I had a sign on my desk that read Win the world for Christ. My second five years of ministry I put up a new sign that said Win one or two for Christ. And then now, later in my ministry I have a sign on my desk that says Try not to lose too many.”

I thought that was kind of funny, but I think a lot of people are facing that reality right now. On the church level, I’ve seen the church go from the Church Growth movement of the ‘90s into Church Health, which I think was actually a step in the right direction. But in a lot of ways, we find ourselves today in Church Survival mode. 

The drum I often beat has to do with being effective and efficient in ministry; doing what we’re called to do as efficiently as possible at a reasonable cost and not squandering resources on things that don’t contribute to making disciples. Now we find ourselves in this weird season where some churches have closed their doors and will never reopen, where some pastors have been laid off and will never be rehired, and where the look of Christianity in the world as a whole is uncertain. What will it look like when it comes out in the wash?

Certainly there is going to be what I call, in the most positive way, a “consolidation”.

Maybe we should use this time as a time to repurpose our individual churches and ministries. By repurpose I mean not to change the Biblical purposes, but actually to reengage with the Biblical purposes, to recognize that we are called to make disciples and that local churches should help us reach our friends and be disciples who make disciples. Maybe the programming we have in our churches should not be simply about Building the Believer, but also Reaching the Lost, Equipping the Workers, and Multiplying Ministries. (Thank you Sonlife)

If we get serious about making disciples and figure out how to make disciples, both online and offline, that’ll take care of the church growth issue. That will take care of the church health issue, and it will certainly take care of the church survival issue. 

Now it doesn’t mean pastors’ jobs will be secure in the vocational sense. I think there are going to be a lot less full-time vocational pastors when things come out in the wash here. This is uncomfortable because we’ve been trained to do ministry a certain way, but I think the health and vitality of the church is going to depend on bi-vocational pastors and on everyday Christians carrying out the Everyday Commission and being disciples who make disciples regardless of what their job is.

By the way, let’s remember, our job is to make disciples. Jesus is the one who builds the church. Sometimes we get that mixed up. Sometimes we think that building the church, protecting the church and saving the church is up to us. Jesus does that. Our job is to make disciples and follow Him passionately.

So if nothing else in this season, let’s repurpose what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ, to be a Christian leader, and to be a church or a group of people who do life together following Jesus- being disciples who make disciples. If we can do that, there will be some great good that comes out of this season of unsettledness, pain, fear and trauma.

So press on. Follow the right leader. Be a disciple who makes disciples. God bless.

(And don’t settle for survival!)

1 thought on “Church Growth, Health…or Survival?”

  1. Yes, Lord Jesus, Help us lead the lost to you, And make Disciples of them, Leading the way, By Loveing them into the Kingdom of GOD.


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