Big? Or Healthy? If You HAD to Choose…

King and Queen 200cChurch health and church growth are not mutually exclusive.

There are plenty of large, healthy churches that do both – and way too many unhealthy small ones that do neither.

But one doesn’t necessarily lead to the other.

Not all healthy churches grow big. And not all big churches are healthy.

In more than 30 years of pastoral ministry, I’ve discovered that there are times when I have to make church growth choices or church health choices, but I can’t always have both.

Here are some ways that might occur:

  • I have the money to buy a church growth book, or a spiritual growth book, but not both. Which one gets my hard-earned cash?
  • I have the time to attend only one conference this year – do I attend the church growth conference or the prayer retreat?
  • The bi-vocational pastor has only two weeks of vacation. Should that week be spent camping with the family, or at a pastor’s conference?


No One Can Walk Through Two Doors at Once

When we decide for one option, it often closes the door for the other. That’s not always the case. It’s not usually the case. But it is sometimes the case. That’s just life.

Yes, we serve an almighty God with unlimited resources, time and energy. But I’m not him. I can’t always do “both and…”. Sometimes I have to choose one or the other.

So, I sometimes have to ask myself, on those occasions when they are mutually exclusive, and I have to choose for health or for growth, which will I choose?

I’ve decided I’ll always choose for church health.

I’ve become such a fan of church health, that even when I can choose both, I’d rather pick two church health options than pick one church health option and one church growth option.

Here’s why.


Why I’ll Always Choose Health First

If we choose for church health and that also leads to growth, that’s great! But if we choose for health and it only leads to health, but not growth … that’s also great. At least we have a healthier church.

On the other hand, if we choose for church growth and it leads to health, that’s great too! But if we choose for church growth and it only leads to church growth, but not health … that’s not good at all.

If we all started choosing for health and left the growth to God, what would happen? Does anyone really believe that would hinder church growth? Or is it possible that maybe, just maybe the end result would be a world filled with healthier churches, both large and small?

If so, would it matter how big they were any more?


So what do you think? Have you ever had to make choices for health instead of growth? What happened as a result?

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(King & Queen Chess Pieces photo from Nina Matthews Photography • Flickr • Creative Commons license)

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4 thoughts on “Big? Or Healthy? If You HAD to Choose…”

  1. Once again Karl, you’re right on.

    Sad thing tho, that I see happening (and it can be maddening sometimes) is that where “Church Health” has become the new by-word of the day – in so many circles it has become (or has always been) synonymous with numerical growth. (e.g. “All healthy things grow…”)

  2. Karl,
    I like the direction of your examples. Church health begins with Pastoral health and that begins with spiritual health. From my experience we can have church growth, “salvations” from growth principles, yet most discipleship/disciples (what we are called to produce) comes from personal, then church, spiritual health. Our well has to be full to minister, to love, lead others.

    I appreciate the reminder to keep this in focus – go deep and allow God to bring health AND growth.

    Blessings to you.

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