Church growth has become a science and an industry. Because of this, we sometimes think we know more than we do.
When a church grows numerically, we celebrate it. Then we use that church as an example to follow. In most cases those churches are probably worth learning from. But not in every case.
Here are five assumptions to be careful about when a church gets really big, really fast:
1. Don’t Assume You Know What Caused It
As the old saying goes, correlation is not causation. Just because you did ABC before D happened doesn’t necessarily mean that ABC caused D to happen.
Certainly, there are principles that pave the way for church health and growth. But true church growth is more the result of God’s divine plan than our human strategies.
2. Don’t Assume It’s Repeatable
This has been one of the biggest causes of disappointment in so many pastors. They see numerical growth in one situation, so they assume they can do the same in a new situation. But it’s seldom as repeatable as we’ve been led to believe.
Principles are transferable, results are not. What works in one time and place has no guarantee of working in another time or place. There are too many unforeseeable factors.
Learn from others and build on your successes. But always remember what Han Solo said to Luke Skywalker. “Great, kid! Don’t get cocky.”
3. Don’t Assume The Successes Won’t Stop
Nothing on this earth lasts forever – including your church successes.
Jesus said his church would prevail, but he never promised that individual congregations would. And if we’ve learned anything from so many recent megachurch crashes, numerical success is not perpetually sustainable.
Down times will come. That’s okay.
4. Don’t Assume You’re Better Than Other Churches
Any honest look at the New Testament shows us that Jesus has as much (if not more) love for the small and struggling as he does for the big and blessed. The idea that bigger is better is one of the oldest and most stubborn false teachings there is.
Don’t fall for it. Or fall, you will.
5. Don’t Assume It’s A Sign Of God’s Blessing
Sometimes numerical growth is a result of God’s blessing. But not always.
We’ve all known of churches that seem to be blessed by God with growth, only to to see it come tumbling down when some very ungodly foundations are exposed. On the other side, there are so many good churches that can’t seem to win the numbers game.
There is no biblical promise that faithfulness will lead to numerical success.
Stay grateful. Stay humble. And stay focused on Jesus.
(Photo by Kelly Marine | Flickr)