Saturday

On "church growth"

A "small groups" program offered within the confines of the Church and organized with a primarily ecclesial agenda of inclusivism (e.g., evangelism, church growth [become one of us]) is not a faithful replication of Wesley's Classes and Bands as contexts for significant spiritual direction.

I began to minister to the church as an adult in the late 80s and 90s. During that time “church growth” was what it was all about. Everyone was so thoroughly concerned with the numbers board that it became difficult for pastors to focus on much else. I remember one pastor’s goal in my home church was to change the sanctuary so that it would comply with all of the “church growth” formulas. He accomplished that and did some other things, but that’s all I remember about his ministry. When my first husband became a pastor, the two churches he led were very concerned about numbers. They complained a lot because numbers weren’t up to where they thought they should be. It seemed like they were more concerned about numbers than spiritual growth in the church. As a product of the 80s I was affected by this too and sometimes wondered what we, my husband and I, were doing wrong.

What would happen in our churches if we concentrated very little on numbers and focused on growing our congregation through the Classes and Bands approach? It might take a while, but as people witnessed their own spiritual growth through the classes and were delivered from habits, I bet numbers would jump as people became more excited about their faith and began sharing it with others.