“How big is your church?” is the most-asked question I get when I tell someone I’m a pastor. Most people that read this blog post will fall into one of two categories when it comes to churches evaluating attendance numbers…
- Why are you even counting? This isn’t an organization! Numbers don’t matter. Discipleship does.
- Numbers are THE barometer of a church’s success. Bigger is better!
As a side note, a lot of people I meet in Spring Hill have been in churches that equated “bigger” with “better”, became disillusioned, and are now violent category 1 members. Here’s the passage by which we should evaluate this issue – Jesus’ assignment to the church:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.
When it comes to evaluating a church’s success, there are two parts to this command:
- “Go and make”
- “Disciple and teach”
If fulfilling both of those parts of Jesus’ “Great Commission” = success, here are some ways we can FAIL as a church…
- By simply making spectators. We can grow to having a crowd of thousands at our weekend worship gatherings by using cool video, having a great band, and me learning to be funnier (and smarter and better looking), but if all we’re doing is getting more spectators, we’re utterly FAILING.
- By simply “making converts”. While this is a LOT BETTER than the first way to fail, if a church is totally focused on the “number of decisions” and not discipling people after conversion, it’s failing to fulfill Jesus’ assignment. I once heard a VERY evangelistic pastor say, “We’re too busy gettin’ em’ saved; we don’t have time for discipleship” #FAIL
- By being anything other than rabidly evangelistic. On the other hand, I hear a lot of church leaders say things like “discipleship is more important than growth” as an excuse not to grow. There are billions of people dying and going to hell. They live in our neighborhoods and work in our offices. If we’re not sold out on reaching the people in our community and seeing the church grow, we’re FAILING.
Numbers do matter because we’re told to “go and make” but they’re not our standard of success because we’re told to “disciple and teach”. Here’s the phrase our staff has adopted during this season of quick growth in The Bridge…
Growth doesn’t equal health, but healthy things grow.
For more on this, here’s a post I wrote about a year ago: “The church is getting too big”