3/31/2011 7:12 AM
I recently listened to a webinar where yet another senior pastor from a growing mega-church (down south) describes the 'magic formula' he used to make his church a huge success.
There are tons of church leadership books, conferences and seminars out there where these pastors and churches are lifted up like rock stars and they can't wait to tell all of us how to build a megachurch just like them. The implied message from them is that if we too will simply apply their strategies and magic formula on how to build a church, we too can have a megachurch and be a rock star pastor, as if that's what we're all striving to be.
There's so much wrong with the message they are sending out to pastors and church planters in America. We have let the corporate America thinking penetrate the Church at large and it's so not what God has called the church to be. I just wish it hadn't taken me so long to figure out because it has corrupted my thinking for too many years.
Way too many church planters go into church planting with totally unreasonable expectations. Because all we tend to hear are the stories of churches that have explosive growth from the beginning, we can become convinced that every church should be like that or the senior pastor and church is a failure. (Everything rises and falls on leadership we're taught.)
The churches that explode and have rapid growth are almost always churches located in densely populated places like the Bible-belt, Florida, Texas and California. You almost never hear of rapidly growing mega-type churches in the Northeast for instance. What does that tell us?
And there is absolutely no way I believe those kind of churches are seeing that kind of rapid growth due to reaching unchurched and lost people. I've been doing this way too long and I know it takes tremendous amounts of effort, resources and time to reach totally unchurched people. No, I think the rapid growth is often more likely due to Christians doing the church hopping thing. (Okay, I'm not saying all the growth comes from it, but come on, a good portion does!)
It bothers me that very few people and pastors are being sincere in talking about this because I have to believe they are aware of it.
We have a quickly growing church in our area and I know that many local churches have been left almost crippled because they have lost so many of their people who have hopped churches in search of the next exciting thing. This is not true church growth. This is not conversion growth. This is sheep-swapping.
One of the best and only reliable church plant studies I've seen done was by Ed Stetzer. They studied over 1000 church plants and here is a graph of how the average church plant grew over a four year period:
And again, this is the average church. Some obviously grow faster and some grow slower but much has to do with what part of the country they are located as well.
I wish I would have had this information before I started our church and I wish more conferences and pastors would talk and teach about this in healthy ways! But instead, all these conferences seem more focused on teaching and convincing pastors that they too can be rock star pastors and build megachurches! And the underlying message to them is that they are a failure if they are not leading a huge church. This is so wrong!
I am convinced that it is always been God's plan that the average church in America is around 74 people. I think God is the author of this for good reason.
I am not at all against mega churches in any way, shape or form. I think they have their place and God is in those churches too. Every healthy church should absolutely be growing! But at what rate it grows is up to God and not all about how great the senior leader is or isn't! It has to do with location, location, location! It has to do with many, many various factors.
What I am weary of and believe totally grieves the heart of God is the focus being so much on the senior leaders and the magic formulas AND judging churches and leaders by the SIZE of their church.
Pastors are as guilty if not more guilty of this than anyone. I've been to local senior pastor gatherings where all the pastors of the big churches sit together and rarely talk with anyone else. When I meet another pastor, the first thing they almost always ask is: "How many people do you have?" It's crazy if you think about it! It's wrong and I pray God will use me as a voice to encourage CHANGE!
I know how this affects pastors of smaller churches because I've seen and heard their discouragement. And I too felt discouraged early on when the church growth felt slower than what I thought it would be.
But looking at this study done by Ed Stetzer (and Lifeway?), I realize that we are very much an average church! In fact, we're actually a bit above the curve and that is absolutely awesome considering the part of the country we are in AND the fact that we have a female senior leader. :-)
Why do we humans always want to compare ourselves anyway? Isn't the goal for God to get all the glory? Christians and especially pastors should know better! If we take the glory for what God is doing, then we've wasted our lives.
Fellow pastors, do not compare yourself with anyone else! It's a waste of time and energy. Do not use the success standards of the world to measure your success in the Kingdom of God. Only God can judge each one of us for our faithfulness to do what He's called us to do.
80% or more of the people who come to BHCC come from totally unchurched backgrounds. That is incredibly exciting to me that God would trust us so much to bring these precious lambs of His to our church!
What has always surprised (and frustrated me a bit) is that more 'mature' followers of Christ haven't come to work in the field God is planting here. It's the perfect ground to plant, water and serve for a devoted follower of Christ. I believe mature followers should be choosing a church based on finding a place they can best serve the Lord and use their spiritual gifts to the best possible yield.
I pray that more mega-church leaders would humble themselves and send messages of help and encouragement to pastors who continue to labor in smaller fields. It baffles me that the larger churches don't help the smaller ones. It makes no sense according to God's blueprints. (I can't even get them to talk to me half the time. LOL!)
Judgment begins with the House of God.
1 Peter 4:17
"For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?"
Peace Out! :-)