Numerical Growth as a Double Standard
Posted on February 7, 2011 by Dan
I want to share a great quote from Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion, by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck:
“Fix-the-church books almost always figure that declining church attendance … means the church has messed something up. Even though the new crop of church books decry the old church-growth models, they still operate with the same basic assumption: namely, that churches should be growing and something is wrong with the church that isn’t.We’ve written before that ministry progress is not measured by numerical growth, but by the creation of disciples who make other disciples. But this post is exposing the double standard, those who would “have their cake and eat it, too.”
This assumption, however, is alien to the New Testament. Didn’t Jesus say tell us that “the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:14)? Wasn’t the early church of Philadelphia commended by the Lord Jesus even though they were facing opposition and had “little power” (Rev. 3:7-13)? There is simply no biblical teaching to indicate that church size is the measure of success.
Authors like George Barna like to use statistics showing the decline in church attendance to damn the church, but then quickly defend the 5-person house church because “progress is not measured by numbers.” So if the institutional church is losing numbers, it is always because they are doing church wrong. But if organic churches are not growing, then it’s for some other reason. All I’m asking for here is fairness. Isn’t it possible that a particular church isn’t growing because it is rightly teaching Law and Gospel and people don’t like to hear it? Isn’t it possible that a particular organic church isn’t growing because of the home leader’s pride? It works both ways, which is why numbers are not a good indicator of spiritual maturity nor ministry progress, no matter what church model we’re discussing.