Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Growth Versus Growth

In an article by Peter Drucker (Managing Oneself, Harvard Business Review, January 2005) Peter makes an interesting point about personal values. He uses the example of two "successful" churches
and how they have differing values concerning what constitutes "success":

"Value conflicts are not limited to business organizations. One of the fastest growing pastoral churches in the United States measures success by the number of new parishioners. Its leadership believes that what matters is how many newcomers join the congregation. The Good Lord will then minister to their spiritual needs or at least to the needs of a sufficient percentage. Another pastoral, evangelical church believes that what matters is people's spiritual growth. The church eases out newcomers who join but do not enter into its spiritual life."

He goes on to evaluate each stance:

"…this is not a matter of numbers. At first glance, it appears that the second church grows more slowly. But it retains a far larger proportion of newcomers than the first one does. Its growth, in other words, is more solid. This is also not a theological problem, or only secondarily so. It is a problem about values. In a public debate, one pastor argued, 'Unless you first come to church, you will never find the gate to the Kingdom of Heaven.' 'No,' answered the other. 'Until you first look for the gate to the Kingdom of Heaven, you don't belong in church.'"

Peter goes on to explain that neither values are particularly wrong, but that they fit with each organization's value system in how they operate. The church that just wants to reach the lost, will tend to focus on that more than the spiritual needs of it's members, while the church that really wants maturing disciples of Christ will focus their efforts on that more than trying to bring in people who will be indifferent to spiritual growth.

What's interesting is that the church that focused more on spiritual health and growth had a more long-term approach to soul-winning than the former church. Yet was growing in more new members than the other church. Following, the church that spent time soul-winning actually did mature members who really wanted it. They both were effective. They just had a different value system.

Why some churches fail when valuing either position.

The problem with some churches isn't an either/or issue. I've seen churches who focus squarely on growth, even to the detriment of sound doctrine. They grow fast sometimes, but die just as fast. They seem to just run out of gas. Then I've been around churches that focus on the spiritual growth of its members to the detriment of clear purpose. Instead of creating an atmosphere of discerning, serving, disciples of Christ, they invent a club atmosphere. And these churches don't really grow. They just stagnate. Doctrines and decisions become a matter of taste and comfort for the existing members, rather than become the challenging soil of deep transformation.

Do who you are well, in the will of Christ, and you will have an attractive church. In fact, you will probably attract the right people to your church. Remember, Jesus not only bid people to follow him, but he dared people to follow him and he prequalified people to follow him. Churches can do all these things at differing degrees, depending on the personality of each church. But, to do any of them without understanding is sin.

Where am I in all this?

The real issue here is where I, as an individual, fit it? Does the church I belong to not only teach sound doctrine, but do my values fit with theirs. Otherwise, I will find myself frustrated and constantly working against the grain. This doesn't mean that either of us are working against God's will (though that can be possible too), but that God may want me elsewhere where my talents, experiences, and values will be a better fit. This may sound sort of individualistic, but this is a very real issue sometimes. Even in the early church, not everyone worked well together all the time, and sometimes unpleasant adjustments had to be made. But, God grew the church anyway and His work was getting done.

What do you think?

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