Monday, February 7, 2011

Big Church I

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." These words form the Great Commission of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20) to his disciples to go out and spread his word to everyone. They represent instruction that is meant as much for us today as it was for his disciples some 2000 years ago.

It is natural when pursuing a goal to keep track of progress. For the church, one standard measure of success in carrying out its charge is to quantify and track the number of attendees from week to week. As the numbers grow with time, churches celebrate their success. Resolve to continue to grow and strive for more and more, pushes church leaders to devote effort and resources to ensure the positive feedback loop continues.

The church that I currently attend has every reason to be proud of their efforts given this measure of success. The church officially started about 8 years ago with a group of about 50 folks. For five years they met in the gym at the local YMCA and slowly and consistently grew until they averaged an attendance of 500 each Sunday and were having two services. They then expanded to two locations and three service times and continued to grow to an average weekly attendance of about 800. Starting about two years ago they built their own building on their own property, and are now averaging about 2000 folks each week in five Sunday services. Next month they will join the growing ranks of churches operating in a "multi-site" mode. The church leaders forecast that their growth trend will continue and they plan to continue seeding the area with separate "campuses" and will continue to push their metric of success, namely growing their weekly attendance.

I find the rapid growth of my church both exciting and worrisome. On one hand growth does indicate that they are bringing people to God. However, an important part of a church is the connection and fellowship of its body. It seems to me that without great care, the very growth model that the church leadership is pushing and driving can make the church a very impersonal building filled with very separate individuals. Individuals who are in danger of living not in the breadth and depth of the Word, but skimming along on the surface, ignorant of the truth.

(Part 1 of 4)