You can find a list of some of my other blog posts on the “Church Growth Movement” here
FORBES AND WALL STREET V.S. THE NEW TESTAMENT
There are many within churches, parachurch organizations, and mission organizations today that believe if you “push the right buttons,” and if you “implement this or that particular program,” and if you exert “this or that particular type of effort,” then your church is assured to grow numerically. The words “rapid” and “exponential” tend to dominate much of the church growth literature today. However, when we look closely at the Bible, we find that none of this is in Scripture. Much of the Church-Growth Movement type of ministry philosophy is based more on Forbes and Wall Street than it is the New Testament (paraphrased from pastor J.R. Briggs in his book “Fail“). I’ve entitled some of my other articles with the tag of a “Forgotten Verse of the Church Growth Movement,” and this is for a reason: They have forgotten, or maybe have never even seen, these verses that directly contradict their methods for church growth. I do not doubt the motives or the sincerity of most of these people within these churches and parachurch organizations; I believe they are, unknowingly, simply the products of a ministry philosophy that they have grown up with and they assume is biblically based, but is not. I know of no pastor or Godly church member that does not want his/her church to grow numerically. We all desire to see people saved and discipled, but the Church-Growth Movement philosophy discards the Bible when seeking the proper means to this end or most any Godly end. We must find not only our ends but also the means to those ends, in the Bible alone and nowhere else. If we believe that the Bible is God’s holy, inerrant and all-sufficient Word, then it should be all we need to both grow and sustain a church spiritually first, and then we can begin to look at numbers in a healthier manner.
JOHN 3:3-8-“BORN OF THE SPIRIT”
Yet another verse that has been forgotten by the Church-Growth Movement is John 3:3-8:
3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
DEFINING “BORN AGAIN”
The point of this passage is the concept of being “born again.” Jesus says that “unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” One is, basically, not a Christian and they are not saved unless they are “born again.” What does it mean for one to be “born again”? Jesus says in verse 6 that being “born again” is to be “born of the Spirit…” (verse 6b). If you are “born again,” then you are “born of the Spirit,” meaning, the Spirit of God, or, the Holy Spirit, is the One that has caused you to be “born again.”
BEING “BORN AGAIN” IS LIKE & UNLIKE BEING BORN PHYSICALLY
Jesus both compares and contrasts being “born of the Spirit” with being “born of the flesh” (verse 6a). There are similarities to being born physically that are akin to being born spiritually. The primary similarity that Jesus is pointing out here is that humans are the ones responsible, in the natural, for other humans being born. The act of sexual intimacy brings about conception and this leads to, Lord willing, the birth of a physical child. The agency by which the physical child is being born is the physical act between two physical beings, namely, a male and a female. On the other hand, the Holy Spirit is the primary agent by which one is born again; He is the One that is causing this to happen. No human can cause another to be born again since it is the Holy Spirit that causes one to be born again. No human can cause another to be born again since it is the Holy Spirit that causes one to be born again Click To Tweet. The primary means that the Holy Spirit uses to cause one to be “born again” is the Word of God preached and/or taught (see 1 Peter 1:23 and also 1 Corinthians 3:5-9). Once the Word of God is planted, and once it is watered by others, then it is the Holy Spirit’s job to bring that seed to life so that it can live and bear fruit.
JESUS’ WORDS V.S. THE CHURCH-GROWTH MOVEMENT
What are the principles being taught within this biblical text that the Church-Growth Movement is missing? There are many operating within the Church Growth Movement paradigm that seem to believe that we can “cause” others to be born again. There are scores of books written on detailed strategies and techniques that tell us how to make our churches “bigger and better.” A symptom of this philosophy in churches, mission organizations, and others would be the following question that is posed to many church leaders: “Why isn’t our church growing?” We can assume that this person is not asking about spiritual growth, but about numerical growth. Oftentimes this is not a malicious question, but there is often great concern and zeal for God’s church underlying this question. When one looks out across the sanctuary or at the missions-report for the new church-plant in India, stakeholders get concerned and are wondering why there aren’t more “results.” Let’s think about Jesus’ words above and try to apply His words to the idea of a growing a church numerically. Certainly, we are to plant and we are to water seeds, but can any person do that which is supernatural? Does Jesus say above that flesh can birth that which is spirit? Maybe the church is not growing because God has not caused others yet to be born again by His Holy Spirit? Maybe God is building patience and endurance within His church to trust in the work that only He can do? Oftentimes we are impatience with God’s processes and we seek to rely upon our own processes to prematurely manufacture “the product” of “more people/greater numbers in our churches.” Surely attempting to bring about the results that only God can do, by our own means, does nothing but ultimately hurt the church, and its witness, in the long run. Anytime we run ahead of God and refuse to rely upon His promises, we will take matters into our own hands and we will produce an Ishmael rather than an Isaac (see Genesis 16). Could it be possible that we have allowed American/Western business models to shape the way we view and operate a church more so than the principles within the Bible? Could it be possible that we have allowed American/Western business models to shape the way we view and operate a church more so than the principles within the Bible? Click To Tweet If being “born again” is really a work of the Holy Spirit, then why do we so often reveal, with our frustrations and discontentment within the church, that we believe that it is our work to cause others to be “born again”?
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