On Church Growth and Personal Holiness

This is not going to be another rant against the church growth movement. Though there are major problems in the seeker movement as we all know, we should all be for church growth. In fact it seems almost impossible for a church to be fulfilling the great commission without some kind of growth taking place. We are to go out and make disciples, when they come in, they too are to grow to the place where they go out and make more disciples.

Many times though, it seems to come down to, “if we get this program going, more people will show up.” And sometimes this is true, but it really is amazing what we can accomplish without God’s Spirit moving. It is true that nothing happens outside the providence of God, and even kings have their authority because of His establishing them, but this is not the same as God’s Spirit moving on the congregation in a sanctifying way.

The idea of common grace and saving grace applies not only to individuals but to churches also. A church can grow in number and wealth if it has the right marketing plan, along with a number of other good strategies, but this does not necessarily mean anything spiritual is happening there.

A church where all of the congregants live worldly lives for the entire week is not really growing, even if it is getting more numbers in on a regular basis. We cannot really call it church growth when the majority of a local church is involved in much of the same sinful lifestyle as the rest of the world. When they spend their week chasing after self-glory, personal peace and affluence, and lets the Word of God sit unread the entire week with no real prayer life, it doesn’t matter how big the church is.

In fact, this seems to be a problem in many small non-growing churches also. The people come on Sunday and see a low attendance and wonder why the pastor isn’t bringing in more people with his sermons.  Yet there is no real desire for personal holiness in their lives. After spending the entire week with no real thoughts on Godliness they come to church and expect something to happen, but when we spend a good portion of our time doing things God hates, and not doing the things He loves, we shouldn’t expect much to happen at our church.

It seems that real church growth will not happen when there is no desire for personal holiness in the lives of its people. And when there is a desire, and progress is being made in personal holiness, church growth has already begun. We don’t need more programs that will bring more people in to be just like everybody else in the world. We need people in the church to grow in Godliness and as this happens we will not need programs to bring in the people. The church will grow because the people will be bringing them in, and more programs will be developed to accompany the need for the people who are coming in desiring to know Christ and be more like Him.

So maybe this was a bit of a rant, but it wasn’t really against the church growth movement. It was against the idea that personal holiness can be neglected, while church growth is to be expected, and this happens in some churches with big marketing plans, and some without them.

As we grow to be more like Christ
And by the world we are less enticed,
In our hearts God’s Spirit’s moving,
Then of our growth He is approving.

Doug Eaton

2 thoughts on “On Church Growth and Personal Holiness

  1. Absolutely! There are many churches that I have visited that spend an extraordinary amount of time and effort on advertising, collections, preaching about why people should give them money and adapting their services to attract the biggest possible crowds.

    It makes a lot of sense from a business perspective, but the body of Christ is not a business. The focus should be on fellowship, spiritual growth, increasing holiness and bearing fruit.


  2. Churches need to learn to distinguish “good growth” from “bad growth”. Growth in itself is not necessarily good. The Presbyterian churches grew their way out of orthodoxy years ago. (I can make that little jab because I’m a Presbyterian. Don’t you say it though.)

    Quality is everything. If there is no truth there is nothing else of any value. The theological content of a Church is absolutely central. After that, being able to speak to those whom God has given you to speak to is the priority. That involves form and the ability to present that truth in a way that gives others the opportunity to receive it. And that is for the most part the whole job of the Church as a means of grace. Speaking the truth in love.

    If the Church is doing its job, numbers are God’s problem. He measures the success and brings the numbers He brings. The thing to watch out for is the tendency of churches to deny the need to either preach a pure message or to do so in the form necessary to the time and place they are in, and then blame the people for either demanding the truth or wanting it in a form that is beautiful, thoughtful, and applicable to their lives.

    I find that most churches choose one or the other.



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