It always happens… I buy my kid a new pair of shoes and 2 days later, there too small. Living things grow out of stuff, in a functional sense, but this evaluation has to do with how the living church should grow out in a social, gospel-oriented sense.
Here I’ll give my daughter a break and offer up my son as a sacrificial analogy. My boy, Isaac, has two social groups: family and church family. He does not have a facebook page, he does not have classmates, and he has not wandered out on his own to develop friendships with any of the neighbor kids (which is probably a good thing because right now he just licks stuff, and people, for no reason at all). This is acceptable because he’s 2. If the same can be said when he’s 25 then there’s a problem (especially if he’s still licking everything). Children are supposed to grow up and go out. That’s healthy.
In my previous three posts I explained the Hokey-Pokey Evaluation Concept and we talked through the first two, of four, phases of a living thing – Living Things Grow Up & Living Things Grow In. In this post we hit stage three . . . Growing Out
LIVING CHURCHES GROW OUT
For the church or a church ministry, outward growth (i.e. numerical growth) is a sign of health and the Lord’s blessing. Think of it in terms of a lake. A lake that has no inlet of fresh, new water is what? Doomed. At best it becomes a stale, stinky, lifeless pond. At worst it dries up completely. The same can be said of any church or ministry.
Every week you send the people who are part of that ministry out. Their going out to life, out to the world, out to their jobs, their families, their friends . . . wouldn’t it make sense, as they come back to gather together, that someone or many someones would attach themselves to one of them.
In all honest, this is not an evangelism thing (although that is bound to be a byproduct), instead this is a genuine God-fellowship, community thing. If people are growing functionally and spiritually through your ministry, if they are “seeing” God then your gathering should naturally grow. Contrary to popular conviction, people are looking for God-genuine, not God the way that fits a denomination or a Christian culture. People want the God of the Bible . . . but only if He’s real. A group/ministry that’s experiencing, reflecting and teaching the real God of the Bible will attract genuine seekers.
BUT, BUT, BUT . . .
People long for a real God and they are equally longing for absolute truth. If you have both, you should see growth. And don’t quote 2 Timothy 4 to me, “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” because I’ll read through to the next verse “As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” and then continue on through all of the commands and promises that God will grow His church all the way up to the day of His return.
Now, before you dump a ministry or begin flinging accusations around at ministry leaders, it’s good to remember that outward growth takes time. Relationships don’t sprout magically like beans from a children’s fairytale. True outward growth demands effort and intentionality. It necessitates the development of trust. It requires intimacy, vulnerability, honesty, confession . . . all things that take time. Be patient, be intentional, give it time.
Is your church/ministry growing numerically? Have you seen people saved? Have you seen people sent out (which effects the numbers)? Is it possible that you’ve closed off the inlets and the channels that would allow new, fresh water in? What’s being done to maintain those openings? How are you building new ones?
1 Corinthians 3:6-7
2 Corinthians 10:15
. . . and pretty much the entire book of Acts