Reflections May 2014

Church Growth
As I was preparing to preach this week, I was struck by the following summary statement in Acts 9: 

“So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up.  And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” (9:31)

And then out of curiosity I typed in “church growth” in my search engine. I came across the following “Eight Steps to Grow Your Church” from pastors.com:

1) Decide you really, really want to grow
2) Your role as pastor must change (from “Shepherd” to “Rancher” – or – from “minister” to “leader”)
3) Mobilize members for ministry
4) Begin having multiple services
5) Multiply your staff
6) Plan big days
7) Have multiple cells (care groups)
8) Expand your facility
The author’s congregation has around 20,000 members.

It may be that some of these steps would be good ideas.  Luke, in writing Acts and talking about the early Church, doesn’t hesitate to speak of the number of disciples and how they are multiplying, numerically and geographically, and so it is probably not a good idea to completely discount size as a function of whether the Lord is blessing a work or not.

But how do the “Eight Steps” and the suggestion that the church is “your” Church (which you are growing) connect with Acts 9?  In the Scripture text, it seems that multiplication / church growth coincided with “walking in the fear of the Lord” and “walking … in the comfort of the Holy Spirit”, acts which seem to indicate that the Church is the Lord’s, not ours, and that the Church multiplies when we are living in close relationship with Him, walking in His ways, experiencing His presence.

I find these two texts (the “Eight Steps” and Acts 9:31) hard to reconcile.  And “drive my cattle” doesn’t sound quite as warm as “feed my sheep.”  

It would be great if the Lord multiplies us.  I hope He does.  But I think in the end I am less comfortable with the Eight Steps and more comfortable in suggesting we learn to fear the Lord and walk in the comfort of the Holy Spirit.  And we’ll see what the Lord does.