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Questions Part 3: Church Growth

I am taking some time to write about a series of questions Timmy Brister posted on his blog.  You can find the full list here.  There are 21 questions and I plan to write about the 6 that I have highlighted on the list I printed out and hung on my office wall. This is the 3rd of the 6 questions I plan to take a look at.


What are we allowing to be the measuring stick of church health?

Brister gives some different concepts that are sometimes used to measure church growth. They are:
  • attendance
  • discipleship
  • seating capacity
  • sending capacity
  • gospel growth
  • training on mission
I think this question is one that must be revisited often and, as much as possible, kept in the front of our minds.  Our very nature leads us to seek out success and health in measurable ways.  We desire to be able to chart our progress with spreadsheets and year by year comparisons of attendance, membership, and giving records.  Sadly, what often happens is that these things become the goal we strive for rather than a way to gauge if we are progressing toward our actual goal.  When benchmarks become goals in and of themselves, then seeing those benchmarks become reality becomes the priority of the church.  This usually leads to soft pedaling the gospel in the hopes of not scaring people away and focusing on trying to give people what they want at church rather than what they need.

The truth is that a healthy church is one that is made up of health followers of Christ and trying to measure the spiritual health of individuals can be a tricky proposition.  While there are fruits that evidence themselves in the lives of maturing believers, fruit can be faked especially if a person is able to maintain a distance between themselves and other members of their community.  While sanctification does occur in the life of the maturing believer, sanctification is progressive and not everyone progresses at the same pace.  

The bottom line is that spiritual health, be it individual or corporate, is not nearly as easily measured and quantified as we would like it to be.  When we boil it down to three or four benchmarks we do ourselves and our congregations a disservice.  We can't just look at attendance, giving, or membership.  What do we do then?  I believe we humble ourselves before the throne of God's grace and ask for wisdom, guidance, and power to lead and obey as we shepherd the flocks He has given us toward health, whatever it may look like.



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