Reading the book of Acts taught me something that might shock many Christians. Today in our Western churches, we have church growth all wrong. I think this shocks many people because you can look at so many different megachurches and go wow, these churches know something that we don’t. How can anyone say that those churches don’t know how to grow? Think about this, are we seeing a growing number of Christians across the United States? We are not; what we are seeing is a decline in Christianity. If churches knew how to grow biblically, why are we seeing this? Let’s dig deep into the false way churches look to expand.
Where is The Holy Spirit in The Church?
One of the first things we must understand about the Church’s foundation is what happened in Acts 2. The disciples first waited; they did not move forward without the Holy Spirit. Then, they waited for the Spirit of God to descend; in that time, they prayed and waited for power.
Does that sound like your local Church? Churches don’t tend to wait in America because we are all about action and getting things done. The problem with this is that the scriptures tell us that we can do NOTHING apart from God. Therefore, there should never be a moment where we look to move forward without him.
Churches do not grow biblically because they often do not wait on God. Churches want success now, and if they have to do it in ways outside of what the Bible has called us to, then so be it. Most Americans are uncomfortable waiting for anything, especially in the days of Netflix and our on-demand economy.
They Caught Fire and Moved
When the Holy Spirit descended on them by the grace of God, it led to something extraordinary happening. They spoke in tongues, began to preach, and people understood them even if they spoke another language. By the end of Acts 2, thousands of people were saved. Throughout the chapter, the Holy Spirit comes upon people, and things change.
The Holy Spirit in our churches gets tamed. New Christians want to go off and tell everyone about who Jesus is; others put that fire out. People put the fire because they don’t want to feel bad. They don’t want to see others evangelizing and reminding them of how they never do. They don’t want to be challenged out of their comfort zone.
Sadly this is the crab in the bucket mentality. In neighborhoods of poverty, you see this. People don’t want to see anyone make it out, and it becomes the goal to hold everyone back so that no one thrives. Sadly the Church has adopted this way of thinking.
The Franchise Model in The Church
The Holy Spirit is nowhere to be found in many churches because of the McDonaldization of churches. We are led to believe in America that more is better. More money is better, and a church with more people is better, but this is not the case. Since we believe this, we will do anything to have proven models that produce larger churches. Waiting for the Holy Spirit and asking God to move becomes pointless because we want to will our way to what we want.
Here is how we see this:
- Sermons that cant be longer than 30 mins
- Church planting that has churches look the same way
- Churches where prayer is not a focus
- Churches that want every gathering to be as predictable as possible
- Churches that know what to do from what other churches are doing
The franchise model is killing us. In the Western Church, we have created very predictable churches. You walk in and expect two songs, a sermon, and two songs. Why? Did the Bible specifically say that we should do this? No, it has not. I am not saying the Bible does not speak to sing songs of worship or listen to the sermon, but we have created random rules.
How Do Churches in the West Grow?
Churches in the West grow by creating churches that are appealing to Christians. Let’s explore how this happens.
Think about this for a second. Would non-Christians ever be sitting around thinking about visiting a website for a church? No, because a non-Christian is not concerned about the things of God. But most churches today spent time worrying about making their website look awesome. Having a website is not bad, but when we focus on it, we show people what we think is important. In addition, websites are meant to attract people who already know Jesus.
When recruiting new Christians, they do not think about checking out a website. They will likely attend a church because someone asked them to, and they do not know what Church is about. They don’t get why we sing or listen to a sermon. They don’t understand confession and why it’s important. The solution to this lack of understanding is good discipleship.
The second thing churches do to promote themselves to Christians is to offer many programs.
- Men’s ministry
- Woman’s ministry
- Small group
- Youth Group
- Young Adults
- Bible study
All of these ministries are things Christians look for. New Christians are not looking for programs at a church. New Christians are just amazed at Jesus, and they want to know more about who he is. They are hungry for more Jesus, but they have no idea about all of these programs.
Programs are a way to make us feel busy, but they take us away from our real work. The real work is to be a disciple and make disciples. It’s to become a community so we can go out and make disciples of all nations. But, unfortunately, some people care more about what people offer for kids than actually being a disciple. I see these churches out here building slides in their building to draw in parents because we care more about comfort than sharing the Gospel.
Comfort is a Must
The idle of comfort. I could write an entire article on this. The most important thing for Christians in America is comfort. We don’t choose churches based on who will challenge us to live out what the Bible calls us to. Many people choose pastors based on who will entertain them, not who will convict them. People choose what is right or wrong based on what feels good.
If something makes us uncomfortable, we assume it’s terrible, and God can’t call us to it. You see this in all of the choices Americans make. People don’t live where they can have a Gospel impact; they live where the world says it makes sense. The idle of comfort is everywhere in our culture and has seeped into the Church horribly.
Everything churches do is in the name of comfort. So we have to get comfortable chairs and have the best coffee. Everything is designed to make people feel warm, loved, and welcome so they are comfortable coming to Church. I am not saying that stuff is bad, but the Church’s goal is not your comfort.
The End Goal = Grow By Getting People to Switch Churches
Here is what all of this leads to. Today in our churches, we expect growth to come from people switching churches. We know that no one is evangelizing, so we want to see the Church grow by showing Christians at other churches that our Church is cooler than your Church. So here you have it if you want to know why most churches compete instead of working together. It’s because churches are not evangelizing and bringing in new Christians.
The end goal of the Church is to bring more people to know Christ, not find people who already know him, and get more butts in seats so we can have more money and be even more comfortable.