Consider what the Word of God has to say about church ministry, growth, and health as you listen to Dr. Caldwell exposit the Scriptures:
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Is Numerical Growth a True Measure of Church Success?
We often think of a church where more and more people attend, get baptized, and become members as a growing and healthy church. Looking at some churches from the outside, they appear to be flourishing. Some have multiple service times, several locations to attend, and parking lots that always seem to be filled. But is this the right way to think about the health and success of a church? Is numerical growth a good measure of the healthiness of a church? Should we actually consider and take this approach to seeing a church grow? Can numerical growth be defended as real growth? Is it dangerous to make church growth the singular goal? Is it wrong to desire for a church to grow? Join us on the Straight Truth Podcast this week as Dr. Josh Philpot and Dr. Richard Caldwell discuss church growth and whether numerical growth is indicative of church health and success. As always, they seek to guide us to think and act biblically.
Dr. Caldwell says that when you think of church growth in regards to numbers, that’s dangerous. When numerical growth is made the goal of church ministry, that's thinking in terms of success instead of in terms of faithfulness. Yet, churches often do this. There are several different statistics that can be put on a sheet and measured that can then be compared with other churches. But, says Dr. Caldwell, he doesn’t see this emphasized in the New Testament at all. There are times that the New Testament acknowledges large numbers being added to the church, as in the book of Acts. But it’s not set forth as something to be aimed at or as any way of measuring success. It’s just acknowledged. It’s just noted as a work of God’s blessing. Success is not measured by how many are attending church. Success is measured by being faithful to the Word of God and to the responsibilities Christ has imparted to the church. We must be faithful to the means that Christ has provided for His church to grow and thrive. Faithfulness is the measure. Examples Dr. Caldwell shares include faithful shepherding, regenerate church membership, biblical baptism, a commitment to dealing with sin in the church, and exercising church discipline. These are the things he says that churches ought to be looking at, not just how many people are showing up
Making church growth your goal is dangerous because you have to figure out how to achieve that growth. You have to figure out how to get people to show up and figure out how to keep them coming back. You look at certain things and say, well, if we do this or that, people won’t come. If we say certain things, they won’t come back. As you do this, what usually happens is that you end up with things that violate Scripture or ignore Scripture because they seem to work. So you end up with a pragmatic mindset, not a biblical one, for how to do church life. And then, just because things are increasing financially or numerically, you can think you’re doing great when you’re not. In fact, you’re displeasing the Lord Jesus. As Dr. Caldwell speaks of displeasing the Lord, he reminds us of the letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation, where only two churches receive no words of correction.
We don’t want to be characterized by spiritual blindness, human wisdom, or pride. It’s vital to examine our work of ministry. It needs to accord with the biblically expressed aims of ministry. It isn’t wrong for a church to have a desire to grow. But it ought to be growth that takes place through faithful ministry and the Lord adding to the numbers in the church. When we see people being converted and genuinely saved and more people becoming hungry for sound, healthy church life being added to the congregation, that is wonderful. We can rejoice in that even though it’s not our aim, it’s a byproduct of our aim. Our aim is to be faithful to Christ. It’s His church, He’s the Chief Shepherd of it, He builds it, we don’t. We get to be part of what He is doing, but as the Apostle Paul says, some plant and some water, but the Lord gives the increase. We don’t need to lay out visions, steps, and strategies to grow the church. Statistics may prove helpful in some ways but are not a measure of the success or health of a church. Read those letters to the seven churches. Those leaders and congregations are called to faithfulness. And being faithful is what we must all be aiming at.
About The Straight Truth Podcast
The Straight Truth Podcast: Christian Opinions in an Increasingly Secular World. Join Dr. Richard Caldwell, Dr. Josh Philpot, and their guests as they discuss news events, current affairs, and cultural issues from a Biblical point of view. Find the truth at www.straighttruth.net
The Straight Truth Podcast is a weekly opinion show hosted by Dr. Richard Caldwell and Dr. Josh Philpot. Straight Truth is available as an audio podcast on iTunes or as a video podcast through YouTube or Vimeo. The duration of the podcast is approximately 10 minutes. We release new episodes every Thursday.
The topics discussed in the Straight Truth Podcast are current events, matters that challenge traditional Christian values, and questions submitted by audience members. Dr. Caldwell, Dr. Philpot, and their guests seek to answer these questions with Biblical truths and from a Christian conservative point of view. The Holy Bible is the inspired, infallible, and inerrant Word of God; it alone is and will be the basis and authority of
answering any and all questions.
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