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Posts Tagged ‘church growth’


No, this is not my autobiography about my leaving the Roman Catholic Church.  This is a highly recommended book by David Wells.  The Courage to be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern is his latest in a series that includes No Place for Truth, God in the Wasteland and Above All Earthly Pow’rs.  It came recommended by a pastor friend (who promised to buy the book from me if I didn’t like it).

I read the first 2 books years ago while in seminary, and just after graduating.  This book is a summary of all 3 that extends beyond them to take into account all that his happened since he began writing these books well over a decade ago.

Time Magazine said “A stinging indictment of evangelicalism’s theological corruption.”  Ironically Christianity Today (which takes some abuse in this book) said, “Can serve as a catalyst for evangelical self-examination.”

I must admit, that though I often agreed with him early on I was often thinking “yeah, so what else is new?”  I found much of it merely critical (hold onto that thought).  At times I found it confusing, but I think he cleared up my confusion.  It was in the early stages of the book that I found myself wondering “is there an appropriate cultural engagement?”  I actually wrote on the bottom of a page “Is there a difference (in his mind) between giving in to consumerism and legitimate adjustments to culture?”  I think he tried to spell that out in the latter chapters of the book.

He argues, rightly I think, that Evangelicalism is in dire straits today.  The reason for this is the abandonment of theology.  First there was an abadonment of theology at the hand of the marketers who thought the way to save the church was to get rid of its “churchiness”.  Part of what they often did was dumb-down theology.  The Reveal Study revealed that Willow Creek and other church growth churches were not actually producing disciples who could sustain and extend the kingdom.  Truth also suffered at the hands of consumerism.  It was turned into a product to be consumed, rather than a life-transforming truth to be believed.

“No one should take issue with a church for being sensitive to outsiders.  On the contrary, this is simply about being considerate.  Every church should put itself in the shoes of an outsider who visits for the first time, who knows nothing about Christian faith, and who is introduced to it in this first visit.”

I served my 9 years of ministry in a community beset with consumerism.  It was a plagued churches.  People were not concerned with the truthfulness and application of truth.  They were focused on consuming- did they have the music I like, the programs I need?  It made ministry very difficult.  We tried to be “seeker sensitive”, particularly after I watched visitors unable to keep up as we shifted between the hymnal, chorus book and Order of Worship in a losing attempt to keep up.

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More from Confessions of a Reformission Rev.

Soon Mars Hill became a stench in their neighbors’ nostrils.  The congregation had outgrown the facility, so parking problems erupted.  The loud music on Sundays created additional issues with the neighbors.  An even bigger problem loomed- the 150 barrier.

I’ve seen this in effect in churches of which I was a member.  150 is a tough barrier to break, and it has something to do with how we are made.  There is a limit to the number of folks the average guy can relate to.  And that number is …. 150.  So in his attempt to overcome this obstacle, he went to 2 services (like many a pastor before him).  As many other congregations before had done, they resisted.

This is a familiar concept.  Churches want to grow- just not too much.  We want a village.  We don’t want a church like a city- a large community of multiple smaller communities (neighborhoods).  Driscoll tried to address this.  Yes, some pastors are ambitous.  But many long to see the advance of the gospel tangibly.  Church growth is not an evil thing, though it can be pursued for wrong reasons, and wrong means.

To artificially limit the growth of a church could be sinful.  It is placing our preferences above what God may choose to do.  I didn’t see Him asking the early church how they felt about Him adding 3,000 to their number in one day, or the continual growth thereafter.  They rejoiced!  And so should we.

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