I’ve been thinking about how one would define a growing church this week as a result of a recent conversation who thought VCF was too small for their preferences. Obviously, there’s more than one way for churches to grow. But over the last forty years or so we’ve been given one model of church growth almost exclusively. Get more people in the building. “Bigger is Better!”
That model is so prevalent that when I dare to suggest many small churches are healthy churches with my peers as an important part to play to the body of Christ, I’m met with an incredulous chorus of how can it be healthy if it’s not growing [numerically]?
The answer? Nothing in nature keeps growing continuously. Every healthy organism grows bigger until it reaches maturity, then it grows in other ways after that.
What if gathering a bigger crowd isn’t the only way for the kingdom of God to advance in a local church body? What if, for some churches and ministries like VCF, a bigger crowd might actually be counterproductive to the way God designed them to grow, reproduce and contribute to the body of Christ?
Now, a numerically growing church is a wonderful thing and it is exciting to see people coming to VCF with life changing transformation. But it’s not the only thing. Any definition of church growth that doesn’t allow for, even celebrate, churches that contribute to the body of Christ in ways other than constant numerical growth may be missing out on the benefits those churches can bring.
Another challenge from an over-emphasis on church size is if getting bigger is the only contribution we acknowledge, then any church not experiencing constant numerical increase feel like failures.
I was thinking just this week as we are challenged to find volunteers over the summer to help clean, teach, maintain our building and participate by giving financially as we are short of our budget. It seems similar to an army, which requires dozens of support staff for every soldier on the field.
Is it possible the church needs smaller churches that offer a more intimate and personal connection to discipling, counseling, comforting and encouragement, for every church that’s adding to our numbers?
I’m not making excuses here. In fact, we need to be sharing the gospel of Jesus, which results in disciple making and new believers following. That is the command of our Lord Jesus. But we are also called to contribute our gifts to Jesus and to the church. While VCF may not be the biggest, we can serve our Lord in many ways that larger churches find difficult.
Next week, I’ll explore some advantages that a church like Victory can offer to our community that larger bodies cannot.