Monday, November 4, 2013

Churchianity: The Business of Church Growth

There is a rampant form of heresy throughout Western civilization, especially in the United States these days.  It is the heresy of Churchianity.

What is Churchianity?  Put simply, it is the elevation of the church over God.  That’s the simple definition.  Finding it within your church is often harder to identify, as it often manifests in odd and seemingly normal ways.

Churchianity usually begins when the leaders of your church look at the church as a business rather than a community of believers.  Yes, having a building to meet in requires some level of funds and a pastor needs to put food on his table.  So there is a financial part to every church.

So, what happens when your church is operating like a business rather than a church?  For starters, you’ll hear talk of spreading the Gospel and bringing people to your church.  This itself is fine, as we are called to make disciples, but at the same time, you see this being done with the specific mindset of growing the church.

Church growth is, by and large, a major issue these days.  For many, it is all about the numbers.  A successful church is a megachurch with thousands of members, multiple services, and a fully functional staff along with a significant number of volunteers.

But is that success?  What does it really mean to be a successful church?  To me, if a church just simply acts as a church, that is attends to the spiritual needs of the congregation, is it not a success?

Saving souls is definitely a noble goal.  The lost sheep coming back into the fold is certainly a noble goal.  But people are not like sheep.  They are much more complex than that.  And you cannot save the souls of those who do not want to be saved.  Sure, you can pray for them, tell them of Jesus’ love, and even invite to attend Bible studies with you.  But at the end of the day, they may just reject the Gospel and go to Hell when they die.  Not your fault.

I do not mean to discourage anyone.  Spread the Gospel.  There will be people who accept it.

In any case, how a church deals with newcomers is how you can tell if a church is operating as a business rather than as a church.  By engaging newcomers and trying to keep them coming back, a church is really just trying to increase its numbers.  If instead a church simply welcomes the new people and its congregation simply talks with them, then you’ll have a church that isn’t quite as interested in growth.

There is more.  I recall a discussion I had when I was first in my own church’s vestry.  When some vestry members were wringing their hands over the lack of church growth and how we could attract newcomers, I simply stated that if people did not like our church and instead went to another one and were saved, it was still a victory for Christ.

And this is the attitude that a church should have when it comes to their appearance to newcomers and regular members.  Just be a place that people can go and worship and have their spiritual needs met.  Keep it simple because simple things are the most honest things.

But a focus on church growth are just one of the many things that come out of Churchianity.  And there are plenty of less obvious things that go on.  But that is for another post at another time.