I’ve shared a couple of articles over the past few days about giving space to grow and permission to grow to a church. However, I want to spend a bit of time here focusing on one of the downsides and risks with a focus on growing one single congregation.
In Genesis 11, the descendants of Noah have increased and are growing into a mighty nation. They find a place to settle and begin to build a city. Their aim is to protect themselves from being scattered across the earth. They want to stay in one place. So, they build a city and at its centre is a great, high tower. Their hope is that the tower will reach to the heavens, to the gods and so they will make a great name for themselves. The idea of the tall tower reaching the place of the gods is that they are falling into the same temptation as Adam and Eve -the desire to be like God, to rival him for power. They want their name to be known instead of his.
You know the story. They are proud of their tower because it is so tall but from God’s perspective it is so pitifully small that Genesis uses the language of Him coming down to inspect it. God confuses their language (the words used infer a confusion of worship and religious ideology too) and so they are scattered. You see, God’s purpose was not just that they would grow in number but that they would multiply and spread out to fill the earth.
At the start of this mini-series I talked about space/permission to grow AND multiply. Whilst I am not legalistic about the ideal size of a church, I don’t think our aim should be to grow one church as big as possible. The aim is multiplication. Why?
Well first of all because we want to see the church spread out, we are meant to be on a journey outwards to go and make disciples of all peoples. That means we should be looking for opportunities to reach into communities where there is no meaningful Gospel witness. We shouldn’t be looking to build mega congregations that people travel in to, so we can stay together and enjoy a collective consumer experience.
Secondly because the temptation starts to grow in us oh too easily for us to make a name for ourselves. Too often we see churches becoming brands with name recognition and too often the brand forms around particular individuals. This is not the business we should be in. We shouldn’t be surprised then to see God act when a church becomes all about its brand and its name. When we see those places becoming confused and in effect the congregation scattered, that may be no bad thing if eventually it leads to a spreading out and multiplication of genuine gospel witness.
Let’s check in and ensure that we are not building our own brands, making a name for ourselves, seeking to grow our own empires. Instead let’s focus on seeing God’s kingdom grow.