Church Growth or a battle for market share?

Over the years I’ve come across a lot of material, books, seminars, blogs, podcasts talking about how to guarantee that your church will grow.  Some of the advise sounds to me like practical wisdom, for example if you have a building that is 80% full then you have reached capacity.  Some of it is good spiritual stuff that we ought to be doing anyway, teaching the Bible, being open to the work of the Holy Spirit.  Then there’s stuff that I find questionable that seems dependent on secular thinking and   on top of that, there’s the advice that just sounds plain weird.

What I’ve realised though is that a lot of church growth theory was a product of a specific context, American church culture in the second half of the 20th century.  A lot of it was about how to take medium sized churches and turn them into big churches and much of it came from mega church contexts.  All of that within a culture that remained highly Christianised where expression of evangelical faith and regular church attendance was still pretty normal and respectable.

In other words, a lot of church growth techniques are about how to grow your church, not how to grow “The Church.”  They are about how to take more “market share”, to encourage people who already profess some kind of faith and attend some kind of church to attend your church and profess your specific expression of that faith.  In the UK and even in the US increasingly now, that is really about trying to get a larger slice of a declining market. 

What those books, workshops and blogs are not helping us to think about is how to reach the “no longers” and the never weres.”  They don’t help us to get better at mission and evangelism. They don’t help us to reach the unreached.  That kind of work is slower, harder and I suspect we would be told is “no way to quickly grow a church.”  Yet, brothers and sisters, it is what we are called to do.

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