Friday, January 05, 2007

Random thoughts about the church growth movement

My family and I were at church the other night. I thought I had two music rehearsals, one at 6:30 and the other at 8:00 but, as it turned out, the 6:30 rehearsal was going to be next week. That meant we ended up with an hour-and-a-half to spare until the rehearsal began. So, while my wife took the boys to McDonald’s to get something for them to eat, I found a place by the church offices to sit down and rest my feet.

On a table next to the chair I was sitting in was a Christian magazine that looked interesting, so I decided to read it. I had never read this magazine before, but I quickly discovered it was one of the magazines of what I would call the “church growth” movement. Right upfront, I must admit a personal bias against the church growth movement. There are probably several reasons for my negative feelings, and I’m not sure I’m fully aware of all the reasons.

Some of it, no doubt, has to do with my personal background and experiences. The fact is, until our present church, which we began attending a little over 6 years ago, I have never been a part of a church with more than about 300 or so active members. The idea of purposely “growing” a church to a size of multiple hundreds or thousands was probably unknown to me until I was grown. What I read in this church growth magazine was so foreign to my early church experience, “it ain’t funny”. Perhaps (or very likely) this is just me, but as I read I kept thinking about my church experience which, prior to our current church, was exclusively within the Black community. I kept thinking, these writers aren’t writing for the church in the Black community. What they are writing isn’t for Black people. Maybe this is something I need to work through. If so, pray for me. Nevertheless, this is a thought that went through my mind.

Maybe my bias against the church growth movement has something to do with how I was first introduced to the “seeker-sensitive” church. Willow Creek Community Church is probably the mother church of the “seeker-sensitive” movement. I first heard of Willow Creek from my mother, who began attending when she still lived in Chicagoland. I remember when she first told me she was attending a church. I thought there must be something wrong with this church. Why? Because I would no more associate my mother with church than I would associate David Duke with the NAACP. My mother was never a Christian in any biblical sense of the word, and didn’t pretend to be one. Today, she is a part of a Science of Mind “church” (pray for her, please). So, the fact that she found a church that she liked made me suspicious. Plus, this church didn’t sound like any church I had ever known. Since that time, let me hasten to add, I found Willow Creek wasn’t weird or anything like that. But, it is interesting to me that she could attend Sunday “seeker” services, enjoy them, yet not only not be drawn to Christ as Savior and Lord, but also experience (apparently) no conviction of sin. It does make me wonder about the kind of gospel that was proclaimed there.

At any rate, I read through much of this magazine in the hour-and-a-half that I had to wait. As I read, I began to feel very discouraged.
(To be continued…)

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