Brian Orme has an excellent article on the “Church Leaders” website titled, 10 Old Wives’ Tales About Church Growth. In this article he expounds on 10 myths that he has accumulated over the last several years in regard to the Church Growth Movement.
I must confess that as I read this article, I shuddered and groaned because I have fallen for these superstitious church growth myths. Let’s examine them to see how you measure up.
- If You’re Not Growing, Something’s Wrong
- The More You Grow, the Healthier You Are
- Contemporary Music Will Save Your Church
- Church Growth Can Be Manufactured
- If Your Church Grows, Your Leader Is “Anointed”
- If Your Church Doesn’t Grow, It’s a Problem with the Leader
- Good Preaching Is the Answer to Growing Your Church
- You Will Retain a Large Percentage of Your Visitors on Special Days
- The More Programs You Offer, the More Your Church Will Grow
- If You Build It, They Will Come
So, how did you do? Chances are you have also bought into some of these superstitious myths like me. But now you may ask, “Why are these myths?” They are myths for two reasons.
The first reason why they are myths is due to their failure to account for the church’s historical and Biblical means of grace. Properly speaking, the means of grace are the only means through which our Lord calls, gathers, enlightens, sanctifies and keeps the church in the faith. Can we speak of growth in the church apart from the means of grace? Churches may have growth, but I frankly question what kind of growth is happening when there is a dismissal or reduction in God’s Word and Sacraments.
Secondly, many of these myths commit logical fallacies. For example, several of these church growth myths employ what is called false cause logical reasoning. False cause logical reasoning presumes that there is a relationship between two things. In other words, false cause logical reasoning says that the changing status of one thing actually causes the other thing to also be changed. It assumes a correlation between two things, when in reality this may or may not be the case. Myth #1 and #2 say, “If you’re not growing, something’s wrong. The more you grow, the healthier you are.” Notice the false cause logical reasoning? Lack of growth is correlated to something going wrong or the church not being healthy. Is this always the case? In some churches that may be the case, however, it is not true all the time. Furthermore, it is assuming a correlation that frankly may not exist. Listen to Brian Orme comment on this more thoroughly,
“Growth can be healthy, and it can be a very good thing—it’s just not an automatic four-stars for healthy spirituality. Large numbers are no more an indicator of health than great wealth is an automatic indicator of wisdom. You can be wealthy or impoverished and still be wise or a fool. The same goes for church growth. You can have a lot of people or a little and still be healthy/unhealthy. Health deals more with what’s going on below the surface. Growth tells us something’s going on, but whether it’s good or bad, that’s another issue.”
For me to drive home my point on this let’s apply these first two myths to Jesus and His ministry. If growth is a sign of health and that things are going well, what do we do with Jesus’ earthly ministry? Jesus went from engaging literally thousands of people and having a band of faithful disciples to being slaughtered alone on a cross with only John, His mother, and what some consider a former prostitute named Mary Magdalene nearby. Assuming that declining numbers are a sign of an unhealthy and bad ministry, what do we do with Jesus? Do we know of anyone else that has had the capacity to take a following of 5000 plus people and whittle it down to three people? According to this false cause reasoning, Jesus would be ranked as one of the worst church growth individuals the church has historically known.
I commit this article to you for your own reading and I plead with you to esteem God’s Word and Sacraments.