One of the most common topics covered in Christian magazines and newspapers these days is the subject of growing a church. Today we are about church planting and church growing. Recently, the members of a particular congregation set themselves a prayer target of 75 new members for the year. Such faith, although faith is probably not the right word. So growing, in the terms of attracting more attenders, is big business today.
It's easy to get a bit sour grapes on the issue of growth. If a church is not growing, or even down-sizing (a euphemism for losing numbers), and don't quite know what to do about it, the minister may be tempted to argue for the purity of his state of loss - death is good and growth is evil. Such is the wiles of human reasoning.
A couple visiting the USA attempted to attend Sunday worship at the Crystal Cathedral. As they were about to head off, the hotel staff told them they needed to get there an hour before the service if they hoped to get in, and how right they were. The couple soon gave up trying to get near the Cathedral. Nearby they spotted a little Baptist church and so they decided to attend it. There were some thirty people at the service, warm, friendly and full of the Lord. The visitors asked whether the Cathedral was a problem for their church. The answer was "no". "If you want to go to a church with 3,000 people, great! We enjoy our church with 30."
The bottom line on this issue is to know what Jesus actually wants for his church. Jesus doesn't say anything about numbers. He intends building his church with men and women of faith, and he looks for them to grow in knowledge, faith, love. He intends building up his church through his Word so that his disciples will stand in the day of trouble, but nothing about building it up with numbers. It is true that the church in the book of Acts "grew", but then a description is not a prescription. What happened to the church in the first century is not necessarily a formula for the church today.
Growing an organization is not very difficult. Good marketing and management is all that's required. The danger with trying to grow a church numerically is that all we grow is an organization. Christ builds his church on the confession of a true faith such that the powers of darkness cannot stand against it. This growth is based on the preaching and teaching of the good news about Jesus "until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God." This type of growth has nothing to do with numbers.